“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fear in America”—mixed media • layered digital image—2018
NOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled. It’s random.
Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.
Researching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune. I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost. I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information. I wasn’t.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures. There’s so much interesting research on this subject. Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.
“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” —Daniel Kahneman
This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.
Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.
hate + repetition = acceptance
“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”
“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”
“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”
“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).
“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”
Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:
My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities. OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry.
It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.
We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature.
The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.
When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.
If all thoughts are creative & inform our reality, then noticing our thoughts must be a survival skill of sorts. We can see our though patterns emerge by paying attention. I think about this, I feel hopeful. If I think about this, my heart races. If I think about this, I feel rage. We don’t have to stuff our negative emotions, they’re trying to tell us something. It just means asking questions about why these particular thoughts are so front and center right now. WHY?
Here’s my noticing list from this morning…6 to 8am.
MUSIC & HEART: My husband plays Summer’s End by John Prine on the guitar. Today, there was a story in the NEW YORK Times about this gorgeous song. Jeff watched the video through the eyes of a father. I watched through the eyes of a child. Summer’s End video & lyrics
DEFINE: I learn something when I look up the definitions even of common words.
- FEAR/transitory adjective—1.to be afraid of 2. to have a reverential awe of
- OTHER/adjective—1. not the same 2. different
- EQUAL/adjective—1. like for each member of a group, class or society
THOUGHTS ON GRIEF: Elizabeth Gilbert from the Brain Pickings Newsletter.
“People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see.”
INSPIRATION: An 18-year-old delivery guy at Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan does something so full of heart. Steve’s Pizza story on CNN
ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: South Dakota’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Billie Sutton was on Morning Joe today. www.suttonforsd.com
I believe that differing viewpoints bring dynamic ideas to our challenges whether in our civic, social or private lives.
A fork in the road indeed for the good people of the 605.
I’m writing a work of fiction about a middle-age woman, newly empty-nested and figuring out her next stage of life. This week my husband, Jeff and I dropped off our twin daughters at college—Lucy at American University & Willa at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
It won’t take you too long to figure out who “Alice” is in my excerpt.
“Although, she didn’t have the feeling so many of her friends described of instant familiarity with their babies…some bullshit, mysterious, ancient connection. She felt something else, far less magical, perhaps it was a twin thing.
Alice remembers how immediately after holding Frankie and Pearl for the first time she had a feeling that she was ignoring one baby whenever she turned her head and looked at the other. I’m already screwing this up. She couldn’t possibly have known in that moment that this feeling would never leave her. Alice’s head and heart already on a constant swivel, less than an hour after giving birth to twins.”
As many of you already know, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster to send the last of your brood out into the world. I’m only 16 hours in, so this is all still pretty raw for me.
I believe whenever my wholeheartedness is required,
the process just can’t be rushed.
In the remarkably funny (and raunchy) Netflix series Big Mouth, the character of Jessie’s mother, Shannon has the best line to describe what I’m feeling right now.
“Let’s finish basic training before we go to Fallujah.”
She was describing using a maxi pad, when her daughter asked about tampons. A great line for lots of situations though.
BIG MOUTH was created by Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, Nick Kroll and Mark Levin. The voice of Jessie’s mother, Shannon is Jessica Chaffin.
(PLEASE NOTE: Do not watch BIG MOUTH with young kids.)
The Ideal Mother is a Terrible Parent
I stumbled upon this article recently, which helped knock back some of those ever present parenting “should haves”. Thank you Erin W.
“Eventually I smothered the ideal mother. I killed her dead. I introduced myself to my kids and started practicing “organic parenting.” I yell, I curse, I kiss and I hug. I hold onto them and push them away. They hold onto me and push me away. Together, we horrify and delight each other, all the time.” (I love this line wholeheartedly.)
My solace will come from many sources. I’m riding the unpredictable waves as they roll in and I’m trying to listen to my inner self . I know she’ll guide this process far better than any outside sources ever could. I have to be willing to actually listen though.
Hang in there fellow empty nesters.
I realize that TV shows from comic books (even the genius of the MARVEL world) don’t work for everyone. So, I wanted to just share a few passages of dialogue from the FX show LEGION that really made me think about how we think. I recorded this passage on my phone while watching the show and I’ve listened to it a few times. Today, I finally transcribed it.
“So what have we learned? That a delusion is an idea. That an idea can be contagious. That human beings are pattern-seeking animals. By which, I mean we prefer ideas that fit a pattern.
In other words, we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe. And when we are stressed or our beliefs are challenged… When we feel threatened… The ideas we have can become irrational, one delusion leading to another, and another, as the human mind struggles to maintain its identity. And when this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 7 on FX
APOPHENIA is the tendency to perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling.
After seeing episode 7 of LEGION, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time trying to make ideas & events fit a certain pattern of thought. I committed to noticing when I was pattern seeking. It’s really challenging at first. However, with practice, I now feel more in control of my mind. I haven’t eliminated the tendency, but I’ve increased my ability to notice more quickly when it’s happening.
“And now we come to the most alarming delusion of all. The idea that other people don’t matter. Their feelings. Their needs. Imagine a cave where those inside never see the outside world. Instead, they see shadows of that world projected on the cave wall. The world they see in the shadows is not the real world. But it’s real to them. If you were to show them the world as it actually is, they would reject it as incomprehensible.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 8 on FX
LEGION (David Charles Haller) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, part of the X-Men series. He is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. Legion takes the role of an antihero who has a severe mental illness including a form of dissociative identity disorder, in which each of his alternate personas controls one of his many superpowers.
The television series Legion premiered on FX network in 2017. The lead character is portrayed by Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey). The series is developed, written, directed, and produced by Noah Hawley.
I traveled alone for a few days last week.
I moved at my own pace, noticed different things and returned home inspired.
Thank you New York City, you never disappoint.
- street snaps of strangers
- graffiti near Grand Central Station
- coffee at the Fitzpatrick Hotel—44th & Lexington
- The NoMad Hotel—28th & Broadway
On this Mother’s Day, I really wanted to be honest with myself about it all. Mothering my kids has been heart-shatteringly beautiful and sometimes just plain heart-shattering, without the beauty part to soften the daily blows.
I can’t change anything and regret is a waste of energy anyway. If I try to tamp the regrets down, I know they will leak out in uncomfortable ways at inconvenient times.
Recently I noticed the TOP RACK ONLY button on the dishwasher. “Jeff and I will be a top rack only couple probably a few nights a week when the girls leave for college.” When I said this to myself, it made me cry inconsolably. Damn, that’s bleak.
These episodes are getting more frequent now as our nest nears it’s emptying…clearly a time for a little extra grace.
When Ellis, Lucy and Willa were growing up, I often did a quick review at the end of the day, asking myself one simple question: Did I love them more than I was pissed off at them? I don’t remember ever answering, NO. It was all the encouragement I needed to wake up and mother them another day.
Happy Mother’s Day 2018!