What makes us human apart from the clothes that we wear, the houses that we build and live in and the amazing destructive gadgets that we create and rely on isn’t the food we eat. It is the innate desire to be in control. All of us want to have a seat at the table where decisions that matter are made, we want to be in the percentage of people who “matter”. We want to be in control, to know what’s coming before it happens, to understand why something happened the way it did and so on and so forth.
This very desire to be in control and want to know our situations and surroundings to the level best of our abilities is in itself what makes us very much like the animals we are not. Animals, in their natural environments, are built to be hierarchical. Right from insects like ants that have the queen and the worker, each knowing their place in society and living up to it - we can see the hierarchy. I could mention more examples, but I won’t because I want you to finish this post ;-)
In an effort to be in control, when faced with a difficult situation, we want to rearrange the world into arbitrary hierarchies to make sense of the world, maintain our beliefs and most importantly, feel better about ourselves.
Being in control makes us feel way better about ourselves. Quite a number of people think of me as a nerd. It, therefore, follows that when I study as much I get as good results. This is an ideal situation. I was in control till the very end. In some situations, when I am not grounded enough, I might think - “Perhaps I’m better than him or her because I did better than them in this discipline.” My underlying animal nature allows me to.
Then comes the situation where I put in the effort and the outcome does not match my expectations. Then, I say - “This semester was difficult anyway. At least I have a really good laptop and my favourite team beat our derby rivals when we met last.” In that very subtle way, I have rearranged the world that now seemed not to be in my favour to seem like I am still in control and everything is going great. Very “animalistic” if you ask me.
Think about when you tried to rearrange the lego blocks of your life to make a wonderful picnic site from a pile of garbage. No, I do not want you to feel bad. Neither do I want you to feel good. I just want to make you think about some of the stuff that I think about.
Once you see this happen, it is very very difficult for you to unsee it. This bias is everywhere, in people of all ages. You see it, quite a lot if I may add, in politicians, in courtrooms, in the words we choose to describe people and their decisions and actions. We see it in all these situations.
This happens instinctively, like Rick from Rick and Morty says "Yeah, sure, […] if you spend all day shuffling words around, you can make anything sound bad."
The discovery of this has made me think of ways where instead of comparing myself to other people in the same situations, I do it to myself but from different situations. If I really want to be better, I think I should strive to be better than how I was a while back.
See you around. Text me if this struck a nerve.