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November 7th, 2018
Hindsight is 20/20. Or so they say. The catch of the phrase depends on the realization that a mistake was being made. But if we have continued, or continue to make a mistake that exists through time, or if we continually repeat a mistake, then hindsight is not necessarily in the sort of focus that we like to call 20/20.
Such a sharp perspective of the past requires a realization that such a mistake was being made and the cessation of the behavior that is the mistake or leads to the mistake.
A mistake only looks like a mistake when a person is unwilling to incorporate new information that seems to imply that a belief or behavior might be a mistake. We might be somehow blind to the implications of such new information in the same way that facts and arguments that are counter to our beliefs in some way tend to only entrench our beliefs, however obviously flawed and mistaken we might be in doing so. We should ask what exactly in the human psyche keeps us on such an illogical path no matter how clear the evidence is against our beliefs? Clearly this is not logical, which leaves the other obvious option of emotion. When someone has dug in on their false opinion or belief in blatant disregard of contradicting logical evidence, what might we identify as the primary emotion that such a person feels?
We make the mistake of identifying with our belief or thought so much so that to admit a mistake is to effectively identify as a mistake: an experience that can theoretically open a can of all sorts of negative emotions. Think of the spectrum that can exist here. For example, we might not be so affected by the realization that we were mistaken about the time of the party last night, but the destabilizing emotions that could come from information counter to core beliefs has frightening potential. The concept of mental breakdown starts to stir in such a situation. And what exactly is a mental break down other than accepting and believing information that is counter to core beliefs? Such core beliefs literally breakdown if such information is integrated, like seismic waves passing fragile buildings.
A mistake doesn’t look like a mistake if a person adjusts quickly and willingly to new information. Like hockey players changing direction based on changes in the direction of the puck.
Ultimately, it’s a sense of certainty that is at the core of our mistakes, keeping us on ill tracks of behavior and denying the influence of new, contradictory information.
This curse of certainty rides on a double-edged precept: the only way to prove yourself wrong is also the only way to find out if you’re right.