Cultivate Attention and Discernment (4)

“Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy”

— Vaclav Havel


Reading time: 25 mins

Creative Vs Entropic influences *

To get the engine of discernment running we need to be aware of how certain influences lead to cultural hypnosis and consensus trance, keeping us stressed, dependent and spiritually asleep. To bypass those toxic effects which we have taken on as normal, we must seek to build a sacred space within so that we are ready and receptive to attract the more subtle influences which positively stimulate the mind toward soul growth. Of course, they are less obvious and more difficult to isolate, which is why it is most challenging to attain spiritual development in our current round of society – everything is set up so that we remain numb and compliant or angry, fearful and volatile.

All of which is good for the system, not so good for the seeker.

Searching out Creative Influences (CI) in this context, is about cognitive and psycho-spiritual adaptation to society and culture without becoming subsumed in its pathology. When we can, we minimise an otherwise probable path to psychological entropy. [1] Gathering and applying these creative influences becomes an art and science since it is concerned with how to live in harmony according to the 31 principles.

The embodiment of psycho-spiritual creativity denotes character which endures. And character is formed by differentiating the qualities of thoughts, feelings and actions. Searching and getting to know these qualities is much like panning for gold in the mud – we recognise, understand and extract the properties which heal and integrate. These are processes which are made up of objectives, which, in turn, comprises our primary aim founded on energy dispersed or knowledge shared. The union or synthesis of “little ‘I’s or ego states begin to come under the influence of the soul which begins to grow from the various stimuli. It leads us to experience lessons which might eventually lead to an authentic level of Being.

Lies and self-deception cause a reversal or mirror image of these creative processes twisting back to the opposite path. The trajectory may appear to be the same in every way, the only difference being that the adaptive unconscious remains tied to the same narrative with no real changes occurring deep within whereby all changes are merely cosmetic. When we start to perceive the specific context and relationship in which creativity, entropy and the three forces interpenetrate we begin to differentiate which energy is operational and determine whether or not we are assimilating creative or entropic influences (EI) thus Being, or Non-Being, the latter resulting in a slow attrition of the soul.

With its inception in thermodynamics and information theory, “entropy” refers to the amount of uncertainty and disorder in a system. Everything in the universe tends towards entropy. All living creatures interact with there environment and self-organise and adapt to reduce the prospect of external entropy overloading our open feedback system and changing it to a closed system. Sentient life consists of a diverse range of open systems which extract energy/information from their environment to maintain a stable state, which, although far from equilibrium, continually keep the balance of entropy displacement into the outside world so that it never overwhelms the inner state – operational to abstract, disorder to order. This spring-cleaning and stabilising of energy is called “negentropy”, the process which prevents psychic entropy overload.


“Only entropy comes easy”

— Anton Chekov


The struggle to self-regulate and self-organise allows the promise of integration and synthesis; disorder to order and entropy to creativity. The process of moving toward authentic Being is what a) builds and refines energy b) allows a new “sacred” space within us to develop c) permits the formation of an overall open feedback system of mind, body and soul development.. A closed system is overtaken by entropic influences and must eventually rely on the macrosocial entropy to feed its existence, and if such a dynamic becomes habitually negative and closed, thereby lacking its energy source, then the consciousness unit implodes not able to maintain its integrity.

Although this order is always temporary it can be likened to an alchemical process where there is the creation of “heat” and “friction” so that we go from a stable state to one that is disordered at a higher turn of the psycho-spiritual spiral. Without the latter, character is merely personality and ego which maintains homeostasis but seldom allows soul influence. In other words, we remain asleep to reality and entirely mechanical in our emotional responses. Worse still, we may be captured by expressions of Non-Being, our psyche prised open by pathogenic infection from psychopathological persons or events, where past inner experiences meet present external forces doubling the entropic disorder.

To simplify, we can label those influences which align to knowledge, light, truth and Being – Creative. These are influences that serve others. And those influences that align to ignorance, darkness, lies and Non-Being – entropic. These are influences that serve self. Both of these are vectors, meaning, there are two independent properties within each: magnitude and direction which combine with velocity.

Think of these influences as Arrows in time-space all hurtling around moving in and out of manifestation. This esoteric notion connects quite well to the Arrow of Time theory which posits that time has an asymmetrical or “one-way” direction. Inspired by the observation of atoms, molecules and bodies it relates to a quantum, four-dimensional map of the world. At that microscopic level, it appears that time doesn’t necessarily flow in a linear direction, rather particles can reverse, which is seemingly contradicted at the macroscopic level where things can be easily seen and where things seem to follow the usual rules of time flow.

We’ve talked about the importance of creating a correct inner map through which we can actualise our aims and objectives. This idea seems to fit into the quantum theories of EI and CI “arrows” of influence and our relationship to time-space. In Freidal Weinert’s Scientist as Philosopher (2004), he writes: “The history of the universe is a map of the world lines of all particles through four-dimensional space-time. There is no indication of flow of time. World lines of particles at rest are presented as straight lines. Particles moving with constant velocity are indicated at straight lines but inclined at an angle of 45° with respect to the stationary particles. Accelerated particles are indicated by curves. Note that the knowledge of nature consists in the knowledge of the intersections of world lines.” [2]

Rather than strictly deterministic when we introduce quantum interpretation of these world lines or trajectories the microscopic level may be just an observational sleight of hand, where such dynamics underlie all phenomena merely at a fourth-dimensional version of reality, the perception of which we begin to gain with attention, discrimination, discernment and perspicacity. As our perception and ability to discern changes perhaps our very place in time and space also begins to change, to become curved and non-local as a result? Reality is fluid after all…

However, that does not mean our knowledge of EI and CI somehow allows us to manipulate atoms and particles, to become magicians to create our own reality and enforce the Law of Attraction as new age advocates believe. Human consciousness can only shape reality within limits due to the inherent constraints of our material plane. The Arrow of Time is one of these constraints in that we cannot just change willy-nilly the core nature of te natural direction, magnitude and velocity of entropic influences through wishfully thinking it were so. To change the direction of those forces and  eventually produce creative influences means to align ourselves to a qualitatively greater force which lives and has Its Being through us. We then access a level of perception and Being that is linked not just to the third dimension of existence but potentially the fourth and beyond. That doesn’t mean we become super-mutants with comic-book powers but it does mean the knowledge we hold can allows us to master the material plane and all its lessons and to begin cradle the possibility that there may be a graduation to other levels of existence available to us.

Admittedly, I’m veering towards serious speculation, metaphor and analogy mixed together… However, what happens to EI and CI arrows of time, these vectors, micro-versions of our hidden realities – meet at key points of a sudden qualitative change or bifurcation?  The convergence of force from EI  – when two people meet, a bridge crosses a river, a truck hits a bird – as random events mix with the intent and purpose of CI influences, perhaps the latter vector is able to imprint networks of perceptual maps onto random chaos which may lead to “unpredictable contingencies,” as a result of chance meeting purpose. Perhaps this is where the third force and the Law of Three come in?

A closed system increases and concentrates entropy. In an open system, entropy decreases with time. Given the right deployment of knowledge processes we can utilise the same hypothesis of asymmetrical perception where the future and past become knowable in the present; we can attend to our own mind-body system and ensure creativity and entropy reach an equilibrium so that order and disorder complement each other; where the “input” and “output” of negentropy equates to an ascending spiral of advancement.

Although we cannot impose our own personal maps onto the vast quantum ocean of EI forces, we can use them to navigate and even introduce new sources of creativity and Being by becoming anchors and generators of those influences.


“Entropy is the normal state of consciousness a condition that is neither useful nor enjoyable.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Entropic Influences (EI)

Entropic influences are vectors of force created as an outgrowth from every possible physical and meta-physical manifestation. It doesn’t matter whether it is family, a profession, ethnicity, institutions, ideologies or abstract philosophies. Everything creates EI and they ebb and flow all over the Earth. Like electromagnetic fields or wi-fi waves, such influences radiate outward and envelop and impinge on all brains and bodies. The closer you are to the core source of EI the more you will assimilate their effects. And how much you are affected by these forces will determine your thoughts, actions and life trajectory.

Stasis and dissipative energy are keywords for EI. Since these influences are random and unconsciously created they follow the path of least resistance and “pool” in whatever form is resonant. Such directionless trajectories ultimately create a neutral effect by cancelling each other out thus nullifying any conscious thought or action.

By assimilating entropic influences we are aligning ourselves to the vibrations, amplitudes and oscillations of Official Culture, the technosphere and its parody of “normal life”. These are the properties of sleeping consciousness and are random and mechanical. The ebb and flow of change occupy the minds of men as an end in itself keeping the development of awareness in a self-referencing loop. For someone who is not interested in self-growth or development that’s perfectly fine – they align to these vectors which constitute the normative structures of our lower mental and emotional centres and the instinctive/survival responses of the mammalian brain. Thus, external reality is the only reality.

Yet, EI are natural and essential forces in the Universe. Try to oppose these forces head-on and you’ll be swatted like a stray gnat. (Think about the character of Neo waking up from his pod in the movie The Matrix). This is a very hard lesson for many spiritual seekers: you cannot fight EI directly in the same way you cannot fight City Hall. Unless you wish to sacrifice your efforts for martyrdom or notoriety. Situational awareness and a thorough knowledge of Sun Tzu’s version of strategy and tactics is a useful adjunct to handling EI. Without which we become the flotsam and jettisom of gobbled psychic energy that defines so much of our history.

So many spiritually profitable lives were cut short through hubris – thinking they could slay the dragon of material life and its entropic representatives which led to disastrous results. Wishful thinking – and the very cognitive biases we will look at presently – were usually the primary instigators and sourced from the very same centres of entropy which have an affinity to the unresolved, disunited unconscious psychic forces within ourselves. If we are able to hold back wait patiently, we might access just enough CI to imbue our system with new confidence and power but without allowing this new found energy to willful blindness and the belief that there is nothing more we need to learn. There lies disaster as sure as the sun shines and the moon glows.

The idea is to bypass EI effects by slowly making ourselves unpalatable, to set up frequency resonance vibration that is out of phase with EI so that our perception and its alignment to a creative universe operates in a different reality. Although our minds and bodies remain on terra firma, we become inhabitants of two worlds, freely able to move between each. Our vision and seeing become anchored in “heaven” while the roots of our Being are firmly connected to the Earth. A third balancing or neutralising force is created by establishing a bridge of knowledge and awareness between the two. Trust and faith in Natural, Divine Law offer assistance to develop that bridge.

Entropic influences are moulded and shaped by whoever dominates the external reality. If an individual is asleep it matters little which dominant perception determines his life and who deposits a given reality into his mind. This is not necessarily a bad thing – it all depends on natural development and where you think you are concerning purpose, meaning and the will to grow. Some folks have no wish to grow and that is a natural part of a Free-Will Universe.

Creative influences (CI)

Though far less frequent in quantity and scope, CI are consciously created, independent and interrelated vectors each with a specific purpose. They mix freely with EI but are drawn from an individual’s or group’s soul growth thus standing outside of organic life, Official Culture and the technosphere. You might say these influences which reside in the dimensions of myth and archetype; great art, religion, ancestral heritage and the congealed spiritual and philosophical wisdom which characterise any given epoch. This is the spiritual bedrock upon which cultures are formed.

Unlike EI, designing one’s life around CI (The 31 Principles) may lead us to perceive CI and allow us to begin self-development leading to authentic self-growth and/or esoteric work. Our job is to assimilate as many creative influences as we can in order to gain enough qualitative nourishment to access the attributes or “Names of God” that promote Being and the actions which stem from that transformation.

The nature of our world means that after a time creative influences will be absorbed into entropic influences in the same way that a drop of ink into a lake of water is quickly diluted and disappears, or the job of an organism’s molecular defences to consume any “invaders” which threaten its existence. We can say the same thing about the dominant paradigms of Official Culture which “eat” and digest any new versions of light and truth. Some get through but seldom survive subsumation. Psychopathic incursions into normal man’s conscience is a similar analogy and represents the maintenance of a system predicated on the production and creation of entropic influences all designed to maintain organic life and “feed the moon”.


“Entropy shakes its angry fist at you for being clever enough to organize the world”

— Brandon Sanderson


The constant immersion in entropic influences from birth means that cultural hypnosis and consensus trance is as much a part of our consciousness as the world we reflect and vice versa. For the seeker, at the beginning of awakening, he is like a babe in the woods when it comes to correctly perceiving the mixed nature of EI and CI. The skill of seeing the unseen has to be strengthened through refined emotion and sensibility, proper reason and objective analysis until it becomes an “organ of perception” under the direction of the soul rather than the Predator’s Mind and its ego puppet. It merges with the creative/sexual centre, and germinates within the prepared “vessel” or sacred space of the mind and body.

Further down the path we might be in the position to access realms beyond the purely physical which can assist us in our quest, through dreams and ancestral and archetypal dimensions that lie beyond the cycles of organic life. It’s not a matter of discerning EI in the chaos of external life but within the equal chaos of our inner life that is of crucial importance. This is because entropic influences work through us rather than confronting us in an easily recognisable fashion. We have already assimilated a great deal which is why our task is to heal “house-clean” self-observe, prepare the sacred space so that perception can develop further if and when we reach a point of transformation. Again, what we see in the external world is necessary but it is of secondary importance. What we see with the “inner eye” is the primary measure of perspicacity. It is how these forces operate within our inner realm and what effects they have on our behaviour and our ability to create which determines our thoughts and actions. Such a distinction has the potential to define the quality of our external life and those of others from that moment on.

When our ability to discern and see the unseen has grown through a willingness to do what’s needed – to suffer consciously in the face of opposing forces – then we open up a path of access to greater levels of perception and knowledge application based on the conjunction of the heart and head. No man is an island, however. If we have that yearning for the next step and provided we have prepared the ground for greater complexity and comprehension, where humility and openness is guided by will and persistence, we might find ourselves led to a teacher, group or mentor who is one of the origins of these creative influences. Rare though they may be, centres of spiritual creativity exist to anchor specific, stepped-down energies designed to facilitate constructive change and transformation along these perpendicular lines of order amid chaos. An awakening unit of consciousness seeks to be of service to the Creative Stream of the Universe, to truth and goodness. No man or woman is wasted should he be able to reach that stage of receptivity.

This is alluded to in various instances in the I Ching where a threshold is reached and an inner integration has been partially or completely achieved. We seek to reach the “Great man” in ourselves which in turn, unlocks its reflection in external reality. For example, in Hexagram 1. “The Creative” line 5: a creative pinnacle has finally been reached by a “Flying dragon in the heavens.” Which means “It furthers one to see the great man.” The 4th Way teachings go into some depth regarding this process of differentiation between these influences. The meeting between the individual and another who is connected to a creative origin represents the first step on a spiral staircase of conscious evolution. He becomes responsible for his destiny. Such an influence, it is said, is only found in the Traditions modernised by 4th Way of “The Work.” A certain degree of intellectual and emotional receptivity is required that not all of us have. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t be good students and prepare the ground as best we can until such time it naturally occurs. Then we might be on the road to escape the prison of sleeping consciousness once and for all.

But that release may take a looong time, so all the more reason we should get to work!

 

Image by Johnson Martin from Pixabay

 

Discernment be damned – The spectre of Cognitive Bias

Once we have begun to differentiate creative from entropic we will also realise how we have let the creative lie quiescent and internalised entropic “bugs” from the external world. That promotes a period of somber reflection which can tip over into melancholy or depression if we identify with regret too much. which is why again, we go SLOW. We must then attend to the machine and address the little problem of our cognitive biases without awareness of which will continually scupper our attempts at bettering ourselves and lead straight back into the salivating maw of Official Culture.

As we know, the enemy of discernment is wishful thinking and fantasy. “Biting through” to the heart of the matter allows us to see the unseen and read the “signs of God” – objective reality. Psychic phenomena, feelings and sensations, day-dreams and visions, although potentially insightful are just as easily mixed with all kinds of distractions and inducements to overidentify. They are subjective, thus opening us up to self-deception.

Wishful thinking is sourced from our desires for comfort and ease, short-cuts and denials. It is the motivation behind cognitive bias where the individual searches or interprets information that confirms his preexisting beliefs. Such a habit is encouraged by our culture and interferes with our ability to seek the truth thereby honouring reality as it is. Unless we can contemplate and analyse a person, situation or event from multiple angles and approaches – even when it is uncomfortable – we will not be closer to an objective appraisal but instead, increase the distance, thereby reaching erroneous and harmful conclusions.

The more errors we make the more they will overrun our inner system and display the schism between what is and our subjective wish of should be, according to our desires. Any computer modelling will tell you the same thing. If the basic data is wrong, then the disparity between truth and fiction will become progressively greater as the data is collected. As years go by and if biases keep the truth hidden from view, there will come a time when the modelling bears no relation to the initial hypothesis at all. Until that is, there are points of crises which encourage the seeker/scientist to re-evaluate the data and thus amend his model. And by doing so, he might admit to some measure of chagrin and regret leading to correcting his own perceptual errors and contributing to self-regulation. And it only takes a minor error spike over a day, several months or years to create a major perturbation. This is why learning to SEE is a valuable preventative measure against catastrophe – physical or psychic – in the x/y axis of life.

After all, when everyone else is perceived as wrong and you and your chosen group are right, then that makes life easier right? The problem is, other people will see you as an insufferable bore, without the ability to exchange. That means true relations and friendships must be restricted to the group where even here, defence mechanisms and biases may prove so sensitive that you scupper even this “safe space.” Aligning to entropy means a shrinking source of energy – mental and emotional.


“Confirmation bias is the most effective way to go on living a lie.”

Criss Jami


A large part of self-development is the awareness of the biological and culturally inculcated nature of cognitive bias which firmly cements our tendency for wishful thinking. We are programmed to take the easy route and act on unconscious errors in our thinking. It takes in all the information soak up from a vast spectrum of sources and filters it according to what it perceives as the most expedient when it comes to survival. Facts are rejected if they don’t conform to our beliefs resulting in an over-identification to that which bolsters our subjective reality. This is where “preaching to the choir”, the echo-chamber and defence mechanisms like splitting feature. Mix in adversity, stress or trauma and we have a detachment from reality that’s an open door to entropic infuences. When life is perceived as threatening and our mind and body still operates from a deep cellular memory of the past, the brain might as well be in a different universe to our aspiration to self-growth – discernment be damned.

Our human brain is no exception to entropic disorder. Even though a little clutter is no bad thing there is an increasing tendency for the brain to become hijacked by EI through an inability or refusal to adapt to the unknown in later life. As infants, the delightful discovery of the sensual world eventually becomes known, until we reach a state of complexity that offers the opportunity to build neural networks still further and venture into more abstract informational fields. For example, neurologist Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris theorises there is a spectrum of consciousness which includes lower and higher states of entropy. Too much and we become dysfunctional, dissociative or even psychotic. Too little, we manifest rigidity, inflexibility and narrow thinking which can lead to disorders such as depression and all kinds of addictions. As Carhart-Harris says, “a certain degree of entropy provides the sort of cognitive flexibility associated with creativity and divergent thinking.” But the emphasis here – as with most things – is on degree and the attainment of the golden mean. In terms of psycho-spiritual processes, the stakes get infinitely higher and more nuanced. [3]

Interfering with that balance are the entropic influences that make themselves known through cognitive biases which are “systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment” [4] while heuristics are mental processes or “mental shortcuts” that make problem-solving and learning new concepts more efficient. The former is usually negative whilst the latter has a positive side which can nonetheless, easily change from Obi-Wan to Vader.

We know the most common biases such as confirmation bias and the cognitive dissonance (discomfort experienced when beliefs and behaviours don’t align with presented facts) but what about all the other crazy mental gymnastics which mess with our hope to see life and ourselves as we really are?

Returning to Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking book Thinking Fast and Slow (2012) here is just a small selection of just some of the cognitive biases and mental short-cuts which are, to my mind, the most important and play havoc with our ability to discriminate/discern and perceive correctly. Most of the following in this list have been mentioned in previous posts but it will provide a handy summary of what’s gone before.

Here goes…

Affect Heuristic – a mental short-cut where decisions are made according to “gut feeling” leaving out the reasoning faculty and possibility of risk. If you have a negative association from the past related to the object, person, situation in question this will colour your quickfire response which is purely emotional masquerading as incisive decision-making.

Anchoring when an initial piece of information becomes “anchored” in our minds and subsequent decisions are formed from this fixed value excluding other possibilities. We make a value judgements as a result with related decisions limited in their scope tied as they are to this initial anchor.

Availability Heuristic – When evaluating a method, subject or concept we allow our own storehouse of examples to come to mind which might be partially or wholly inaccurate. Since memory tends to be malleable and easily manipulated we tend to go for information that is most recent and biased. Judgements may be quick but poorly assessed.

Choice Overload Most of us have a hard time making a decision when presented with too many options. To delay, postpone or avoid making the decision is often preferable. Simplicity is actually much better for the mind both commercially and socially yet, in our social-media saturated times and the array of consumer choices available, the fact that quality over endless amounts of quantity is better for everyone has yet to be realised.

Dunning-Kruger Effect – Named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University. When we fail to assess our levels of incompetence at a task, and prefer to think we are actually much more competent than we really are. This may be quite amusing if not embarrassing for the observer or experiencer but sadly, not the individual engaged in the act of incompetence. Or as Dunning states, it’s: “People who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”. [5]

Present Bias or Time Discounting – This is another way to describe the phrases “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” and “keeping up with the Jones'”. The very human wish to have things now, rather than wait for the appropriate time or a later date is based on the illusion that a future result is less desirable than a present gain. Self-gratification defines our society and is very much a tenet of global capitalism, marketing, advertising, social media and consumer culture in general. Envy and greed are unfortunately deeply inculcated and we have few incentives to show us the value of waiting.

Ego Depletion –  the more we use our storehouse of will power the more it can decrease over time. Since will power is mental energy and like any mental activity used to excess, it can become exhausted – so the theory goes. However, this is likely to do with missing gaps in awareness and mixed-use of cognitive biases and mental short-cuts overall which causes will power to decrease rather than any inherent flaw of will power itself.

Hot-Cold Empathy Gap Difficulties imagining how we would feel when observing other people’s experiences. This is parallel to poor judgement as to how people will respond to things because we imagine their worldviews and feelings are the same as ours – which of course, they seldom are. We can see the results in social media when people post stories of success and joy this often elicits negative responses since it pushes people to reflect on their own situations which are usually less than satisfactory for all the above cognitive reasons. And since they probably suffer from the very same empathy gap!

Endowment EffectAnother way to say we become overly identified with material concerns and our possessions. When we are missing meaning purpose or suffer from dissatisfaction with our lot in some form or another, our possessions can take on a disproportionate value. We become attached to that which we imbue with sentiment and memory often at the cost of more meaningful attributes to living. The pain of loss is a far greater fear once the pleasure of the purchase has worn off.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Anxiety that arises from thinking you are missing out on pleasurable or rewarding social situations or events that other people are experiencing. Comparing oneself with others is a common preoccupation leading to bad moods, dissatisfaction and depression. Social media is there as a release valve but only succeeds in increasing the sense of loss.

Fundamental Attribution bias Or “jumping to conclusions.” We attribute reflex judgements based on superficial information. For example, Maggie had an accident in her car. Therefore, Maggie is a bad driver and not to be trusted behind the wheel. This is the train of thought from a minor observation to a generalisation to a conclusion that is usually neither accurate or fair. In a world of intense complexity, the drive to simplify is understandable and sometimes necessary but such automatic judgements and generalisations tend to become habitual and fixed if we are not careful. Assigning blame is an easy route to feel comfort and control. The Survival mechanisms control what the brain receives and it is only trying to make us safe, but denying the complexity of the world in favour of a simplicity that ignores nuance and facts is dangerous to our self-growth.  With awareness of this automatic process, we can modify our responses.

Halo Effect – Placing too much or too little emphasis on the impressions we receive from an individual and how this influences how we think or feel about his personality. Like Fundamental Attribution Bias we make assumptions based on limited data and imagine that just because Bob is great at listening he’ll be good at managing too. And you can understand how easily an attractive person can achieve better results over someone who is less attractive. This is probably one of the biggest problems of a superficial rendering of people’s words over there sometimes hidden actions. Psychopaths get away with providing charismatic and charming impressions to cover up their predatory nature. They appeal to all of our cognitive biases and heuristic sentiments.

Hedonic AdaptationAs discussed in The Happiness-Unhappiness Seesaw, searching for the Holy Grail of happiness will likely lead to its opposite. Studies have borne this out, regardless of the positive or negative event, people return to their default happiness setting. That doesn’t mean we can’t enhance or improve our inner state or outer circumstances, only that to overidentify with the pursuit of pleasure will give us diminishing returns. Positive emotions don’t last because they are linked to the brain’s reward circuitry that demands greater and greater “hits.” If we do not have a central source from within that sees happiness in daily living regardless of external habits, then we will always be pursuing illusory happiness.

Herd Behavior People habituate and learn through mimicry – one of the most powerful reasons for cultural hypnosis. Through membership of a group where ideology forms its creation, we are potentially giving up our individuality to serve the interests of that group, with all kinds of consequences for cognitive freedom.

Hindsight Bias People like to predict an outcome that is entirely beyond their ability to predict. This results in an oversimplification of all aspects of the object/event in question. This is partly a result of wishful thinking, defence mechanisms and plain old fantasy to increase the illusion of certainty and control. It may also be a form of reaffirmation toward Herd behaviour.

Loss AversionA bias toward loss avoidance when given the choice to make equivalent gains. This can be applied to selling (overpricing goods to offset the loss) and in terms of self-development where the loss of prestige or income as a result of adopting certain principles and values may trigger this tendency.

Optimism BiasBelieving that we are somehow predestined to experience more positive events and occurrences than others. This is a big one since the core development of constructive emotions is very useful. But we have seen this can easily tip over into a separation from the grounding realism of “negative” cognition as the equaliser. (See Hindsight Bias).

Overconfidence EffectThe overestimation of our knowledge base which leads us to excess optimism, inaccurate predictions and actions which do not match reality. Overconfidence is the significant margin between what we think we know and what we actually know.

Partitioning When the rate of consumption is decreased by breaking up, separating or partitioning resources into smaller, more manageable items. When our resources are simplified and separated it produces more opportunities to pause and “take stock”. This psychological effect can be used in retail and within our own mind-body system in negative and positive ways.

Peak-End RuleWhen we access our memories and recall an event which is pleasurable or miserable, we often remember the peak experience rather than the extraneous elements leading up to of following it. This is probably due to the peak release of happy chemicals or fear, pain, dread etc, which made its mark on the memory sectors of the brain and the body’s memory overall.

Priming a technique that involves the exposure of one stimulus which will affect how one responds to others. Such a perceptual form of identification is sourced from the unconscious memory with its storage of object, events and occurrences and their associated sensations, feelings and thoughts. This technique is often used in retail to encourage customers to buy more. Associated words and images unconsciously affect our thinking and actions. This, of course, has long been known by those wishing to mould the mass mind, thus it is a tried and tested formula for propaganda.

Projection BiasIs when we overestimate the degree to which other people might follow our point of view, assuming they must be in agreement with our opinions. (Surely it’s self-evident?) When we project our assumptions and beliefs onto events or other people we are denying true exchange. Others’ beliefs, feelings, thoughts and behaviour may seem to match our own but that is often a surface impression. This also applies to ourselves. We routinely assume that we will be the same as we are now and in the long-term future. That isn’t such a good basis upon which to build a future self and the wise management of long-term goals.

ScarcityThe rarer the item or opportunity, the more value it seems to have. In our subjective evaluations, scarcity is connected to quality which is not always the case. It can just be clever marketing. But in the case of self-development, you can be sure that internalising certain principles and applying the knowledge to transform from one state to another is a scarce commodity…

Social proofA term to describe a psychological phenomenon where people reference or copy the behaviour of others. This too can have obvious positive or negative outcomes depending on the role model in question. Celebrities, experts, fashion icons, products and of course, the approval from one’s peer group, the public and large numbers people in general.

Sunk Cost FallacyMostly applied to business and economics, When reason and rationality take a hike and no matter the objective reality of the situation, people continue to invest/promote a product despite all evidence that the initial cost will never be recouped. This can also apply to the pursuit of a dream; staying in a relationship; DIY projects or gambling one’s savings despite clear warnings and signs that this is fallacious or unwise. Or, as the famous idiom goes, “flogging a dead horse.” Rational decision-making is usually absent when overidentification and anticipation blinds us to the obvious. The more we invest in our focus, the harder it is to relinquish the hope that the horse will miraculously get to its feet and ask for a carrot.

A little overwhelming n’est pas?

If that makes you slump your shoulders in despair, don’t worry. Perfection isn’t the goal. Imperfection is to be accepted as it’s through imperfections and mistakes we learn to be something more than emotional reruns and cognitive loops. Understanding all our various foibles – cognitive or otherwise – means we have a bit more compassion and empathy for others as we are likely host to just as many cognitive biases as the next person. We’re all struggling in our different ways and we have to start with paying attention to our inner life before we start getting off on too many judgements and critiques of our fellow man.

Once we fully comprehend how easy it is for entropic forces (mainstream media, advertisers, marketing, public relations and government agencies) to gain entry into your mind and mine it for their own agendas, we can begin erecting suitable firewalls of knowledge to prevent any more encroachments. Perhaps you might be thinking that you are one of those not affected by these influences. That just makes it more likely that you are. Hubris is like an open door to change agents who see you as a number on a spreadsheet or the mind fodder for new ratings and investments. Once you know how the mind and body function, at the individual and collective level it’s just a matter of tailoring your product pitch or fairly-tale to the right personality and associated data. Then you watch the cash roll in or the desired memetic belief to infest the media channels’ monopoly. When you build character over personality it naturally resists these mind incursions which ordinarily, you let roam around your mind without charge.

Cognitive biases are like welcome mats for entropic influences to have a party in your unconscious. Each day you wake up to the home of your psyche surrounded by the aftermath of those interlopers who have polluted your inner environment. Yet, you keep leaving your door open as you think you miss their chaotic, addictive presence. But these influences not only deplete your reserves they make you think you need them. Making influences off-limits to what will become a sacred space, the heart of your house, means you can build character and open your doors only to those influences that not only make your home beautiful but allow you to share that beauty to the whole neighbourhood and beyond.

Let’s get spring-cleaning and carry out the trash.

 


* = In 4th Way teaching these are called A and B influences but I changed these references to invoke more accessible imagery and association.

Notes

[1] Psychol Rev.2012 Apr;119(2):304-20. doi: 10.1037/a0026767. Epub 2012 Jan 16. ‘Psychological entropy: a framework for understanding uncertainty-related anxiety’. Hirsh JB, Mar RA, Peterson JB.
[2] pp.143-144; Weinert,Friedel The Scientist as Philosopher: Philosophical Consequences of Great Scientific Discoveries (2004) Published by Springer.
[3] ‘The Entropic Brain: A Theory of Conscious States Informed by Neuroimaging Research with Psychedelic Drugs’Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8(1):20 · February 2014 |DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020 · Source: PubMed.
[4] pp. 724–746; Haselton MG, Nettle D, Andrews PW (2005). “The evolution of cognitive bias.” (PDF). In Buss DM (ed.). The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
[5] https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

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