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Eric B&W

Experiencing False Dichotomies

Posted on 2013.02.05 at 00:00

While its true I find experiencing strong negative and/or painful emotions simultaneously fascinating, I'm unsure I've ever had them teach me something entirely relevant - at least in a timely fashion - where I can immediately pick out the practical application. Here lately I've found that I am experiencing many things in black and white - either/or scenarios. This is so completely unlike me, that it has me both frightened and curious. Why I am seeing things in this manner pushes it to the top of my priority list; an emergency request for cycles on the symmetric multiprocessing supercomputer part of my brain. If I am experiencing things with a side of cognitive distortion, any resulting conclusions will be flawed. Knowing this is usually enough to self-correct, but not this time. I experience it over and over and over. To answer the question then, one must take a broader view of oneself.

A high-level view of myself reveals that I am under a tremendous amount of emotional anguish, something usually countered with adequate energy. Given my 80-hour Disaster Recovery exercise week and the extraordinarily busy weeks which both preceded and followed it, compounded with my "busy brain" episodes, I have surely depleted my reserves. Being aware of this, I know its not real - that things aren't really as dire as my mind is making them out to be. But what about those who aren't aware that black and white is a distorted view of reality?

I've suggested to others that their black and white thinking is wrong, but such a subjective term causes issues among the black and white thinking crowd - a problematic Ouroboros indeed! Especially when that crowd perceives any argument against such thinking as an ad hominem attack (Intentionally Interpreting Any Criticism as an Insult). Why just last week my boss commented on the limiting nature of judging cognitively distorted thinkers! As an aside, the nihilist crowd has so much going for them in non-interference as far as I've been able to tell. I really do admire them despite being antithetically hard-wired.

Simplistically, I've proven that black and white thinkers are emotionally stunted because I became a black and white thinker during a time when I was suffering from the same. I totally get it now. All this time having been argued against the concept, I've proven it true via emotional distress. The only difference as far as I can tell is that I wasn't emotionally retarded before, and won't be emotionally retarded afterwards. And if I am I will still understand, by virtue of having *not* been emotionally retarded at some point, that what I see, or think, or create, is not reality.

Its too bad those who have only ever experienced life as such couldn't have similar, yet opposite, "temporary sanity" to learn the same lesson, and have - at least for awhile - something real to compare to their reality. Then they could blog about that one time they weren't retarded and understood that everything they ever thought was real, wasn't.

The point is, I can now state with authority something along the lines of, "Your conclusion is flawed because your thought process is stupid. I know this because once, when I was retarded, I had stupid thought processes too which led to flawed conclusions."


michelle1963 at 2013-02-05 13:42 (UTC) (Link)
Cognitively distorted thinking is learned - drilled into the psyche by emotional abuse, usually as children, but situationally as adults. The primary modus operandi is fear. Pervasive fear. Granted some people may be more biochemically susceptible, but in black and white thinking the mechanism is thus: a certainty that the wrong thinking / desires / aspirations will result in a horrible outcome. This causes the black and white thinker to see any outcome other than the one that was "supposed" to happen as horrible - even if objectively the outcome was actually neutral or just a bit different.

As to you, dear clone, you have been under an undue amount of stress of all kinds, emotional anguish, sleep deprivation during DR and when your busy brain keeps you awake, and physical demands. It is admirable that under such duress you recognize your flawed black and white distortions.

I want to formally introduce a concept called "emotional contagion." We have all had practical experience with it when being around someone in a good mood buoys our own, or inversely when someone in a bad mood can bring us down. However, extreme situations can cause us to pick up the fears of others - especially when we are in unstable conditions. It happens insidiously. Perhaps under the right conditions - emotional anguish caused by repeated exposure to fear and anger - black and white thinking can be picked up as an emotional contagion?

Edited at 2013-02-05 01:42 pm (UTC)
drax0r at 2013-02-08 21:20 (UTC) (Link)
This black-and-white thing is particularly annoying when someone who thinks this way tries to pin me down for an answer to a question which seems to them to be fairly straightforward.

There are a thousand variables that could impact what I'd do in a given scenario. Without weighting the totality of the circumstances, how can I say what I'd do in a given situation?

ehowton at 2013-02-08 21:22 (UTC) (Link)
IKR? What are you, Nostradamus?
drax0r at 2013-02-08 22:20 (UTC) (Link)
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2013-02-09 22:29 (UTC) (Link)
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."

~Mark Twain
dentin at 2013-07-01 20:40 (UTC) (Link)
This comes perhaps far too late, but there is another angle here that I do not see mentioned: hardware failure, or running your hardware out of spec.

Much like running a processor too hot can cause random bits to be dropped, you may simply have encountered a raw, biochemical hardware limit that isn't easily managed.

Consider for a moment that complex decisions, and in particular inhibition circuitry (the kind that would say 'well wait a minute' to a black or white cache fetch) consume a vast amount of glucose. Simply running your brain dry would produce this result: the first cache lookup that comes up, gets passed on with less-than-average filtering, because the filtering neurons are out of gas.

From this standpoint, no amount of training can completely correct for it, and it would be an important hardware monitor to keep track of on a continuous basis.
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