As a Homo Sapiens species, we believe that we are superior to other animals on this planet. This is quite understandable, taking into account how far we have come from the cave dwellers to our comfortable homes, warm and dry, with every little gadget to help us live a comfortable and easy life (which, often isn’t). Life nowadays can be far more complex and stressful than only 40-50 years ago. The success of our species is attributed to our enormous brains that have given us the ability to cooperate, think in abstract terms, plan ahead. The neo cortex, the latest addition to the brain, controls language and consciousness. It allows us to exhibit advanced behaviour, typical for the human species, e.g. social behaviour. You use it every day to analyse, plan and employ logic to solve challenges and navigate the world. However, the idea that we are logical creatures doesn’t stand to scrutiny. Far from it, in fact, you override logical thinking all the time with your emotions. Let’s look at an example: you are at a garden party meeting a lot of new people. And as you move around chatting to different people, you get to know them better. People are very quick to share what they do for a living, where they live, what kind of holidays they have had. Without conscious awareness, you already have made up your mind as to who you like and who you don’t (based on what you’ve heard from them, and the way they speak, what they’re wearing etc). Sadly, many people would judge more positively a lawyer, a university professor or doctor, rather than a cashier in a shop/bank, a hairdresser etc. Why? Do we find some professions more attractive than others? Do we find them more successful (based on our own skewed notion of what success looks like)? Or, is it a matter of unconscious bias, unconscious thinking that makes us feel superior to some people and inferior to others?
You might say, no, this isn’t right, I’m not like that. I first get to know people before judging them, etc. Really? Think again… Unconscious bias is so powerful that it makes us do things, act, make decisions that are far from logical. Moreover, there is a reason why it is called unconscious – because you’re not even aware of your own thinking… This has been proven time and time again through different scientific research that most decisions we make are based on our unconscious drives, fears, beliefs and emotions. I like to ask people (those in a relationship) how they chose their partner. Did they consciously thought about their positive and negative characteristics and wrote it all down? Did they focus on their partner’s idea of life, plans for the future and compared this to their own? (I wonder if this exercise would bring two people together, or quite the opposite, pull them apart. We tend to find out what the other person wants from life throughout the course of the relationship, without explicitly asking from the start to save ourselves the headache/heartache and lost time and effort. At the beginning of a relationship, we tend to look at things through a rose-tinted glasses, glossing over imperfections and potentially contentious issues).
Most people would say no to the above questions. They’d say, this isn’t about some business contract! It’s about love and following your heart and emotions. I can’t be so cold and calculated as to list all the positive and negative characteristics of my partner and then decide if I want to be with them! But why not? If we are logical creatures, then even when it comes to relationships, using our logical mind would make sense, surely? Well, this isn’t that happens in real life. People fall in love and lose any sense of logic, even if their conscious mind and gut feelings are screaming at them not to get involved. We see this all the time, everywhere. I’m not saying that we should be using logic all the time, everywhere. It’s not how we have evolved. We have evolved to use our intuition (which, by the way, is called the 6th sense for a reason) as it works very well, when highly tuned and developed. However, using logic and intuition together is one of the best ways to navigate this complex world. What I’m saying here is that, instead of walking around believing this illusion of being logical and detached, it’s best to admit that this isn’t the case and work on becoming more self-aware about the choices we make, behaviours we display and judgements we make. What I am saying is that knowing yourself, your own biases, drives, fears and beliefs (often limiting, skewed and passed on to us years ago when we were too young and naïve to know better). This means, updating your knowledge about the world and questioning things around you. It means questioning your own actions and thinking and then deciding if they serve you well and if it’s beneficial to continue to have them. Just like with an adult who decides that smoking is bad for their health and it is time to change (even if they have been smoking since they were an adolescent). This may have served them when they were 16- when they desperately tried to fit in, look older and more mature. However, at the age of 36, for example, they don’t need to assert themselves and prove to the world they are indeed an adult. There are many examples of how we can become more self-aware and use our logical mind and emotions to our advantage. I strongly believe that the best start is to get to know oneself better, to be present, aware, to practise meditation. When you slow down and reflect, you become calmer and more in control of your own reactions. You can now stop and think before reacting. You question and update your own knowledge. Little things no longer frustrate you. This is the beginning of a wonderful path, a path worth taking!