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How to Protect Yourself Against Delusion

Remember Nothing Stays the Same Forever

For much of my early adulthood, I thought about the world in a particular way. As it pertained to my daily life, I carried an overall pessimistic attitude. I would look for confirmation of my bias in every incident; if that was contradicted, I either dismissed it as an outlier or ignored the result altogether. Even though I was not consciously aware of it at the time, I was consistently making myself out to be a victim. For many different variables that happened in my life up to that I point, I developed an unhealthy mindset where I was never able to recognize my part in the “play.” Or that said “play” had different scenes and was not repeating itself on the same loop.

           The danger in thinking of myself only as a victim meant I was living an alternative reality. Situations constantly change in life, and opportunities exist that we can take advantage of if we’re able to see new possibilities. Perceiving favorable chances becomes nearly impossible when the mindset immediately seeks to change the narrative to misfortune. With the belief in permanent hardship in every situation, living an angry and depressed existence becomes more likely. Our days end up playing out in the negative way we thought, the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

           This is not to say that terrible things will not happen. The prospect of tragedy remains a possibility, and some individuals receive more than their fair share. However, in the western world, it is hard to find an individual whose every waking moment consists of externally driven misery. If one keeps experiencing outcomes they do not like; there is only one common dominator out of all those circumstances.

           What drives much of our unhappiness is delusion—the idea of defending ideas even after consistently experiencing contradictory data. In my situation, it was a belief that one particular result will remain constant throughout different situations and can never change. This false reality can make progress extremely challenging, considering effectiveness generally requires sound logic.  

           For example, if I put together a bookcase, I will need specific tools to complete the task. Now imagine I say to myself, “I am going to do it without the tools.” After failing to put together the bookcase, I blame it on unclear instructions instead of taking ownership of not having the tools. One can quickly see that conducting our lives in this matter will lead to repeated results of failure and a lot of lost time.

           A significant problem with addressing delusion is that you do not know your deluded at the time. This is how you think; one truly believes the problem does not lie within them, but external factors are the cause. During my pessimistic days, I did not ponder if my thinking contributed to my lack of success; I firmly attributed that to others.

           So then, how does one realize if they are deluded?

           One step is to remember that nothing stays the same indefinitely. Life is full of ups and downs. Our job while existing is to acknowledge both, not just one or the other. It is normal to focus on the negative more than the positive; it’s an evolution thing. However, as we continue to evolve as a species, embracing the human experience is healthy. This means taking note of times your beliefs do not match your results. Do not immediately dismiss it as an outlier but process what your outcomes mean, especially if it happens repeatedly.

           Another great indicator is feedback from those who care about your existence or those who do not have a vested interest in your belief. If the people closest to you or those who can operate objectively are questioning your ideas, it could be a good time for reevaluation. It is quite possible they are wrong, and you know best. However, it is also possible you are the one who is making the error.

           Confronting these truths over time can give overwhelming evidence to adjust your mindset. It’s your data; you cannot attribute the results to someone else. The leading actor in this case study is you, so owning and processing this information can lead you in the right direction. Instead of contempt for past mistakes, have a sense of curiosity about exploring the appropriate measures to undertake going forward. No point in beating yourself up excessively about the past; what is done is done and cannot be changed. Better to focus on charting a new path that will hopefully give healthier outcomes.

           It is human to error, but for us to achieve great things, we cannot defend matters we know are false. Intelligence, by definition, is the ability to acquire knowledge, which should require us to let go of inaccurate beliefs. Delusion prevents us from moving forward and can keep us stuck in an unhealthy mindset. In that way, it becomes our prison, confined to a small space and limiting our options. There are not many worse feelings in life than being trapped; it becomes even worse when we realize it was us who set up the confinement. 

Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!

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