Doing Personal Research

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey than no one can take for us, nor spare us.

 —  Marcel Proust

The subjective experience of certainty is not an indication of objective truth. It is merely a creation of our cognitive apparatus. We must assume that our perceptions are valid representations of objective reality so we can react quickly to the practical demands of coping with an unpredictable environment. The Soul Illusion, which results from the tacit premise of perception that we see the world as it really is and we will always see it as we do now, causes us to read the world wrong, and hence react to the things that happen in ways that are counter to our interests.

To become free of this illusion we will explore and practice manipulating experiential phenomena. But first Some principles to guide this personal research

  1. Subjective experience is state-dependent — that is, phenomena such as perception and motivation are greatly influenced by your current emotional state. When you are feeling threatened, your perceptions and motivations are biased differently than when you are feeling confident.
    • State-dependent biases are always invisible when they affect you, yet you can often recognize the distortions in hindsight [anger always seems justifiable at the time, but often seems ridiculous in retrospect].

  2. Your subjective reality is your creation — not your fault: You are not responsible for your biological givens, psychological history, or current social environment. However, now that you are an adult with access to good cognitive abilities, you are responsible for getting the creature you inhabit to act in accord with your interests and principles — despite encounters with stressors and temptations that motivate you to defect.

  3. Perseverance is the key to good outcome. Training the creature to respond mindfully in emotionally provocative situations takes patience and perseverance.
    • Research shows that people with high self-efficacy can tolerate discomfort and set backs without giving up. People with low self-efficacy tend to abandon the effort as soon as they run into discomfort or setbacks.
    • Some people with Emotional Disorders feel incompetent in managing their emotions, and so are vulnerable to abandoning this — or other strategies of change based on skill development — prematurely. To become independent you have to stay with the training long enough to develop the requisite skills. If this is an issue for you (and it likely is) please review the side note: Perseverance and Self-Efficacy.

  4. Changing what you think. Some beliefs and perspective are both invalid and harmful. An unfortunate attribute of negative beliefs is that they tend to be self-confirmatory, which gives them a Darwinian advantage. Once you buy into a handicapping belief the resulting impaired performance confirms the belief and enhances its credibility. However, if you could get out of your head and observe your thinking from a dispassionate perspective, your might recognize some of these beliefs as completely nonsensical. In fact a list of Popular Thinking Errors is next on the default path. One of your important challenges is to learn to recognize these errors when they come up so that you are not taken in by them. The discipline of changing what you think will change how you think.

  5. Changing how you think. In order to recognize thinking errors you have to get outside your thought processes so you can observe them. This requires the Meta-Cognitive Awareness that your nervous system generates beliefs and perspectives may or may not be valid or helpful. While they always seem true and undistorted, they are in fact biased by your past training and current emotional state. So, after you become familiar with the classic thinking errors, you will be in a good position to use a surprisingly powerful tool —  The Thought Record —  to research your own particular beliefs and perspectives.

The research you will do in this section will help you discover the important determinants of your reactions to the things that happen. Exercising your will involves working with them to elicit resourceful psychological states and interrupt emotional states that promote self-sabotage.

The low hanging fruit is learning to recognize pathogenic distortion mechanisms. Some false beliefs or perspectives are harmless, but others possess attributes that enable them to sabotage an individual's performance for a lifetime. Pathogenic thinking errors tend to be both self-sabotaging and self-confirmatory.

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Popular Thinking Errors > >