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.

I Knew It Was Going to Happen!

I say this one all the time – perhaps daily. The last time that I played backgammon with my husband, I made a somewhat risky move, anticipating that if he rolled a certain set of numbers, I would suffer the consequences. I made a calculated risk, but I didn't have any premonition at all about what the dice would yield. I wisely anticipated the possibilities that might result, and I feared that particular one.

The hindsight bias falls into two types: One that is inevitable and one that is foreseeable. We really don't know the time and place of an event, but we tell ourselves that we “had a hunch” about the outcome. The hindsight bias of inevitability is another trick we play. Two blocks away from the petrol station, your tank runs empty and your car shuts down. “I knew this would happen.” That was not a premonition. Running your vehicle on insufficient fuel was inevitable. It's just somewhat poetic that you ran out within sight of the pump.

We tend to do that with test questions, too. We feel like we might know an answer on a quiz show, but if we really knew it, we would not have hesitated to mention it.

Honest Perspective

We don't like to think of ourselves as inept, so when we don't hit the mark perfectly on something or we haven't been attentive to take of something in advance, we soften the blow to our ego with hindsight bias. Daniel Amen might classify this as one of his Automatic Negative Thoughts of predicting the future, especially when the outcomes that meet us aren't so pleasant.

The things that really trouble us and knock us off balance are those that we didn't know, didn't anticipate, and didn't believe would happen.

How to Harness Hindsight Bias

If we can recognize when we use the hindsight bias, we can ask ourselves what it is about ourselves or the situation that caused us to employ it. I might be ashamed to admit my carelessness about my car and my forgetfulness about putting fuel in my car when I run out of gas. Perhaps I didn't have enough money in reserve to pay for it?

Beneath that, there might be an underlying belief about the world that is untrue, too. One example of that might be, “I'm afraid that I'm powerless.” Another could be, “I never get a break.” Neither is true, but because we get focused on our pain and our limitations, we tend to underestimate our situation objectively.

Concerning my backgammon move, I must admit that I still struggle a great deal with perfectionism. I like to play board games with my husband because I feel so safe with him whether I win or lose, but there is a part of me that didn't learn how to safely take initiative without fear, either. A part of my ego and my own locus of control is still a bit too dependent on outcomes, frankly. But I am aware of it and improve every time I see the way this fear pricks my heart and results in some behavior or thought that seems to nurse my ego.

And now, I will give myself encouragement for having the honesty to admit that and write about it as an example. Perhaps six months ago, I don't think that I had the fortitude to write about this so openly.

Ooops! There it is! Another hindsight bias! 

See how we built it into our thoughts and how easy it is for us to trick ourselves? I don't know one way or the other if I would have written such a thing because it wasn't on my mind. What is true? I feel encouraged about my progress. People who don't want to grow never ask themselves about how they measure up against a standard. I do know that I want to grow and thus encourage others! :)

For further reading until the next post:

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!books/cnec

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.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Anticipating Father's Day

Excerpt from a previous post  ~  

Purity Balls,29307,1822906_1736958,00.html
A few days ago, I happened to see some new photos of fathers and daughters at purity balls by photographer David Magnusson from his book on the subject that will be available later this year. The portraits were featured on several online sites, but despite the “colorful” language of vulgarity in the commentary, this site shows more of the pictures in an easy-to-view format. Some of them look like the dads are getting ready to lead their girls off to the slaughter, or perhaps they were on their way to a funeral. Some of them actually remind me of a sick version of American Gothic, primarily because the poses don't look anything like ones that I find appropriate for fathers and daughters. I also can't get beyond why they all look so morbid in their expressions. ??? I'm also noted for my strong opinion about the depiction of such a ritual in Courageous, a Quiverfull Movement indoctrination film.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Drama of Mother's Day in High Demand Religion

For many reasons, Mother's Day takes on great significance for me this year. I turn fifty later this year, and my high hopes of possibility of having a baby of my own have vaporized with my age.

My next sentence that I must write? I take a deep breath, as I know well the showers of words of well wishers who ask why why didn't pursue adoption. The answer to that question is very complex and only people who struggle daily with chronic illness – those often suffered by children who grew up in troubled families – aren't really anyone's business.

But people ask, and people pressure for answers that they find comforting and satisfying to them with little awareness or regard for any pain that such questions might pose for others. They ask because we human beings fantasize and idealize the virtues of motherhood, and we need them. But for many of us, the reality of the subject of motherhood is not at all pleasant.