Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Falling off the Ladder of Inference (Part II)

Please see Part I HERE
for the Introduction to the Ladder of Inference
and CranioRectal Inversion (CRI) #2     

Mental Tagging of Information

As I've defined the Ladder here, the third rung involves how we make sense of information so that we can store it and use it later – and how we make decisions about what to do in the present. That brings up an interesting element of this phase of the process: time and pressure. When factors place a limit on the time we have to observe, think, and then decided on a course of action, we encounter a whole other set of types of biases. If given more time and less pressure, we have the luxury of being more circumspect and discerning. Manipulators also take advantage of this kind of pressure, and unpleasant circumstances also affect how we both take in information but especially how we tag or categorize it.

Consider that the most neurally primal way of tagging memory to recall it later involves our sense of smell. If you know little to nothing about how the brain works, you can think about how close in proximity the nose is to the brain. It just so happens that data from one's sense of smell feeds directly into the emotional center in the brain anatomically through a crainal nerve. Sight and sound are not far behind, but olfactory sense becomes remarkably involved in long-term memory – a strongly emotionally driven process.

Consider also the fundamental function of the mind as well that has been often repeated in this discussion: the amazing thing about the human mind is not so much its ability to realize things and think. What is most remarkable, creative, resilient, enduring, and impressive is the manner in which the mind avoids information and thought that causes emotional discomfort. You might say that we are hardwired for denial which makes any objectivity quite a miracle in light of this very, very human trait. We like to ignore those things which we find distasteful or discomforting, and we like to focus on those things which enhance our feelings of well-being. We select what we take in from our environment as well as how we tag and store memory.

Interpretation: Yet Another Opportunity for Bias

The fourth rung on this interpretation of the ladder introduces another level of potential error, incongruence with objective reality, and self-serving mechanisms of the mind. Here we see more cognitive biases that line up with logical fallacies. Note again that fallacies attend to the study of error with a focus on logic, and cognitive bias focuses explaining the functional ways and means by which the mind departs from sound logic. Depending on the task, considering cognitive bias becomes more of a study of the wonder of how we arrive at logical conclusions. Again, I'm not so interested in where these things classify, because the biases build on one another and extend from one rung to the other. All of the previous processes guide and build upon how we draw conclusions from them.

The Lies We Believe

Basically, what we experience teaches us who we are, how the world works, and just how we fit into the process. We start out with very basic, “primitive,” self-centered beliefs as a starting point and then life proceeds to wake us up into bitter reality. We can learn collapsed, pessimistic views about who we are which is something that disappointments, failures, or chronic trauma teaches us. We can also learn lessons in life that give us a grandiose view of who we are and unrealistically optimistic “rules” and a basic “truths.” Somewhere in the middle there is balance that we learn through experience and healthy, interdependent relationships with others as we engage life.

The “leader” of the cult spoof Church of the Subgenius, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs says “Relax in the safety of your own delusions.” Have truer words ever been spoken, even if for the sake of slack? Sadly, that is where we will live our lives if our egos have anything to say. What is encouraging about this whole process of cognitive bias that it's at this place where we can really isolate and evaluate our thoughts as a good starting point. I stole the subheading from one of my favorite books on this topic (another subject to come under the grand heading of recovery from trauma).

And I would be remiss at this juncture if I passed up the opportunity to quote Sir Joshua Reynolds: “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” It helps to balance out the quote from Bob.

Action Follows Thought, then It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

And we arrive at rung six on my adaptation of the Ladder of Inference where we take all of what we've tagged and interpreted, misinterpreted, and concluded to choose a course of action (which can be inaction). When we act implicitly, without much or any active thought or consideration, we can shoot right up the ladder into bad decisions or ones that make no logical sense to another person. Our own, individualized process of arriving at choice and action makes sense to us and seems to work for us – though it usually involves no work whatsoever.

And because we proceed from what we already know, the next time a similar situation comes along, we have created a habit of using this same ladder unless we're given good cause to question some element of how we made it from the first rung to the last. We repeat mistakes without even realizing that they are mistakes – like the rest of the human race. But we can live more stable lives in the long run if we keep at the hard and oft' painful labor of thinking instead of enjoying the illusion of safety in delusion.

For Further Reading Until CRI #3:

As if two posts with a woman falling down stairs and feature quotes from J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, "The Club" member Reynolds, and Yogi Bera weren't frenetic enough, here's a silly skit that he did with Johnny Carson where he says, “Just the facts...” and more.  That Carson was a cute kid.

Cognitive Biases: Falling off the Ladder of Inference (Part I)

Well, we don't actually fall off of it.
We just don't climb it very gracefully,
and don't end up where we'd like.

(photo credit)
Before diving into additional cognitive biases, let's take a look at how we can put them into perspective by considering the Ladder of Inference. (We named the Hindsight Bias as our first in the CranioRectal Inversion (CRI) that results from falling into their trappings. Honestly, I intended no pun when I wrote that post and created the image!) Think of the Ladder as a section in the toolbox for cultivating safety in recovery from trauma, and you may choose to tuck cognitive biases neatly into it.

My choice of examples and especially the pictures that accompany each to follow post won't represent a complex interpretation of each bias. I hope to kickstart thought and self-awareness. I like the ladder which I've adapted to illustrate how we take in information which eventually leads to action. (If anyone notices that I've created more ambiguity by using a poor illustration, please let me know. But know that I might ask you to write a guest post for the benefit of us all.)

If you look at the Ladder of Inference, starting at the bottom with rung #1, we begin with stark, objective, hard reality. The “just the facts, Ma'am” phrase from Dragnet gives us an excellent example of what we might hope to start with – as though what happens around us were recorded for future reference. Jack Webb's character on the show aims directly at avoiding cognitive bias. It might be worth watching an old episode or two to help appreciate the process.

Your Side, My Side, and the Truth
The second rung points out the trappings of attention and the information that we “select” to tuck away in our memories. This is a complicated and vast subject, but there's an amusing and effective way of demonstrating the way our attention limits what we observe in a given situation. Think about the way a manipulator might take advantage of a situation to exploit this tendency as you watch.

I offer you CranioRectal Inversion #2:

Inattentional Blindness illustrates well just one of many the biases that affect us when we take in information. But that's just the start of the process as we venture further up the Ladder of Inference. Read more in Part II HERE.

For Further Reading:

Graphic adapted from 123rf.com.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cranio-Rectal Inversion #1: The Hindsight Bias

Looking at cognitive biases can be a sticky business because it's a term used in psychology, but the tricks our brain can play on us can overlap with other concepts and errors. Geeks coined the term in the 1970s, but we see elements of the things in our daily lives. The same kinds of errors overlap with logical fallacies to which these biases in thought contribute. I see the “weapons of influence” used in sales as a blending of both, just as thought reform does (according to those other geeks who coined those terms).

So in the interest of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and how we might safely fit into it, lets dive right into a lighter one first.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cranio-Rectal Inversion and Cognitive Bias

(You can't live very safely if your head's up your _____.)

The title of this post conveys a rude image, but I find it sadly and uncomfortably true. In pondering my own recent disappointments in life and establishing safety in trauma recovery, I found myself looking squarely at my own cognitive biases. And I realized that you can't see and hear if you've buried your head away somewhere, even if it is self interest.

Cognitive” refers to thinking ability, and when teamed with “bias,” it refers to errors in our thinking that result in faulty judgements and poor decisions. The good news? We expereince them as a function of our humanity, and they don't seem much like biases or errors when we fall into them. And if you think about it, a life well lived might just be the long process of “pulliing our heads out” over the course of our lives concerning all sorts of sundry matters as our world and our experiences expand.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fly Away from the Dream Squashers for Safety and Stability

pic credit
When preparing to write this post, I kept thinking about a scene on Everybody Loves Raymond where one of the characters named Robert says something quite true about what he calls “dream squashers.” Deborah, his sister-in-law, discusses returning to her career while the rest of the family focuses on the negative aspects of the idea. I identify with how Robert recounts his childhood dreams as he encourages Deborah to “strap a rocket on her back” so she can fly away from the naysayers – the dream squashers. It helps me make light of things, but the statement that he makes is very valid.

Safer Decisions: A Tough and Challenging Topic

I'd hoped to follow the previous post about how we make decisions and the risks we take with something more positive. As I'm walking through my own personal labyrinth of recovery from new challenges, I couldn't connect with the material very well.

In a way, it demonstrates the difficulties that we face when we do build Safety and work at Stabilization for ourselves as we recover from trauma. Life also gets in the way of that, as we have to go on living our lives as we heal. We still have our daily work, routines, and our ongoing care of self and others. My life has had the added elements of a couple of recent deaths including the suicide of a friend, the loss of my 16 year old cat last month, a flaring up of more than a few chronic illnesses, and a serious injury in my immediate family. These make the daily grind of all of the other pressures of life that we all share in common (like the rising cost of everything and enduring pre-election politics) that much more of a struggle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Managing Ignorance and Knowledge in Recovery

Ignorance (lack of knowledge) affects all of us. Recognizing that you lack knowledgeable about something and seeking information or advice shows strength of character as well as wisdom in decision-making. The true problems arise for us when we don't realize that we're ignorant about a matter and to what extent our knowledge reaches. In the discussion of risk, often times, no one has information about uncertainty, but just that knowledge alone can help you make wiser decisions. So while you may feel like you're standing on the edge of a precipice and just might fall in to trouble, the fact that you're aware of your footing and your limitations does provide a great deal of power about what you can do and how to prepare for what you might face.

This post is also another one that looks at hard facts that can be difficult to thin about but will perhaps help us identify pitfalls that affect how we manage acceptance, expectation, and growth in recovery from trauma.  The post which will follow will be more encouraging and pleasant!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Understanding Risk : Learning to Move Towards Safety

(photo credit)
I once heard a lecture about fostering critical thought that aimed at defining risk and the information that we have when we must make choices. Some choices are easier than others, depending on what may happen if we make the wrong choice, and if we've exited a high demand group, we are likely brutal perfectionists

The personal costs involved in making choices influence us, and access to information about the ways others have tackled similar choices also impact this hard work. Understanding these factors can help us to feel better about the process of decision making, especially if we feel a bit rusty.  I've warmed up with age, but I still often struggle with making big decisions, especially ones that concern optimism about myself.  But looking into taking risks can help us develop and practice optimism that can help us build as much safety and stability as we can.  All people need it, but at least we human beings are all in the same boat.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Developing Tools to Find Safety in the Face of Uncertainty

In the discussion of building safety in stabilization in recovery from post traumatic stress, we've recently considered the role of acceptance and expectation in that process. We lose perspective because we get more consumed with survival for far too long which interferes with our ability to embrace joy and live optimistically. 

Understanding mankind's vulnerability in the grand sense gives a a map of the landscape, and creating a starting point of moments of safety give us a starting point. Learning how to safely move forward through the oft convoluted maze of healing also gives us a safe habits and help in that process.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Safety in Optimism as a Learned and Re-Learned Skill

Earlier posts looked at the grand picture in life concerning our expectations for safety in a world where things exceed our control. Camus defines well that we are stuck in the human condition which requires struggle and disappointment that doesn't end. Catherine Marshall looks to the acceptance of what Camus describes but differentiates hopeful acceptance from the pessimism of resignation that seems to be it's own kind of premature death. Today, I'd like to tighten that broad focus on uncertainty down to a more basic and immediate one.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Modern Day Witch Hunting in the Christian Church


A guest post by author, Shirley Taylor
from her blog, 

(originally published July 29, 2016)

Is the CBMW willing to bring back witch hunts?

The answer is yes and unless you read it for yourself, you will not believe it. Newly selected president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Denny Burk, in his vision for CBMW seeks to enforce the Danvers Statement, and create wider acceptance of it. The Danvers Statement is the modern day equivalent to the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hunter’s Bible) which caused the deaths of thousands and thousands of women who were accused of consorting with the devil.

Safely Tucked in the Middle? Contrasting and Comparing Camus and Christy

Catherine Marshall authored Christy, the historical fiction novel which was based on her mother's experiences in a remote mountain community in Tennessee. In the picture shown here, I included a rendition of her book which features Kellie Martin who played the protagonist in the CBS TV drama that was developed from the novel a number of years ago. (I figured that her work might be more recognizable that way.) 

Catherine was a Christian who was married to Peter Marshall, the famed, early 20th Century, Scottish-born, Presbyterian minister in Washington, DC who served as the Chaplain for the US Senate. She was a prolific writer and editor, but she's best known for Christy novel A Man Called Peter which was also adapted into an award-winning film, her biographical tribute to her husband who died at quite a young age.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Finding Safety in Myths? Camus as Futlity's Starting Point


I am by far a greater fan of Master of the Absurd, Franz Kafka, who laments in his writings about the nature of man and his limitations, but I could not help but think of Albert Camus' essay about The Myth of Sisyphus concerning the subject of futility and expectation. Can his writing help us find some footing in recovery from trauma so that we can build some type of stability? Trauma robs us of our sense of safety, causes us to feel isolated, and it obscures our memories of stability if we truly had any as a starting point. Trauma causes us to realize the reality of our fragile nature and alienates us from optimism.

This theme is of interest to me because of the problem of figuring out how to fix one's aim when it comes to expectations – especially in relationships. Camus sees the proverbial glass as half empty, and it won't be long before the liquid in the glass evaporates. What would the Apostle Paul recommend for us to consider regarding a glass that is only half full while there is great need for more help for our human condition? Sometimes, I feel the weight of Sisyphus rolling down on me and all of my fantasies because I've been badly burned by the idea that the glass will soon be full. Can I use the writings of the atheist of absurdity to figure out how to understand Paul's admonishment to be content and at peace, despite my very human circumstances in real life?

Monday, August 8, 2016

“Bloom Where You're Planted” as a Thought Stopping Cliche

I'd heard that phrase before, but even now and even with my positive experience with the concept many years later, the phrase still connotes something negative for me. 

The last post detailed my very good experience with the sage advice of determination to bloom and grow, even if it's not where you want to be or the conditions are not that favorable.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Good Aspects of “Bloom Where You're Planted”


Platitudes can be helpful when they're used well and when both parties understand what they're meant to communicate. Much like pictures, they can encompass and encapsulate more meaning that just the words in-and-of-themselves. They're verbal shorthand that can sometimes be more direct and concise than long discussions, and they're especially helpful when one party doesn't have a lot of emotional energy to stop and listen to a long explanation. We can all imagine a tenacious flower like a dandelion that grows in a tiny bit of soil that has inadvertently collected in a crack in a sidewalk. Sometimes life requires our tougher nature to prevail.

I remember when Mary Englebright's graphic arts became quite popular, and the picturesque phrase became a useful phrase for her theme of gardening. If you're safe in the place where you find yourself, figuring out how to thrive where life plants you, it's a lovely idea. When you're covered in mud, before a long soak in the tub after a day of gardening, the picture of the promise of burgeon buds and blooms keeps you going. As mentioned in the previous post, I think that it can be a great example of what that verse in Philippians means when it says to think about goodness to foster contentment.

Safety, Ambiguity, Expectation and Balance

As a child, in an effort to comfort me, an elderly woman at my church would encourage me to read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi. Basically, he says that he learned how to be contented with whatever situation he faced. One of the primary ways of coping with bad situations, according to what he wrote, involves thinking about good things as opposed to dwelling on the bad ones. 

Unfortunately, much of what he wrote requires a pre-existing and healthy sense of self, and it seems to take for granted that people have some pre-existing sense of moderation and balance. I still struggle with this aspect of life and thought. While I know now from experience that I misinterpreted a good bit of what I think he meant to communicate, I still must work a bit harder, pondering things regarding expectation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back to Stage One of Healing: More on Safety and Stabilization

It's been quite a month, and life is settling back into something like normal. Redeeming Dinah, the blog exploring the Duggar Phenomenon as a function of the family agenda promoted among many Independent Fundamental Baptists is up and running. It's been a month since the panel where survivors of the system talked about their experiences. Afterwards, I returned home from Dallas to be met with a couple of deaths of loved ones, some injuries, and the sadness that goes along with them. The dog days of summer do not make matters any easier.

It's now been several months (!) since a post about the stages of trauma, and I have plenty more material upon which to draw to illustrate the journey of healing. I aspired to take the high road through a miserable process of injustice and gossip from people whom I respect and to show them love. I think I've learned lessons about anger and love, about people who are unsafe, about how difficult it can be to figure out all of that, and more. I'm reminded that the people who mean the most to me whose opinions really matter are all that really matter, even though gossip can do much damage. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Demanding Duggar Cradle, Teen Homes and the Baptist Myth of Family

Welcome to the resource page that accompanies the discussion:

From Demanding Duggar Cradle to Troubled Teen Home:  
Overcoming the Baptist Myth of Family
Friday, July 1st, Dallas, TX

View the slides here, and visit Slideshare's website for download.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Understanding the Duggars: A Series of Posts at **Redeeming Dinah**

As part of a presentation, I decided to create what is essentially an online bibliography for those interested in background information about the Duggars, the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB), Gothard, Quiverfull, and the Troubled Teen Homes within the IFB. Information about them all can be accessed at the new site, Redeeming Dinah

Overviews of these subjects are provided/  Just the tabs at the blog's header for pages of info that include brief descriptions, helpful links and videos.

As part of that effort, I turned a fairly extensive email interview with a journalist about a year ago into a blog series at the new site. I hope will provide resources and encouragement to those who have exited the high demand systems listed above. It was a nice opportunity to review and consolidate information to make it more accessible.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What are Your Barriers?

This is a nice image.  (Though I suspect that the volatiles in the ink had more to do with the ant's behavior.)  But that's still a barrier, and there just might be unbounded freedom on the other side of yours.