David McRaney outlines the clarity of George Carlin’s ‘stupid’ skit in his book “You are not Smart; why you have too many friends on facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction and 46 other ways you’re deluding yourself”.
Do we see the headlines and think “that’s right…they are stupid”? Does our brain ever stop to consider “hey maybe I’m deluded and not so smart either!”? Maybe it’s like this – “Wow do I do that? Nah, I’m way better than that!”
So what’s the why? Some say it’s grounded in the need for “Normalcy”. The person who witnesses a car accident and sees a scarecrow flying through the air only later to find it was the victim being ejected from the car.
We may know something is wrong, but in our attempt to feel ‘normal’, and believe all is well, our brain slowly begins to ‘normalize’ whatever we are experiencing. This is why ‘smart’ people often stay stuck in bad situations; not very ‘smart’ right?
This need for normalcy creates an ostrich head-in-the-sand mentality! One of my favorite quotes was a person trying to help me understand the nature of denial. They likened it to the ostrich who sticks their head in the sand as a defense against some perceived danger.
They said you know Larina “When you stick your head in the sand, it just makes your ass a better target!”. That has stuck with me my entire life when I think about situations that I don’t want to face or want to ignore.
Like the man who ignores his wife but believes his marriage his fine. The women who is being marginalized at work but keeps ‘hoping’ things will get better. Is it possible a jolt of “wake up and get real” could help these two? Would it not be more rational to spend less time ignoring or hoping and more time planning and executing a strategy?
Is it possible McRaney has it ‘right’ that our logical brain often does little more than make excuses for behavior it can’t predict or control? Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations some 240 years ago, suggesting ‘rational choice’ as a basis for human decision making. It continued to be asserted by psychologists well into the 1970’s that we are in fact ‘rational’ in our decision making. If true, why does the world look this way?
Do we think yes it’s because”they” are so irrational? There is a whole lot of “they” out there if none of this applies to “me and you”.
More recently Nobel laureate’s like Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued against the idea we are rational at all times. They assert that we are rational at times. What about the rest of our decision making?
I know fast food is unhealthy. I eat it anyway and “wish” I was thinner.
I know sleep is important. I stay up late watching T.V.
Drinking is not nourishment. I drink hard because it’s fun.
I work in a dysfunctional place. They are all dysfunctional so I stay.
I think my marriage is awesome. I’ve done very little to contribute emotionally.
I think my kids are doing great. They are shut down and angry but hey that’s just kids these days.
I am in debt. So what’s another $50 charge? Let’s get that pizza!
Exercise prolongs life, improves health and keeps our minds clear. Maybe tomorrow I’ll work out.
These are the sort of irrational thoughts we have. Our logical or rational brains have the information, then we turn right around and do the opposite of what would be rational or logical.
So how smart am I? Maybe I’m only as smart as my willingness to observe these contradictions and to make a plan to start creating alignment in my life. Something like ‘I will put down this donut NOW’. ‘I will walk a mile NOW.’
Then again it’s time for another cup of coffee!