Feeling better? (that might not be good news)

A course I took last month explained a few things to me. One of those things I now see a bit more clearly is the neuro-biological component of a habit.

See ... this woman

has written this book

together with this man

because they found out something verrrrry interesting about the chemical reactions in the brain. Here's the deal.

When you "believe something," and then you are shown obvious evidence that contradicts what you "know," your brain secretes the hormones of stress and panic. Your body has perceived a threat. Your anxiety is not a sign that you are picking up on a lie. Your self-protective instinct is actually a signal that something you assume about the world might not be true. (And we wonder why kids get upset sometimes!)

Now, if you are presented with material that contradicts your known facts and paradigms, and you accept the job of dispassionately considering this knowledge, you can eventually figure out how to incorporate, contextualize, or otherwise make sense of the new data. Living through the anxiety doesn't mean you're a gullible idiot - it means you're considering things.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. ~Aristotle
And what happens if you reject this new knowledge? You get new data - it contradicts old data - and you say, "No, I know for sure that this contradictory information is not true" because you "know for sure" that the science proves that humans are making the climates heat up, or you "know for sure" that the people who want to reform health care in this country are actually socialists ... or that you "know for sure" that this is God's will for your life, or that all Christians are hypocrites. What happens if you reject the new data?

Your brain releases calming chemicals.

You feel better if you reject the new, threatening information. You feel safer.

In fact, you feel quite strong and virtuous and more sure of yourself.

That's right. Rejecting information that might make you change your mind about something makes you feel quite good about yourself. This is the physical response of religious and nonreligious, scientific and nonscientific, right wing and left wing (which is not the same thing as either of those other two couplets) ... your body senses a threat when it finds new information.

And then you decide what to do with that threat.

Interesting, eh?

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