How The Mind Can Fool Us

//How The Mind Can Fool Us

How The Mind Can Fool Us

Here are two vignettes that highlight our endless human capacity for self-deception.

A patient I will call Laura came to me because she has an enmeshed relationship with her mother, which ruins her life. At 37 years of age, she was still living at home with her mother and her abusive alcoholic brother. She could not sustain any relationship with a partner because her mother systematically undermine any such attempts, essentially putting her down all the time, giving her the message that she is incapable of independence. In addition, it was her duty to help her brother when he got himself into trouble. Previous attempts at becoming independent and move out had failed.

She moved out shortly after I started to see her in psychotherapy. This time she began to enjoy her independence, particularly because she was starting to learn how to develop healthy boundaries towards her mother. A few weeks after having moved, her mother’s house was broken into and many valuables were stolen, including expensive jewelry she had left at her mother’s place. Now she became scared of living alone. She told me how afraid she was to be alone in her new house, and that she was thinking of moving back to her mother’s. What if she got broken into – she felt her mother’s place would be safer, because there were two people living there, plus a dog. Her left brain had created a disembodied story with a false logic, because she is emotionally (right brain) in such inner turmoil when it comes to her mother, that she has to dissociate herself from her body (right brain) and all the painful signals it tries to send to her consciousness. Not until I asked her the following question could she see the pseudo-logic that drove her: “Don’t you find it curious that the very place you find would be so safe, with two people and a dog, is precisely the place which got broken into, and from which all your jewelry got snatched?” I asked. My question hit her like a ton of bricks. She realized that her sense of safety ‘at home’ with her mother was in her case an integral part of her enmeshment with her mother, and that she needed to direct her energies into another direction: How can she increase her sense of safety as a single woman living independently in her own home?

The second vignette involves the following note I posted in my office for my patients before I went on holidays:

MEMO
August 5, 2015
To all patients,
Dr. Treyvaud will be away on summer vacation for the following period:
Monday, August 17, 2015 to Friday, September 11, 2015.
Dr. Treyvaud will be back on Monday, September 14, 2014.
Thank you.

 

A couple, husband and wife, whom I see independently, missed their first session after my holidays, because they were absolutely convinced I had posted my return for September 17. Until I showed them a printed copy of my note, they could not believe me.

These two vignettes are a reminder of the challenge our left brain poses, when it is disconnected from the right brain. Here are its unsavory characteristics with which it tyrannizes our lives when left unchecked by the right brain:

THE LEFT BRAIN:

  1. Constructs a self-consistent world of pure theory that always reflects back on itself and confirms itself;
  2. Controls the voice and the means of argument, such as logic, linearity, detachment and language;
  3. Parses reality into bits – if no clear bits are available, it will invent them.
  4. It only re-presents the world after the fact and creates a (sometimes) useful fiction;
  5. Is only capable of black and white thinking;
  6. Does not perceive stories, but a mass of discreet episodes, often out of sequence, thus maintaining distortions;
  7. Needs to always feel in control;
  8. Is competitive;
  9. Thinks it can go it alone without the right brain;
  10. Thinks it knows it all;
  11. Is overly optimistic and unrealistically positive in its self-appraisal;
  12. Is in denial about its shortcomings and unreasonably certain;
  13. Is prone to paranoia and mistrust.

 

As you can see, these scientific findings about the left brain are not just interesting knowledge floating high up in the clouds of academic knowledge. We can observe and directly experience these characteristics in our everyday life.

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.

By |2015-10-01T11:06:01+00:00October 1st, 2015|Mindfulness|