We all have confirmation bias that is created because our brain is programmed to gather evidence that our beliefs are correct. But this built-in bias often keeps us from seeing another point of view without getting defensive.
In this episode we talk about how to surrender our defensiveness and use this emotion as a signal to examine our own thoughts. Defensiveness is an invitation to look at what we really think, to find the places inside that might be “unkind and invisible”—and that gives each of us an incredible opportunity to grow and learn and increase our understanding and love.
Every human brain has conformational bias. That means that our brains embrace information that confirms its thoughts and beliefs, while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on our beliefs. This means that none of us perceive circumstances objectively. We find the data that make us feel good because it confirms our current beliefs and prejudices.
The problem with this is that we may become prisoners of our assumptions. And when an alternative view is presented to us, we often feel defensive and reject the thoughts and experiences that don’t fit our world view.
What creates the feeling of defensiveness?
Defensiveness is not created by what other people say or what other people do. When someone points out a problem they see with us, we have a thought that we are wrong, that we have made a mistake, and our brain doesn’t like being wrong.
And at the same time, our brain is always worried that there is something wrong with us and so when someone points out that we are wrong, it taps into this very primal fear of rejection.
Notice that defensiveness arises when there is a part of us that agrees with the criticism. We are only defensive because someone has touched a part that was already tender, that we were already not liking in ourselves. And so when you feel defensive, it’s because someone else is confirming that you are bad, and that you are bad in the way you have already and always suspected.
The solution is to recognize that there is no threat if someone thinks we are wrong. And there is no threat in being wrong. When we are okay with being wrong, we are free to look at our thoughts and decide if we want to continue to think that way.
1. Notice when you feel defensive and start by asking why
Defensiveness arises when we are already tender about something, where we already suspect we might be wrong, it arises when we already nurture thoughts that we are wrong or that we have done it wrong. But you are scared that you are going to turn against yourself for being wrong. When defensiveness comes up, you have to make a bargain that you will look at your thoughts and you won’t beat yourself up for what you find.
2. Ask yourself, “How is it true?”
When I ask myself, “How is this true?” then I can be honest and look. By asking “how is it true?” instead of “is it true?” it lets me look at the truth. When I ask, “What part is true?” then I see the parts of me that need changing. I see the parts of me, as Byron Katie said, that are unkind and invisible. I see the thoughts that are holding me back from loving and thinking more like God does.
3. Then decide what you want to do and think instead.
And the real power of dropping defensiveness is being able to get to work faster. It allows me to change the thoughts that are keeping me separate and ashamed, and get into action, to consider what I can do to make life better for others rather than just spending my energy building up my own defenses.
The more willing I am to know the places inside of me that are unkind and invisible, the closer I get to living the way I want to live. Change is possible for each of us if we are first willing to drop our defensiveness for our own conformational biases. We have seen the world a certain way because our brain wants to be right. But the more awareness we have of the prisons those assumptions make, the more we can remove our blinders and see more clearly.
That awareness is dependent on our willingness to look---which means we have to drop our shame and defensiveness and look at the thoughts we think before we can clean those up, root them out, and have another mind instead.
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Psychology Today – What is Confirmation Bias?
Byron Katie “If you tell me that I’m mean, rejecting, hard, unkind, or unfair, I say, ‘Thank you, sweetheart, I can find all these in my life. I have been everything you say, and more. Without you, how can I know the places in me that are unkind and invisible? So, sweetheart, look into my eyes and tell me again. I want you to give me everything.’”