Monday, February 27, 2017

Why My Common Cognitive Biases Make Me Lousy at Poker

Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion more jocular, we've defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).

As I walked through this past year (recapped here), I recognized the familiar sense of panic that I felt during my last year in my spiritually abusive (cultic) church. A number of years ago, I'd become involved with a new group of people that aspired to achieve some idealistic causes, but as it unfolded, it became an unhealthy and familiar trap. As was true of my old church, not everyone experiences the discomfort of dysfunction, yet like some others, I found myself in good company.  I think that the familiarity of the dynamics caused me to forget about my competent adult self, and I felt swept up in a deep sense of childhood helplessness.  (As a friend put it, these folks did have a formidable "skill set," too.)  

I have the idea that this new experience felt worse to me than my cult exit experience did. But as is said about the memory of a mother's pain of birthing, my husband believes that healing and twenty years of distance from our cult exit clouds my recall.  I do believe that I garnered far more respect as a professional in my cult, and though I hate to say it, the church leaders were far more benevolent with mePerhaps that came from our dedication to the core, healthy elements of the religious virtues we shared which I did not experience within this new venueIt created the appearance of professional ethics as a common glue for beneficence, so I expected more structure and substance.  In retrospect, I would say now that the new venue proved to be more like jello that couldn't be tacked down.

Where Credit is Not Due

Like many folks do, I put too much trust in the promise of good will made by those I saw as the best experts.  Though I've learned so much, I also doubted myself in the process in concert with misplaced trust.  I'd been taught to avoid the serious consequences of the Appeal to Authority as a nurse on the job. I learned the same lesson with clergy who should have been the safest people to trust. This time, I fell into the familiar pit of not finding what I expected to find instead of building expectation on evidence in this different, expanded venue. few years ago, I went to my therapist after attending continuing education with counselors and therapists and was shocked that I saw many behave worse than children. I will never forget her failed attempt to choke back a laugh at my disbelief at their lack of professionalism. (I had a long relationship of trust with that therapist, and her laugh added welcomed levity, for we had been around so many aspects of this same old mulberry bush of false beliefs so many times.  And I'm fairly sure that I've blogged about this watershed moment before, though it bears repeating.)  

I apparently needed a few more lessons and extra practice in a broader territory. My problem was also complicated by attribution errors and correspondence issues – assuming that everyone had the same perspective and motivations that I did I then naively showed my hand with little discretion. That's the short explanation of why I'm lousy at poker (and politics).

Unreasonable Expectations (Yet again...)

As my husband has said many times for decades, I wish for all of my relationships to be resolved, neatly placed in a box with a pretty bow on the top. But I didn't heed the tell tale signs that the people I'd trusted were safe for me, and I set my sights on pretty boxes with bows. When I trick myself into falling for that old fantasy, I eventually feel like a one of the pigs in Animal Farm, realizing that though all are equal, “some are more equal than others.” And I can't help but think that when one wrestles with those who like that barnyard muck and mud, it's best to prepare to deak with the dirt. Life provides mud in abundance without labor, and ribbons must be crafted after working to learn the art.

That takes us back to the nature of emotional healing yet again.  I'm just taking a new walk around through a season that I've been through before, ending up in a familiar place on that cyclical labyrinth of growth.

Why do I hesitate to write about how disappointed I feel about things that I “should have done better.” 'Shoulds' breed shame and feed fantasies, relationships rarely fit into standard-sized boxes, and relationships that do rarely boast pretty bows.   

Those pesky shoulds!  More to come.

For Further Reading: