Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. - Bertrand Russell
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken
In the years leading up to the financial collapse of September of 2008, home buyers snapped up properties with the belief that as informed buyers, they had done all the research necessary to assure themselves that their investment was a safe bet.
Many self-described experts would explain that interest rates were at all time lows, banks were practically taking all the risk with their no-money-down mortgages and property values always go up, providing a much better return than other investment vehicles and with practically no risk.
They had done some research, enough to convince themselves that they were an informed investor and the more they told themselves they were informed, the more they believed it.
Meanwhile, they did not notice the fact that many investment institutions were shorting the economy (thus predicting a fall in the market), that the projected returns on property investment were in some cases double those as promised by Bernie Madoff in his massive investment scam (making them too good to be true) and that their understanding of investing violated the rule of positive correlation – that higher returns require higher risk (not lower risk as people had convinced themselves to be the case).
They had succumbed to the dark side of the internal narrative, that a story told enough times, reinforced with insufficient or incorrect data, eventually becomes believable (at least to themselves). Their flawed understanding was reinforced by banks (“if I was wrong, the banks wouldn’t lend me so much money”), realtors who promoted a healthy real estate market (for their own gain, of course), the Federal Reserve itself which touted a strong economy and the other self-taught investors who were telling the same story.
Their internal narrative was so strong that it convinced them that they were right, blinding them to the cognitive dissonance clearly present – that their facts and desires were not in congruence.
And yet when everything hit the fan, everyone acted surprised or claimed victimhood when in fact they had helped architect the collapse (not to look past Wall St.’s contribution to the debacle), thus proving the adage that:
No water droplet believes it is responsible for the flood.
Strong beliefs, faith and hope are powerful motivators and many times are necessary to carry one through difficult times.
But the next time you are evaluating a politician or political party, a business opportunity, a potential investment, a new project or a relationship or you are about to embark on a repeat pass in any of these areas, pay attention to your internal narrative.
If you are totally and utterly convinced that you / they will be successful or that you / they are right “just because” or because someone says “this time it’s different” (or the ever popular “trust me” or “it just feels right”), it may be that your internal narrative is shouting so loudly that you are unable to perceive the cognitive dissonance that exists between facts and reality. If you can’t answer questions such as “why” and “how do I know” objectively, it is highly possible that your internal narrative is guiding you in the wrong direction.
In such situations, it might be useful to either find yourself an objective observer or explore the theory of the Socratic Method (or do both) to stimulate the process of critical or self-critical thinking and to confirm that your internal narrative is whispering truths instead of shouting lies.
Once truths have been ascertained, then the internal narrative becomes a powerful, positive force, since one can then truthfully and objectively answer the question “How do I know I will succeed with …….”.
Unfortunately, many who are lazy, dishonest or who prefer fantasy over reality prefer to not embrace such a process because there is nothing that bothers them more than the inconvenience of how reality interferes with a good dream. Also unfortunately for them, failure to honor and respect reality unleashes the potential to manifest a nightmare instead of a powerful dream for themselves and others.
What is your internal narrative telling you?
Is it whispering truths or shouting lies?
How do you know?
In service and servanthood,