The Case of Little Misattribution

I live in a bubble of limited awareness in which misattribution contributes to confusion, errors in judgment, and conflict. Confirmation bias reorders error to correctness and I feel better. For example, something “bad” happens to me. I do something. I escape a problem. “Whew!” I congratulate myself, “That was a close one!” I’ve confirmed the rightness of my actions.

I feel justified in doing what I did. To save thinking energy, I want to apply the same action to any similar circumstance or event, thinking, “It worked last time, so it will work again…”

Because I misunderstand the dynamic laws of nature, I tend to misinterpret my experiences within it, setting myself up for misattribution. In my ignorance I assign ONE supposed cause to an observed effect (“I failed the test because I didn’t study hard enough”) or ONE supposed effect to a controllable cause (“I’ll pass this year because I added a study period”). This sort of reductionism helps me set goals, establish trade agreements, communicate with others, and follow a path to a destination.

Cause and Effect

Yet, when I apply the same formula in another context, it doesn’t work. Why? Because of the dynamic nature of the law of cause and effect in the context of a complex adaptive system (life). Sometimes life processes can be reduced to a simple formula of intention-plan-action-result. Very often, however, unforeseen consequences enter in and change the formula at a fundamental level – as when intention gets clouded with unresolved emotional baggage, or the action part of the formula relies upon a trusted other, or the weather takes a surprise turn. SO many possible outcomes, SO many causes – enmeshed together.

To help me cope with this bewildering array of possibilities (and probabilities), I’ve developed a system of attributions. I pre-assign cause to effect and effect to cause based on patterns I’ve perceived in previous experiences. There is a thinking error involved with this strategy – due to incorrect pattern perceptions, I am prone to misattribute cause to effect and effect to cause.

My misattributions contribute to my tightly guarded perception of a reality in which I hold life accountable to me. I convince myself that I’m right and don’t need to seek further clarification. Then attribute benefits and/or threats to my perspective about life based on my fears and needs rather than on pure observation. I work to align my filtered philosophies with the Natural Law without knowing much about it.

Simplicity and Complexity

Understanding frees my mind from the complexity of simplicity.

Okay, I get it – life is complex. It’s so complex that maybe I can’t fully comprehend how complex it is. Maybe I could accept the fact and simply give up working at making any kind of change in my life. After all, I can’t accurately predict the outcome of whatever action I might take to effect that change because my actions are in the context of a complex adaptive system – life.

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Complexity and Simplicity

I like to think I can understand and manipulate my world. I like to think I have a handle on cause and effect. I like to think my world is the same world as everyone else’s world – so I can use that common ground as a basis for judging OUR performance in it.

As maybe you’ve discovered for yourself, just because I WANT the world to be a certain way doesn’t mean it IS that way. Life is complex – maybe more complex than I can comprehend.  Defending my way as the way has caused me considerable frustration that feels like a slap the size of the planet across my egocentric wants.

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