Thinking in Absolutes

I wrote most of this blog about a month ago. I was watching one of the Star Wars movies and I noticed something Obi-Wan said; “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” What struck me was the similarity in what Anakin (the Sith) said; “you’re either with me, or you’re my enemy,” and what we see all around us lately. An “absolute” is a way of thinking that slices all of the complexities out of relationships and principles, leaving nothing but a binary choice. In cognitive theory it’s a type of “all or nothing thinking.”

Lately, it feels like the world has gone crazy and our ability to listen to each other has been forgotten.  We are treating differences in opinion and beliefs as personal attacks and it’s destroying relationships.

Where does the truth come from? Consider that our brains have been forming our own perspective of the world since we were very young.  Thousands of inputs (experiences, education, relationships, faith, love, abuse) contribute to what we believe.  Someone who has a different perspective may have had very different life experiences.  A differing perspective (truth) doesn’t make someone else wrong or ignorant. In fact, not listening to someone else’s truth makes us ignorant. We listen to understand, even if we don’t agree.

I picked this blog up again after watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” on Netflix, which connected a couple of dots for me. It’s pointed out in the documentary that our information sources are skewed (based on our digital profile). You see, the information (input) that each of us receives, is designed to strengthen our own beliefs and ignore other perspectives. This literally feeds and reinforces absolute thinking! By staying in our own “lanes” of thinking (a liberal, a conservative, as poor, as rich) we are more predictable (ie. valuable) as consumers.  For example, when something takes place and is in the news, what I read about it (on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube) is different from what my neighbor reads based on our digital profiles. This misinformation leads to disagreement, lack of understanding, and even resentment. Does this sound familiar?

I think part of what makes me a good counselor is that I do listen. I accept people for who they are (sometimes before they accept themselves). I encourage you to listen to those with opposing views.  Try to really understand their perspective.  Remember that your truth isn’t necessarily everyone’s truth, and that’s not always a bad thing.

Chris Guzniczak, LPC

Flower Mound Counseling

“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”

– Mark Twain

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