The Phenomenological Truth

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

 —  Marcus Aurelius 

The understanding that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are mental processes created by your nervous system is called Meta-Cognitive Awareness. We do not see the world as is really is, only as it looks from our current perspective. Those ignorant of Meta-Cognitive Awareness are more certain of their interpretations of the things that happen than they should be, and so are vulnerable to state-dependent distortions that result in errors of appraisal.

Appraisals are state-dependent, so when angry we may perceive a tap on the shoulder differently than when calm and confident. Your appraisals are always biased, and attempting to appraise the validity of your appraisals is a fool's errand. the important questions is not how valid the appraisal is but whether your reaction serves or sabotages your interests.

No one wants to experience pain or failure. Sadly, such events are often unavoidable. Self-sabotage often occurs when your emotional reaction to an unavoidable setback exerts a counter-productive influence on your performance. Given that we cannot control the things that happen, how can we get ourselves to react to them in accord with our interests and principles?

The poignant perspective that highlights the unfairness of the world or of other people promotes negative emotional reactions. The state-dependent biases caused by these negative emotional states can impair subsequent performance, often confirming the person's poignant beliefs. Escape from this neurotic trap comes from accepting the things that happen and focus on changing your appraisal criteria.

The predicament of a problem drinker, described below, illustrates how the same event [a first lapse] is appraised differently before it happens than in retrospect. Incentive Use Disorders tend to produce a tragic sequence of sincere vows to control the incentive use problem, followed by thoughtless violations of the vow, self-loathing, and a repetition of the sequence.

State-Dependent Motivation: Problem Drinking

Ernest Hasslebring is a bright, successful lawyer who has a lot going for him, but is failing in all domains of his life, because of his drinking problem. To summarize his history: Before the lapse Hasslebring appraises its payoffs differently than he will later in retrospect:  He really meant it when he made his solemn vow to quit drinking (after his second DUI). Nevertheless, a few weeks later when the sting of his arrest was no longer as salient, he appraised things differently. He made his vow of abstinence in one motivational state, and broke it in another. Needless to say, Hasslebring will once again discover that violating his vow was a mistake, an insight which will again motivate him to quit drinking “and this time I really mean it.”  He really will mean it. . . at least until the motivation upon which this vow was based is far away.

Immediately after his DUI, Hasslebring's vow to quit drinking was in accord with his local motivational state. Since he was unaware that motivation is state-dependent, he assumed that he would always appraise the costs and benefits of drinking as he did at that moment, so it appeared that it will be easy to adhere to this vow. His history of repeatedly failing to adhere to this vow is not due to stupidity or disease, but the result of being taken in by the Soul Illusion.

Problem drinkers are notorious for appraising the wisdom of a first drink differently before it happens than in retrospect. This perverse pattern of vowing to change and then relapsing, illustrates two corollaries of the Soul Illusion. The fact that he has made this same mistake many times and each time believes that he has learned the lesson this time, and will never make this mistake again illustrates the Illusion of Sate Permanence. The Illusion of Certainty is illustrated by his willingness to make the vow with little attention to how he will get himself to adhere to it, because he is certain that he has really learned the lesson this time and so it will require no effort to get himself to act in accord with it.

He is bound to continue this sequence of vows and relapse until he develops an appreciation of the state-dependent nature of his appraisals. To adhere to his vow, he must understand that the motivations and perceptions available to him when he makes the commitment will not be available to him when he is in a high-risk situation. Likewise, the desire to drink and the state-dependent distortions of perception and appraisal that he will experience during the high-risk situation will not be available to him when he is considering, and planning how to, change is ways.

State-dependent distortions are always invisible to the Experiential Processing System — the puppy. You can escape the blindness and see the truth by shifting to the rational perspective of the puppy trainer.

Reification and the Soul Illusion

Reification refers to treating an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence. Hasslebring treats his current appraisal [whatever it is] as valid and so he assumes he will always appraise the costs and benefits of a first drink as he does now. In this sense he Reifies his current appraisal and so takes it more seriously than he should.



Reification: Uses and Abuses > >
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