The Confirmation Scotoma

'Ah ha!' can sometimes lead us down the path of rightness - along with its associated narrowing of choices.

Have you ever suddenly “got it” and said to yourself, “Aha!”?

Ahas are those eureka moments when my mind suddenly and out of seemingly nowhere, has an epiphany with a brilliant solution to a dilemma.

We sometimes call an aha moment “inspiration,” which some attribute to a higher intelligence or deity, while others attribute to hard work and perseverance. Regardless of its origin, aha usually feels pretty amazing.

Where there Is Light

I wish to make the case that a feeling does not necessarily mean resolution, solution, or enlightenment. It CAN mean those things. It MAY NOT, though. “Spirit told me…” may be the case – and may not. My mind can be tricked. It has happened often enough in the past that skepticism now leads me to question aha moments – especially those that make me feel good.

I question because my ego has simulated aha moments as part of a defense against change in what I call a confirmation scotoma. A scotoma is a state of mind in which one locks on to one idea and locks out all others. It’s a useful facility most of the time as it allows me to focus my attention on a task or perception. It can also cause me to get stuck in a state of rightness.

Generally speaking, a sense of being right is a sense of safety. From an evolutionary survival point of view, being right can mean staying alive. I deem defensive behavior as “right thinking” for survival, my body releasing “feel good” chemicals as a result. This tends to confirm my right thinking. It’s a circular or closed system thinking pattern that feeds on itself.

Due to the circular nature of the confirmation scotoma, I can be tricked into believing I’ve experienced an aha moment, with its inherent sense of elation – when instead, I’ve simply confirmed my rightness about something I already believe. When I accept a confirmation scotoma as an aha moment, I strengthen my present belief while locking out alternatives – “it’s the only way…”

Transition Point

A confirmation scotoma tends to lead me backwards in illumination – narrowing my options. I refuse to consider alternatives and feel a sense of satisfaction with the status quo. I feel like I’m making “progress” yet the “new” information simply fits into my old image of what SHOULD be – I’m just more right than I was before. Since I feel satisfied, more convinced, maybe even freer, I tend to plateau rather than seek what is beyond.

Inspiration, on the other hand, tends to open up awareness to alternatives – options. When experiencing an aha moment, mind expands with heart in agreement, propelling me forward in degrees of illumination. Ahas awaken new ways of seeing things, motivating me into action and sparking feelings of renewal with a more positive sense of direction and purpose. Aha moments offer an invitation to choose – along with clear insight into the results of each choice. The essence of accountability.

Ahas never confirm the rightness of a belief – they are instead revolutionary.

One way to determine the difference in an aha moment is to ask, “What alternatives or new vistas does this aha moment provide me?” If the answer you get to the question is “fewer” or “none,” then you’re probably confirming your own beliefs and shutting down alternatives (a confirmation scotoma). If the experience leaves you open, expansive, joyful, grateful, more connected, enthusiastic, and flush with options, you’ve probably experienced an aha moment – celebrate.

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