Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Drinking and Self-Justification.

So, okay, given the problem I wrote about in my last post, we can start to see drinking (in an abusive way) in a new light: namely, that we work really hard to justify our actions and keep them in balance with our self-evaluation/self-understanding.  If you feel good about yourself, you justify your actions accordingly.  If you feel bad about yourself, you likewise justify your actions.  Because self-justification is so deep seeded, because it is needed for survival and one of the psychological adaptations that keeps us moving quickly through a dangerous world, it is extremely difficult to push back against the immediate calculations that keep us balanced with the narratives of ourselves that we call memories.   We have to break those narratives and break some modes of self-justification, to stop drinking (we being problem drinkers to some extent).

For example, you've probably all had a disagreement with someone when you show them evidence that flatly contradicts a main justification for their conclusions, right?  Then what happens?  Often times, they shift their concern, or conclusions, into a new sphere, and say that you haven't dealt with that new concern!  And then again! And again!  On a whole, confirmation bias and just world theory play a much larger role in our personal psychology than we want to admit, and here's something to reckon with as well: we are much much less important to the world than we are to ourselves, but because we need to maintain a psychological position of primary importance for survival, we have adapted it over many generations.  There's that famous graduation speech by David Foster Wallace where he hits on just this fact. 

Choosing not to drink for me is also a question of how to live, it is normative and prescriptive, and  drinking has functioned as one way to highly inflate my (and our) already highly attuned mechanisms for self-justification in a quest for consonance.  Knowing that the world isn't consonant, and doesn't have to make sense, actually frees me up to function a little bit better, because I recognize that not all events are endogenously sparked.

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