The mind is a powerful thing. It does not consult our conscious perceptions of the world when trying to protect us. It is an efficient, behind-the-scenes, automated system that acts without thought or consideration of outcome. It assumes what it does will keep us safe. That is its only job, but what happens when the thing it thinks is keeping us safe threatens us?
There are a lot of ways to challenge confirmation biases. We can be more observational like in Buddhism or question ourselves like in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We can try new things or watch for emotional attachments. If we’re emotionally tied to an option, the amygdala must be involved. So, to try and bring reason, to use evidence to prove it wrong, works. When we choose to challenge our thoughts rather than validate them, we grow. However, it is arduous, incremental work.
Our confirmation biases are inherent to how we define ourselves. Primates will rebel in the same way a teenager will naturally rebel. We will defend that identity even if it has inherent inaccuracies to who we are. Sometimes, the only viable option is to surrender, and with it, become vulnerable again.
People who enter therapy are experiencing precisely this kind of surrender. They are abandoning their perception of themselves to the perception of the therapist they see. They are saying, “You can see me better than I see myself.” However, we are now vulnerable to the therapist’s confirmation bias. Because we’ve given them a position of power, we readily believe their misconceptions of us. We are surrendering the knowledge of our conscious mind for the insight of theirs, but what if we could submit to something else instead.
What we perceive as spiritual inspirations or even random acts of genius are actually the working of our subconscious mind. It’s those other eighty-three billion neurons that make the suggestions we understand to be our conscious thinking. Still, what if we could use that supercomputer differently? What if we could use it to rewrite our confirmation biases?
It’s simple, really. All we need to ask ourselves is, “What if I wasn’t experiencing the thing I’m experiencing? What if I were experiencing something different?” Here’s an example: Say I’m a person experiencing financial hardship. I would ask, what would life be like if I wasn’t experiencing financial difficulty?” Answering that question opens a correlation not previously perceived by the subconscious mind. We can describe what it would be like because there is a cluster of neurons in there that knows. By burying ourselves in a sensory description, we allow our brain to build connections. We open the door to the outcome being a possibility for us. Now, our brain is working to find the way. Instead of solving the problem of being poor, it is calculating how to live without financial hardship. The brain is finding a way to connect the new information to existing identity.
Considering something possible we once thought might be impossible immediately shifts from fear-based thinking to innovative thinking, reducing fear reaction and increasing our internalized value.