I want to pause again here to talk about faith.
When we are small children, we have no preset notion of safety, other than the unorganized neurons we’ve adopted. Our moments are led by parents either confirming or denying our initial fear reactions.
Our subject does not begin with the luxury of ignorance. She has confirmation bias, preset notions of what should be. Our preset rules for safety only validate what it already believes, what is familiar. In response to unfamiliar or even just uncomfortable information, the brain processes according to selective interpretation. It only sees what it wants to see, what validates its knowing. Nothing in the world feels better to the brain than saying, “Oh, I knew that would happen.” Safety is a function of predictable outcomes.
Even at the funeral, our subject was unable to accept obvious distress in her subject. She wanted Amber to be well, to avoid taking the responsibility of helping her find wellness. She didn’t want to see what she couldn’t handle. So her recall of memory was selective.
Many of us know our brains are selective in their interpretation of the world, but we don’t always consider why. The first and most obvious fact is that we follow paths that have created safety in the past. However, we don’t always consider how beliefs based on identity are most affected by confirmation bias. Again, we must remember, identity is everything when it comes to survival. Our emotional attachment to who we are has more impact on how we see the world than any other thing in our existence. Beliefs feed confirmation bias.
The perseverance of belief is staggering because faith is not a situational thing. It is not a single strand of thought. It is the underlying network that organizes thought. Pull one thread, and the whole thing can unravel. Having an existential crisis can be one of the most dangerous and yet rewarding experiences of human existence. When belief systems fall apart, a whole universe of new possibilities is born.
One of the most obvious signs that we are making decisions based on confirmation biases is the desire to drive our heels into the ground. From the moment our subject connected with Amber at the funeral, she became doggedly determined to insist ‘she is fine.’ So, what fear drove the stimulation of her bias? Acceptance.
Our subject has finally stepped into the community that has shunned her. This is the only alternate she can see to her family of origin. Her neighborhood growing up was seventy to eighty percent Mormon influence and ten percent criminal. She couldn’t see the ten to twenty percent that sat quietly between the two. There was the upstanding, honest neighbor and the shameful, violent, overtly sexual home. She only saw the two.
She is stepping into a new environment she had been craving. So, she began establishing ground rules based on her experiences growing up to find her footing. This world she saw as perfect, and she was the lesser being trying to be loved by it. She would do anything to be accepted. So, she could not accept being the person who bore terrible news. She had too many times been killed as a messenger to do that. The cost of being wrong is too great.
This situation creates a dilemma. To challenge confirmation biases, we must be willing to be wrong. It is fundamental to growth, but the cost of being mistaken for her is too great. So, she will mitigate potential loss. Again, the primal brain does not measure its decisions by potential gain. It measures them by the risk of loss. Even her desire to expand is because she knows she will die if she does not.
So, she has one part of her brain saying, don’t give up anything, and the other part saying, ‘You will need to abandon everything to grow. This sacrifice isn’t just a loss of security. It’s a loss of identity, and though it may seem nominal, it also threatens a loss of community. Above all else, the potential of losing her community is the priority. For the primal mind, social groups are the priority. Without them, we die.
So, here is our subject, abandoning her identity, wisdom, and social group to take a leap of faith, to join a community that has never accepted her. The only thing driving her leap is the gentle voice she hears accompanied by the tug of her shoulders. It is only by this more rational voice in her head that she can take this tremendous leap.