Seeing What We Are Looking For

*Originally posted June 28,2016

Crossword puzzle graphic

I like to do crossword puzzles. When I hit a clue for which I am clueless, e.g., “A 70s sitcom”, I know I will never guess it. I have several choices. The easiest is to look at the answer. But I don’t want to see other solutions—just that one. I have discovered that I can take a quick look and see only the one answer. I might see another random letter for a nearby clue, but if I decide not to remember it, I do not. That observation led me to think about seeing and willfully not-seeing.
I can walk past something in my house and not see it. But when I want to utilize it and I search for it, then I will realize that it was “hidden in plain sight.” I can go by a store many times, but until I need that particular store I may have no memory of its location.
We see what we want to see and find what we want to find (although the latter is truer about ideas and beliefs than items—like car keys or cell phone).
The presidential campaign gives us a lot of proof of that. If we believe that Secretary Hillary Clinton is dishonest, it’s not hard to find “evidence”. If we believe that Donald Trump is a nut case that is also not difficult to “prove.” Our observations and selectively remembering confirm our beliefs. That can lead to bigotry.
Most of us would not like to be called a bigot. But we are being bigoted when we cling to our norms and refuse to consider any other possibilities. Being swayed by every wind is no solution and it is also no solution when we never stray from long held convictions.
To check your thinking flexibility, consider this experiment. Think of something in which you believe, but about which you aren’t super passionate, e.g., how to mow a lawn or clean something in your home. It should be an activity that has provoked being told there is another—of course, better—way of doing the task. If you can argue it persuasively from both viewpoints you are on your way to healthier brain workouts.
We see what we want to see–
We believe what we want to believe (the facts, though true are irrelevant)–
…unless we are willing to go where our brain has never gone before.

For crossword fans, the clue for “LECOMTE” is “___de Monte Cristo”.

About Louise Stowe-Johns

I'm a writer,
a mediator,
a pastor,
an educator,
a lover of the arts,
a wife,
a mother,
and on occasion,
a pot stirrer.

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