Logic's Tricky Little Angles
Even when we believe we can evaluate something logically, often there is much we have not considered
We all like to be logical individuals. It is a highly effective life strategy, and it allows us to be able to weigh many angles of something before formulating an opinion. Some of us are more logical than others, and some are far more apt to involve emotions in how they arrive at their decisions. However, even the most logical among us often miss aspects that would change how we evaluate something, and that can lead to faulty understandings of the world.
I don’t involve emotions in my decision-making. They aren’t loud enough to do so, and even if they were, I have seen that path lead to certain destruction in many people. However, I can often be incorrect about my conclusions just because I am lacking in information, a point of view I have never considered, or my own worldview creating walls preventing me from understanding.
Cognitive empathy certainly works for this, but it only works if I have been exposed to a different perspective. Oftentimes this means to actively seek out other perspectives and assume the position presented so I can work through it. Either it will change my position, or it won’t, but I can logically see why it won’t. If I am not actively challenging myself, then there is no point in considering myself a logical person.
Back when I went through the diagnostic process, it was something interesting to do. It wasn’t something that I thought would really matter a great deal past being entertaining, but logically, I had nothing to lose. I certainly knew that I was different, and I knew that there were emotional aspects of the world that made no sense to me. Perhaps this was a way to understand why. I didn’t think that it would change anything about how I interacted with the world.
The process was a long one. It involved many tests, interviews, appointments, personality inventories, and about halfway through I was considering dropping the whole thing. My Significant Other gently turned me around, much like you would an insolent child, gave me a light swat on the butt, and had me keep going. All metaphorically of course, though he could do that at any time he wished. Likely now I have unfortunately given him an idea for the future.
If I had stopped going through the evaluation I would never have gotten the diagnosis. If I had never gotten that diagnosis, I would have never bothered reading anything about psychopathy at all. It was a word I was familiar with, but just as everyone else is “educated” in psychopathy, I believed that it was something that all serial killers were, that it was something that entailed severe criminality, and would never have applied it to myself.
Fortunately for me, the guy that set me on this journey understood that lacking in knowledge was a curable state of being. He could have given me the diagnosis, and when I looked at him incredulously, he could have said, “All right, thanks for stopping by. See ya!”
He didn’t do that, however. He prepared for the final meeting carefully. He understood that my lack of understanding was due to a lack of information. The only way to cure that state was to give it to me, and in this case, he did so with enough paperwork that it was almost comical. This is exactly what he did, and because he chose that route, I now have a great deal more understanding of something, that until that point, I had none, and it was an integral part of how I experience the world.
I lacked information, and I lacked it in abundance. Even after being delivered the stack of papers that the doctor thought was oh so very important for me to read through, I wasn’t exactly inclined to believe him. Again, all those myths are strongly communicated to us through many mediums, and I was just as well studied as anyone else. This stack of papers meant that all of that information I had in my brain was useless, and I had to start over again in terms of being an informed student of life.
You might think, “Well Athena, here you are, well educated in psychopathy. So well educated that you write about it for others.” I am not well educated in psychopathy. Psychopathy “experts” are not well educated in it either. Many of them probably know more than I do, and I know more than most people do. It’s a graduating spectrum, and every day there is more information to glean and consider. Knowledge only stops when we do, and if we decide that we have all the information that we need, we will never progress further, and become greater than our own understanding of self.
This brings me to the point of this post, and that is that even when we think we know things, often we are very limited in our information. This doesn’t change based on how much emotion our brain has, but emotion can certainly limit the information that you seek to input into your biological computer, but we’ll get to that.
Lacking emotions does not mean that I am any less prone to being misinformed, or poorly informed about something, and I am aware of that. Because I am aware of that, I do my best to not assume things and to not be taken aback when there is information that will alter my perception.
I find a lot of people assume that because I lack that emotion, somehow I am superior in my understanding of things. If I am in some subject, it is only because I looked for the information that I have. There is a lot more information that I don’t have, on every subject known and unknown to man. I am well aware that there is a very large amount of knowledge that I will never possess, and that there isn’t time in my lifespan to even attempt to garner it.
Let’s talk about emotions and information seeking for a moment, shall we? Something that I observe about many people is their emotions will stand in their way of seeking information that disrupts that emotional sea that they are adrift in. Even if the information that they have is incorrect, or perhaps correct but lacking context that would change their understanding completely, they are not inclined to venture down that path. It is something that I have dealt with many times, and often in people that I know are capable of greater logic than they are displaying.
The most primal human emotion is fear. It is what kept humans alive for tens of thousands of years, so I’m not knocking it. It certainly has its purpose, but it also has a death grip on a lot of people’s willingness to engage with the world and circumstances around them. I have watched fear turn very grounded individuals into highly reactionary people when it comes to certain issues.
One of them of course is psychopathy. I see people that have gotten higher educations in the function of the human mind who will still refuse to take in new information if it is emotionally uncomfortable. This fascinates me and makes me consider that information might trigger that fear response and therefore create resistance or a barrier to learning.
Recently I came across a forum that was all about “exposing” people that are faking illnesses. Granted, I will fully admit that there are a lot of people that do this, They pick something and pretend to have it. An excellent example would be Belle Gibson. She faked having cancer, and made a fair amount of money from her claims regarding different treatments, and selling her “cancer-curing diet”. It was all nonsense, and she never had the disease, but she was apparently an effective salesperson.
However, this forum that I came across was not about that sort of thing. This was a steady flow of posts from users that had decided that certain people, that they do not know in real life, were faking illnesses. They have a fair number of conjectures, but very little concrete evidence that this is the case. Perhaps they are correct, and some of their targets are faking illnesses. I have no idea, but what I do know is that there are several of them that lack information on different illnesses, but assume that they know everything that there is to know, and therefore are capable of pointing to a “fake”.
This is something that the people on the forum are quite confident about. They have enough information to make dictates on someone else’s life, all the while they make incorrect proclamations about some of the things that they are discussing. This behavior is not unusual, I see it frequently when it comes to how people approach different mental health topics. Narcissism is one that is plagued with this behavior. It chokes out the real information so badly that you really have to search for it to find it.
Why do people do this? It satisfies their emotional information prison. Be it a physical illness, be it a mental health question, it makes them more comfortable that they believe they are correct. That is all that matters to them. It’s unfortunate, but it is human nature.
I used to write on narcissism a bit several years ago, and sociopathy as well. I have known a couple of people that had been diagnosed with NPD, and sociopathy is certainly something that I read about in the learning journey of psychopathy.
However, then I met people who knew a whole lot more about NPD than I did, and realized that I lacked a lot of information. I also read the answers from sociopaths, unfortunately, most of them either ceased writing or outright completely deleted their accounts, that made me understand that while it may seem similar to psychopathy on paper, it was in fact, very different.
In both cases, it was clear to me that I had very little proficiency in either adaptation. It was evident to me that writing on it was an incorrect thing for me to do, so I stopped. I will address sociopathy from time to time in terms of clarifying its difference from psychopathy, but I no longer try to describe their way of thinking. It isn’t for me to speak about. Even if I broaden my horizons on either topic, I would still be a long way from offering anything of value. It is best left to those that possess better information.
What stops a person from wanting more information? What stops the people that frequent an internet forum to disparage people that they will never know from stepping back and saying, “Hm, maybe I don’t know what I don’t know?”
In that case, I suspect it may be righteous indignation. As I mentioned, it is entirely possible that some of the people that they are focused on are in fact faking illnesses. That isn’t something that I agree with, but it also isn’t my concern. Unless they are doing outright harm, such as collecting donations or spreading fake treatments or cures about, it isn’t any of my business, and even in that case, people who choose to follow them are making their own decisions. Also, I have no way of knowing if what they claim, even if it contradicts conventional knowledge about whatever disease it is, is incorrect. Even if it doesn’t precisely match what many people think about that illness that doesn’t make it immediately fake. How am I to know the difference?
That is the logical way of knowing that I don’t know what I don’t know. I don’t have an investment in possible fakers of illness. The people that are involved with the forum are unlikely to look at it this way. They are very emotionally satisfied with culling any and all information that their targets share online to continually prove themselves to be “right” about their beliefs.
Righteous indignation is far less powerful than fear as a motivator though. It is more likely that you can have a conversation with someone on that forum, and demonstrate to them that perhaps they aren’t correct in their assumptions about these strangers. They might buck listening to you because they don’t want to let go of their hobby of playing internet police, but righteous indignation is not as consuming as fear.
When someone is truly afraid of something, they are not going to be able to have a rational conversation with you about what they are entrenched in. In the previous example, there are reasonable things that might make a person reconsider. Maybe someone that they know ends up with an unusual presentation of one of the illnesses, and it makes them take a step back and think that they might need to reevaluate their perceptions. Protection is a strong motivation for change in many people.
Fear on the other hand is a toxic barrier to treading into new intellectual territory. I certainly can’t be the one to tell you how not to be fearful about something, but I can say this. Instead of fear being a reason to not seek more information, perhaps it should be the very reason that you do. Many things that people are afraid of are simply things that they lack information about. The best way to counter that is to get as much information as possible. Seek it out, and take it in as much as you can. That seems to provide a great shield for fear-motivated thinking and behaviors.
Something else to consider. When someone else does not want you to look for more information, they just want you to take their word on something, allow me to make the suggestion. That is your cue to do exactly the opposite of what they would like. Do your own research. I will do a longer post about this in the future. It is a difficult thing to “do your own research” on many topics, and sometimes when someone suggests it, they might as well be asking you to solve the Riemann hypothesis, so I will do my level best to give you an idea of how I do it in case you are interested.
No matter how logical you believe yourself to be, there is always information that you do not have. If you aren’t looking for it, or if when it comes to you, your immediate response is to discard it, you may well be missing out on something that can change your whole perspective.
I knew nothing about psychopathy when I was diagnosed. Learning about it changed how I see many things, because what I learn on one subject has fingers reaching out to many others. I am always making connections between how one thing is, behaves, is defined, etc, and finding that it relates strongly to something else. That provides me with a new path to learn about and alleviates some of my boredom, so double win for me.
Consider that you may lack information about everything you believe yourself to know. I know that I do. This is something that is constantly being demonstrated to me, but those demonstrations are quite welcome. So long as I don’t allow myself to be under the mistaken impression that I know more than I do, I am in good shape to keep ingesting knowledge as it comes my way.