Today we will look at a way of addressing how to tackle issues such as social anxiety, rumination, anger, getting carried away, among other emotive responses you’d feel better without. The below, among other methods, can be thought of as part of a well being toolkit. I’ve personally found the following useful, although I have no academic training in psychology or healthcare, so please take this as simply my personal opinion of what some, but not all, experts have suggested.
This method was pioneered by Albert Ellis the founder of RBT, later known as REBT, which stands for Rational (Emotive) Behavioral Therapy. The letters stand for:
Effective new philosophy of living well.
It’s premised on the assumption that we are not upset by events themselves, imagine an incident off someone pulling out in front of you, not everyone will feel the same response or honk and shout. If it happens to you more than once, you won’t respond in the same way each time. Rather the difference suggests that it’s your beliefs about what happened that cause the consequences such as honking, shouting, remaining calm etc. The good news is this isn’t inevitable, even if beliefs were only responsible to a small degree, you can do something, that is you can dispute them. If you do so well done! You’re living by an effective new philosophy. Don’t worry this isn’t anything technical cooked up in the Clouds, it is largely called this as it continues the alphabetical pattern.
For example, if I am out and about and my mind begins to wander and I wonder ‘why, oh why did I do or say that’. I can tell myself hold your horses; I’m currently feeling an undesirable consequence of something. I wonder what it could be. ¡Eureka! It’s my memory of an event has given rise to some beliefs like that was foolish. But was it really? In retrospect it may well be. But as they say hindsight has 20/20 vision. But if your explanation could not have predicted the outcome without information you didn’t then have then it isn’t something you knew, as Nassim Taleb observes about the stock market crash in 2008. Although many said they knew it would happen, they couldn’t explain how they knew on information then available, and as such they can’t legitimately say they knew it would happen. Likewise, if you’re beating yourself black n blue because of something you later found out, cease and desist because you didn’t know. Even if it was your role to know, you didn’t know, and can’t blame yourself for not knowing.
A phrase which I find so incredibly helpful that I’m planning to get a tattoo of it is WYSIATI What You See Is All There Is. This was introduced by Danny Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow. The core argument sets the scene for how this heuristic, aka ‘rule of thumb’, exerts such an influence on us. In a nutshell Kahneman is following in a tradition of two systems thinking he calls his System 1 and System 2. The former is always on and makes snap decisions based on the least amount of cognitive strain it is generally within the ball park but it’s accuracy can be way off. Whereas System 2 is slow to kick-in, it’s deliberative and analytical, it is called in to back up System 1, particularly when you have a niggling notion something isn’t quiet right.
How can this phrase help?
Well, when you see someone doing something you don’t like remind yourself WYSIATI What You See Is All There Is. That is as far as your intuition is concerned you have the full picture. The thing is there is far more to any story than you see.
See for yourself:
“Will Mindik be a good leader? She is intelligent and strong …” An answer quickly came to your mind, and it was yes. You picked the best answer based on the very limited information available, but you jumped the gun. What if the next two adjectives were corrupt and cruel? Take note of what you did not do as you briefly thought of Mindik as a leader. You did not start by asking, “What would I need to know before I formed an opinion about the quality of someone’s leadership?”
What can I do?
1) Remind yourself as much as WYSIATI appears true, it ain’t. There’s a bigger picture. Realizing this helps to dispute negative beliefs we hold, reduce negative consequences, and live an effective new philosophy step by step.
2) Persuade others to think like this too. Perhaps then it may be easier for those of us on the spectrum to overcome the barriers of being judged before we’ve had a chance to shine, to show what we can do by our lights, to be our own heroes of the Autism League.
Don’t worry about perfecting it though. Just aim to be a better you than you yourself were.
Although little can be done to be completely rational we can try our best. Even Kahneman struggles, he confides ‘The short answer is that little can be achieved without a considerable investment of effort. As I know from experience, System 1 is not readily educable. Except for some effects that I attribute mostly to age, my intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy as it was before I made a study of these issues. I have improved only in my ability to recognize situations in which errors are likely: “This number will be an anchor …,” “The decision could change if the problem is reframed …” And I have made much more progress in recognizing the errors of others than my own. The way to block errors that originate in System 1 is simple in principle: recognize the signs that you are in a cognitive minefield, slow down, and ask for reinforcement from System 2.’