Deceiving Yourself is Not That Bad….

This autumn I have been reading Emotional Intelligence Fame author Daniel Goleman’s ‘Vital Lies, Simple Truths’. The book talks about growing complexities of this more and more inter-connected world of different people of different capacities living mostly in a semblance of an order and about our sincere efforts to a manufactured-consent where collectively and individually we have designed a mechanism for living peacefully by deliberately ignoring the inconvenient truths and by happily adopting the convenient lies masquerading as truth. He believes that since we have been doing this facade over centuries and millennia, we have now come to a stage where our own brain says that the vital lies are not lies per se but are the truth instead. The brain has adopted to the convenience of survival and thus saves us from the agony of handling and confronting the obvious. May be this is the need of the day in this more-complex-than-we-can-handle-perhaps world. Goleman believes that the faked consensus on this is quite impressive and useful indeed. He says we have developed blind spots to cater to our goals of remaining free from anxiety by diminishing awareness. He quotes authentic historical facts to buttress his claims like French getting to know through a deserter that Germans were preparing for chemical gas attack during first world war but still avoiding to work on this information which eventually  leading to avoidable loss of lives.

  1. Author says that brain’s tactic for handling physical pain through muting awareness offers itself as a template for dealing with psychological as well as social hurts. The perception of pain includes the ability to numb pain by turning it out.
  2. He says events are what we make out of them. What delights a child bores a conductor. How one construes events determines whether or not that will be stressful. Stress occurs when demands of environment in a persons’s eyes exceed his resources. Event is an event subject to a person’s perception. A given event-divorce, job loss, child birth- can be seen as a threat. intimidation, as a challenge or as a relief depends upon the person’s circumstances, attitudes, and sense of resources. Nature of threat is highly subjective. It is not the event  per se but the meaning that matters. When events are seen as threats, stress response is triggered. Stress is the product of cognitive act, appraisal. Appraisals also change.
  3. He says that packets that organize information and make sense of experience are schemas, the building blocks of cognition.They embody rules and categories that order raw experience into coherent meaning. All knowledge and experience is packaged in schemas and they accrue with time. They are the intelligence that guides information as it flows through the mind. If somebody fails to revise a schema to fit to the facts, the resulting perceptions can be bizarre. A schema is a sort of informal, private, unarticulated theory about the nature of events, objects or situation we face. All schemas put together constructs our private theory of nature of reality.With them we go beyond the data. Like for a car we assume it would have a fuel tank, a steering wheel a boot space and cushions etc. This lets us see beyond what has been made available. Like theories schemas are open to revisions. Stereo types are a variety of schema. Also notion of schema is in itself a schema. Schemas are the organising dynamic of the knowledge.
  4. Author believes that we conceal truth from not only from outsiders but also from us and that to an extent that we even forget that we are concealing the information from us.
  5. That memory is autobiographical and we edit our memories at will. Its author is self. The self is built up gradually from childhood on as perhaps the most basic grouping of schemas held by mind. Its origins are in the interactions between parents and child and development follows the contours of relationships with parents, peers, family members.The self sculpts and constructs the way a person will interprets and filters informations It acts as independent and even totalitarian. People take credit and disowe failures. If a team we know, wins we say we won but if the same team loses we say the team lost, while win was of ‘we’ and that includes the team too, the loss was of team. It is said that one’s self esteem is protected by this arrangement as contrary truth may be quite upsetting. Information that fits the self concept is easily assimilated and one that challenges self esteem can cause lot of stress and even depression so the self praising self in this complex world may be helpful. Self finds positive schemas even in odd circumstances.
  6. Noticing what not to notice is also our strategy and author says that we have diversionary schema to do that and author uses the world lacuna to expalin them. The gap or whole the literary meaning of lacuna explains that perhaps. They create blind spots. They are like black holes of mind meant to create anti attention like opiods. They guard self esteem so it does recall good memories easily than the bad ones. If Lacunas are not working then a good recall of all bad memories can cause depression due to over anxiety. More anxious a person is more schemas he has in operation to encode a sense of threat or dangers. More they are, more likely they will be activated by life’s events.
  7. He quotes Neitzsche to say that Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.He says a group is changeable, impulsive and irritable. So when self is siubsumed in the group the collective schemas are built and they too are vulnerable to self deception as the focus shifts from individual to common views and directions. They need schemas even now to reduce anxiety perhaps. This grouping is relevant even for a  family as that helps the family to find a common narrative based on multiple dynamic factors within the family
  8. He talks about the adopted schemas of the family also which develops a narrative of everything being fine and good despite evidences to contrary also many times. He says on the face of it it seems that there is nothing rotten in Denmark, while truth may be otherwise. The family self which emerges is protective and filters information as per its choice and assessment and maintains its professed claims to self esteem even at the cost of independence of its members. He says that families develop a sort of ritual which covers the undesirable issues like possibility of divorce between parents which may lead to dissolution of family itself. He says even incestuous families look happy from outside though they betray some signs of that as well.
  9. Author talks about ‘Groupthink’ also and says that in the group all the members subordinate themselves to the collective self which may be hierarchical and not always very efficient. He quotes the example of ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco too in which the mistakes or blunders were made despite very obvious facts. He says a group deceives itself to be running on best possible averaged out advice while actually all the members out of adopted discipline do not come out honestly to say the right things. The decision influenced by group think are not the best as they are based on thinking of one or two individual who may themselves may be duped into believing that such decisions were too good as being based upon advice of all while they actually were not.
  10. Author talks about tyrannies and freedoms of frames too. Frames come and go as society evolves. While in traditional societies work and play were integrated, presently the employer owns you for eight hours a day. This happened with advent of time keeping and with need of higher supplies in terms of regularity and speed. The Henry Ford model of assembly line trivialized the work and everybody had to see the small part of whole process and not the full work as a whole. The factory rhythm thus developed reframed the work scene as made of rigid guidelines defining work.
  11. Author says that what you don’t see does not bother you. The social lies of believing everybody as good helps us to find lubricants with tactful inattention. Robert Rosenthal’s work on games of sending and detecting social lies and its implications for smooth operation of daily life have been referred to in the book.  Clenched fist, silence and many more gestures are meant to convey and conceal at the same time.

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