Believing and Seeing
Two Reasons For Uncertainty
H B Gelatt
Believing is seeing and seeing is doing. What you believe is the result of your unreliable subjectivity. What you see is the result of your fallible perception.
How can you be so sure?
For 24 years I have been promoting a “decision making philosophy” of positive uncertainty.* Now recent books I am reading highlight the undependability of our beliefs and perceptions and provide more evidence supporting the dangers of certainty and the benefits of uncertainty. For example, it has been shown that people who are most certain in what they believe are usually not well informed, are most likely to be wrong, and are least likely to change. (A sampling: Being Wrong, The Invisible Gorilla, Thinking Fast and Slow, Decisive. **)
So what can we do about our undependable believing and seeing? We can be aware and uncertain of what we believe and see. In other words, we can develop a malleable mindset. A mindset is a mental attitude that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. There are two kinds of mindsets, a fixed mindset and a malleable mindset. One is closed-minded, unchangeable. The other is open-minded, changeable. The only way to be open-minded and malleable is to be uncertain. The only way to modify your believing and seeing is to first be aware of them and then be capable of changing them. Therefore, awareness and uncertainty are the keys to developing a malleable mindset.
Although my Process of Illumination essays * proposed many strategies and tactics for overcoming the undependability of believing and seeing I want to suggest a new approach: the kind of awareness and uncertainty that I believe will help in the development of a malleable mindset.
Awareness: Be aware that your beliefs are the software of your mind’s eye.
Believing is seeing and seeing is doing. Beliefs become behavior; they program the way you see things and do things. Someone else programs the software of your computer, which tells your computer what to do, “how to behave”. But you are the author of the software of your mind’s eye, which tells you what to do, how to behave.
You usually don’t know how your beliefs program your mind in the same way you don’t know the programmed software of your computer. A malleable mindset wonders: “What is programming my mind?” It is filled with curiosity and doubt.
Because beliefs have consequences and because some consequences are better than others, what you believe is prophetic. The beliefs that have better consequences are the beliefs that have been tested. Untested assumptions are a well-known cause of perceptual error. To question and examine your assumptions and beliefs means you need a degree of uncertainty.
Uncertainty: You can’t be certain because what you see is not all there is.
The way you see things is the way you see things; everyone doesn’t see things that way.You are a “visually impaired” observer because there is a hidden wholeness to reality. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” You can’t even see the whole tree.
Quantum physics recently suggested that reality today might be so complex and changeable that it is impossible for the human mind to discern. In addition, you only see what you pay attention to, which is determined by your biased beliefs.
All of this makes being certain about what you believe and see, although comfortable, definitely unreliable and perhaps dangerous. Once again because believing programs your doing, your believing is the villain. What you believe is the result of your unreliable subjectivity. What you see is the result of your fallible perception: Two reasons for uncertainty. At the core of this uncertainty is your biased beliefs.
Do you have a fixed mindset or a malleable mindset? What is your “mental attitude that predetermines your responses to and interpretations of situations? Is it one of questioning, curiosity, doubt, uncertainty? How would someone else describe your mindset? Stayed tuned, if you want to.
* See gelattpartners.com for more details.
** See a short list of more references by request.