Wild, really: My friend scared himself awake. His unconscious built an image so surprising that it jolted the rest of him from sleep.
It's amazing to know that our minds are this compartmentalized. For stretches of time, we can feel like lucid people operating by way of fully known intentions. But at the same time, the brain can have unspoken distractions. A side of the brain can go dormant, or can shock another side out of sleep.
We've had some big, public examples of the deluded or "split" human mind lately. Of course there's Bernie Madoff, who must have intermittently allowed himself to buy some of his own lies. Then there are all of us who invested in false optimism when we took cheap mortgages or banked on the continual rise of the stock market. The rational brain went slightly dormant. In order to dream a delicious dream, we allowed a critical side of ourselves to sleep.
With the economic crash and other sorts of bad news these days, we're starting to wake up (for a bit). In turn, there are a bunch of books out there that are trying to explain just how and why people delude themselves so completely. These books try to detail all the mental tricks that allow us to enjoy false optimism, idealize love, underrate our own shortcomings, confirm (rather than test) our beliefs, alter memories to suit assumptions, etc. etc.. At the end of this blog I include a list of some of these titles.
These books use psychology to name what sort of games our minds play to change perception to suit beliefs. In one, clinical psychologist Van Hecke names 10 mental mistakes that delude us most frequently, including "not stopping to think," "jumping to conclusions" and "missing the big picture." Those are broad labels of delusion--but she picks out more specific, everyday examples to tell us how we each do a bit of each.
Business professor Thomas Kida identifies six more specific mental lies, including the ways we underestimate the role of chance in big events, the fact that we tend to oversimplify in our thinking, and the fact that our memories are always at least a bit warped. Kida's book tries to get us to correct for some of these tendencies.
But perhaps it will never be our job to live "objectively." Maybe our minds are like shock absorbers: organs designed not just for survival, but to make the world feel comfy, like a bed fit for dreaming in. I wonder if you've got ideas about how we misperceive reality to suit our sense of comfort.
LIST OF SOME CURRENT TITLES ON DELUSION
Sway: The Irresistable Pull of the Irrational (Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman)
Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions (Zachary Shore)
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Leonard Mlodinow)
Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things (Madeleine L. Van Hecke)