Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Cooking Facts : Self Deception.

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Kisagotami was a young woman whose first child died suddenly somewhere around his first birthday. Desperate in her love for the child, Kisagotami went from house to house in her village, clasping the dead child to her breast and asking for medicine to revive her son. Most of her neighbors shrank from the sight of her and called her mad, but one man, seeing her inability to accept the reality of her son’s death, directed her to the Buddha by promising her that only he had the medicine she sought. Kisagotami went to the Buddha and pleaded with him for medicine. “I know of some,” he promised. “But I will need a handful of mustard seed from a house where no child, husband, parent, or servant has died.”

Slowly, Kisagotami came to see that hers was not a unique predicament. She put the body of her child down in the forest and returned to the Buddha. “I have not brought the mustard seed,” she told him. “The people of the village told me, ‘The living are few, but the dead are many.”‘ The Buddha replied, “You thought that you alone had lost a son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”

Kisagotami’s story resonates, not just because of our sympathy for the horror of losing a child or because of our fear of a world in which such tragedy is possible, but because we all, like her, feel that our situation is unique and that our emotional pain requires relief. In the privacy of our own minds, we are aggrieved and single-mindedly self-centered. We still seek absolute gratification that is intolerant of frustration. The Buddha helped Kisagotami find happiness not by bringing her dead child back to life, but by changing her view of herself. The inner development he alludes to is a development beyond the private childish perspective of “me first” that we all secretly harbor.

Source :

I particularly like this line “we all feel that our situation is unique” which shows the egocentric mind of ours. Thinking about it, i feel human psychology is a funny thing and i will tell you why.

Consider a student who didn’t do his homework and the teacher asked him why. He will mostly give the answer – “I did not have enough time to finish it up” or  “I did not know how to do” or “I totally forgotten about it” instead of plainly admitting that he is lazy.

Or let’s take another scenario.

The boyfriend broke up with a girl and she was unhappy. When her friends asked her why they broke up, she will mostly say “i realized we are not suitable for each other” or “our relationship is getting dull and boring and time to move on” or “i do not have feeling for him anymore” instead of admitting that he dumped her for another girl.

As i have written before, the subconscious mind operates very differently from the conscious mind. Human psychology work the way it is simply because we are a social animal and it is not a mystery that psychology and evolution are closely linked (evolutionary psychology). Because we are social animals, our psychology is bound by psychological conditions such as peer pressure, cognitive dissonance and psychological bias. (I will write a post about evolutionary psychology + social group psychology soon). From a subconscious mind point of view, being dumped is a horrible thing to happen because it indicates that she is a social outcast as the male prefer other female over her. Same goes for being lazy. People hate to be labeled as lazy because it indicates he/she does not contribute to the society.  The subconscious mind will inherently resist all these negative interpretation and replace it with an ‘artificial ego’.

How does the mind do it? We accomplish this by unconsciously cooking facts and consciously consuming them.

Now, why is this psychological cooking-facts-system is important? Few reasons.

  1. As mentioned, since human being is a social animal, we are bound by psychological conditions like peer pressure or cognitive dissonance which demand us to ‘think alike’ as with other people in the social group. This is what you called as – culture. We do not like to be degraded and seen as useless by our peers and society, therefore, we cook facts in attempting to convince other people and ourselves that we are not useless in any way. (Hence, we have office politics where people refuse to accept responsibility and pushing blames around – “It’s not my fault! I did my part well, but the other department screwed it up“.)
  2. To protect ourselves from devastating mental breakdown just like the story above where Kisagotami refuse to believe that her child is dead. (amazingly, chimpanzee exhibit a similar behaviour too. when a baby chimp dies, the mother will keep carrying it around for the next few days, refuse to accept that the chimp is dead.)
  3. A form of motivation. When experience make us feel unhappy, this psychological immune system cook facts and shift blame in order to offer us more positive views. (For instance, “Matt doesn’t love me anymore, but it’s ok. I will find a more worthy guy who will love me more.”). However this is where an optimist and pessimist are separated. As i have written here before, we can always choose the angle of our perception when judging a matter/subject/issue. Optimist will naturally be motivated by the cooked facts and choose to stay strong and finding alternatives while pessimist will stay in the death loop of cooked facts and remain in the state of avoidance.
  4. Inescapable, inevitable, and irrevocable circumstances will also trigger the psychological immune system. For instance,  we will forgive our siblings for behaviour we would not tolerate in a friend. Why? Because friends come and go but siblings are part of us and there’s not much we can do to ‘unstuck’ them from us. Hence, we it comes to a situation where we have no other alternatives to take, we will cook reasons out and convince ourselves to be content with the situation. (“My brother shouldn’t cheat the girl like that! But well, since he is my brother, i have to forgive him“)

Can you think of a situation where we cook up facts or reasons to convince us of something? I could, because i’m sure we do it all the time.


Written by elan85

July 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Psychology

2 Responses

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  1. […] paradoxical but it is the way how our mind is wired. (This behaviour is actually related to my post Self Deception – Cooking Facts and it will take me one full post to explain how they are […]

  2. […] We WIll ‘Cook Reasons’ For Ronn To Avoid Him And Increase Vigilance Against […]

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