What to Do about Misattributions

In our last post we discussed that when I attach fear to an event or person, then seek to justify my fearful judgment, which validates and amplifies my fear, I get mired down into circular thinking. What might I do to break out of a fearful thinking vortex before I get pulled down the misunderstanding drain. Remembering that education tends to dissolve fear, I could benefit from learning more about the real nature of my world.

When I attribute a motive to a behavior I observe in another, I draw that attribution from my beliefs. I THINK I understand why another person did what they did, yet I have actually judged myself as I have imagined ME doing what the other person has done in that context.

That’s Because…

My experience is my perception of my experience. My perception of your experience is still my perception of my experience (of your experience). Same goes for the experience of any and all others and any and all things I observe in my universe. The common element is – “MY perception of MY experience.”

All that I attribute to causes outside myself is a window into myself.

Read more What to Do about Misattributions

The Case of Little Misattribution 2

“Ah, Misattribution – I know her well…”

In my limited awareness bubble, misattribution means missing the mark – as in not hitting the bull’s-eye on the target – like, not getting it right. Don’t assume you know what I’m saying. I just want to make sure there’s no jumping to conclusions here!

Whenever I am faced with doubts –  which is next to never – I just reach deeper into my bag of hear-say, opinions, and gossip, and immediately feel a swell of confidence come over me. I consider anyone’s best guess potentially factual – when their best guesses are in harmony with MY understanding of the facts, which is, of course, THE proper and correct understanding.

Sometimes I attribute a cause or effect to an event based on a confidence in my expertise on such matters. I seek to convince myself and others that I understand the working dynamics of my world. I believe my understanding of reality accurately represents it.

When I attribute some cause to an effect, I limit the possibilities from an infinite well of creation down to just a few manageable pieces. Reducing complexity down to a manageable sum gives me a sense of control.

Could I be misunderstanding the complex nature of nature?

As I’ve come to better understand the nature of life, I have come to more fully appreciate the fruitlessness of attributing causality to any one thing. Sure, I could be right – maybe some action or event is the direct result of some specific action taken by some specific aspect of my world. Much more likely, though, that event was the result of MANY interrelated aspects – so many that I could not possibly identify them all.

Control comes at a cost – fear.

Every time I feel afraid, I’ve attributed threat to a perception. A perception of threat, however, does not mean I must attribute fear to it. Danger is a perception. Fear is optional.

Fear is a choice that stems from a sense of vulnerability, even the danger of which I may consider a threat to my survival. I tend to resolve the fear-threat equation with action. I presuppose I understand the complex nature of nature well enough that I feel confident in taking action that will affect an outcome in a predictable manner, “When I do or don’t do this, I’ll get or not get that.” I call this action “taking control” or “defending myself” and the result of that action, “being safe” and “being correct/right.”

My fear tends to dissipate as my sense of safety increases. It certainly seems easier to let go of past trauma when life appears less stressful. I misattribute fear to experience due to my ignorance. As I ignorantly attribute fear to more and more perceived dangers, I work harder and harder to create defenses to protect myself from my perceptions. Eventually, I could defend myself from experiencing life altogether.

Education tends to dissolve fear

Fear attached to my perceptions always distorts my perceptions. For example, I experienced a car accident in slow motion because I was afraid in that instance. Now, that I’ve let go of the fear, when I encounter a similar situation while driving, somewhere deep in my psyche a part of me remembers only the accident without the fear.

Fear distorts perception
Releasing fear clears perception

Fear also distorts my attributions. When I feel afraid, I make distorted judgements. I attach fear to an event or person, then seek to justify my fearful judgement, which validates and amplifies my fear. Cause and effect become mired in a sludge of circular thinking.

What can I do about this?

Ah – That’s the subject of our next post…

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.