The self is a complicated subject. We are encouraged to discover the self. In noble vagueness, this makes sense but in practicality simple definitions of self flounder, grasping to identify the dynamic being behind our action, we either become stumped or deceived. Instead of dwelling on the wonder of self complexity, in awe for what we cannot know, we settle for simple labels; I’m honest; I’m smart; I’m a victim; I’m a drug abuser. We then support these labels by only giving attention to supporting evidence. In psychology, we call this self confirmation bias.
We need conceptual labels to function and share knowledge in this world of language. But with utility, we lose the gifts of complexity. Simpleness has a significant cost, weakening experience, and intruding on openness. Our dependence on prefixed labels diminishes flexibility to receive the novel. We shouldn’t abandon examinations into self just because we can’t achieve a neat understanding. Knowing underlying motivations, histories along with current patterns of thought and action is enlightening (and helpful). Knowledge of self is the building blocks of identity. The loss is incurred when self-knowledge gives way to rigid labels, demanding confirmations rather than continued investigations. These mindsets create self-confirmation biases.
Self confirmation bias is beliefs that tend to confirm or validate oneself or itself, rejecting outside information that challenges the bias. We often create the environment that then serves to confirm our pre-decided opinion.
Biases Resistant to Change
Biases, once established, reject opposing information, contorting experience to fit preconceived notions. Therefore, they are self supporting, there continued existence firmly in place from self confirmation. Self confirmation bias twists interactions and limits growth. In order to achieve self enlightenment, we must include an asterisk with all self imposed narratives identities and self definitions, footnoting the limitations of words, and leave room for a more complex unexplainable whole.
Continually Asking “Who Am I?”
Deborah Luepnitz, in her wonderful book Schopenhauer’s Porcupines, writes, “The point is not to go nameless, to refuse the question “Who am I?”, but to keep the conversation about identity going” (p. 184). Our enlightened discoveries of self are not definitive, all-encompassing explanations; but simply another clue to the great mystery of life.
We only successfully express wisdom when we accept limits to our understanding. Respecting the inadequacies of concepts (labels), opens our mind to continued gathering of knowledge that is less biased, free of faulty and rigid beliefs.
“The confirmation bias describes our underlying tendency to notice, focus on, and give greater credence to evidence that fits with our existing beliefs.”The Decision Lab
Fighting Bias with an Open Mindset
This open mindset prepares not only for a greater understanding of self, but also, for a greater understanding of others. Certainly, when we curb the divisive biases supportable by unshakable confirmation bias, we impede opportunities to receive new information that challenges faulty beliefs. Only when we recognize and ditch self confirming biases can we heal divides, an escape the narrow mindedness that continuously deepens wounds with hate and suspicion.
We must cautiously examine our narrative. Identify simplified labels and check them for bias. Only then can we puncture the hard shell limiting our personal growth, freeing our souls from blind ignorance of the greater complexities of the universe.
Luepnitz, D. (2003). Schopenhauer’s Porcupines: Intimacy And Its Dilemmas: Five Stories Of Psychotherapy. Basic Books. Read on Kindle Books