Some Common Pitfalls in the Way of Thinking All the Time

Considerable excitement has been generated in many of our Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, over the concept of "thinking all the time," sometimes called the "Mary McCabe Principle." The idea of completely resisting the addictive pull to indulge in non-thinking, "reactive resting," or lapses in the responsible use of our intelligence represents a transcendental point similar to the earlier decision for appreciating oneself "without any reservation."

It is plain that "thinking all the time" has already become an important direction for many of our Co-Counselors, that as a kind of master direction it helps oppose all patterns by keeping one's intelligence in gear and making the effort to be rational at all times.         

In doing this, certain common difficulties arise, certain mistakes are easily made. The most common difficulty, of course, is the intrusion of the individual's unique distress patterns, unawarely substituting for rational thinking. Some mistakes, however, apparently arise out of the culture — out of the conditioning the culture has put upon us.

Some Common Difficulties

I've tried to list the common "illogics" which people fall into, the traps and the pitfalls which interrupt our thinking and are likely to pass unnoticed because of their familiarity. Following each, I've tried to quote a typical expression of each such mistake.

One, taking strong feelings or sincerity or passionate conviction as evidence of being rational; taking them as an acceptable substitute for critical, logical examination of the actual situation. (Remember, there's nothing as "sincere" as a pattern.)

"He seemed so convinced of what he said that I thought surely he must be right."

Two, generalizing from too little information. One example is not sufficient to prove a general point nor even to indicate a useful generalization. A wise old folk saying goes, "one swallow doesn't make a summer."

"All Indians always walk in single file. At least the only one I ever saw did!"

Three, not being clear and aware about the ideas one is taking for granted in starting one's thinking (not clearly facing and stating one's axioms or postulates or assumptions). It is fairly common in our culture to think logically on the wrong assumptions and wind up with a disastrous conclusion. High government officials are particularly predisposed to this error.

"I always assumed that women liked to be bossed."

Four, unawarely honoring old strictures that have been imposed upon one in the past against depending upon one's own judgment. A lot of this happens to us as we grow up, and it is hard to remember that each person is really in charge of his or her own universe and it is his or her responsibility, necessity (and eventually delight) to think clearly about everything, questioning all propositions until one has convinced oneself logically that they are true.

"There are some things you can't think about. You just have to take them on faith."

Five, assuming that one's own feelings and experiences are representative of everyone's feelings and experiences. The universe is full of variety. Many humans have different stores of knowledge, different viewpoints and different goals than we do.

"I know just how you feel."

"This is the way this works for people. I know from my own experience."

Six, assuming that thinking can always be "easy." It's true that being intelligent is the natural way for a human being to function and that thinking really is less work than allowing the pattern to dictate one's actions. The addictive pull to not think can be strong, however, and, as long as patterns exist, one must be on guard and make the effort to check that one is really thinking.

"You're asking me to think all the time and that's H-A-A-A-R-D. "

Seven, assuming a too narrow viewpoint on goals, especially in situations implicitly involving oppression, exploitation, or conflict. We have all been the victim of misrepresentation by unjust societies and the oppressive forces within them about what is "good for us."

"What's good for General Motors is good for the country."

Eight, failing to question the values enforced on one as part of one's education and upbringing. These enforced values may, or at least some of them may, be good values, but they should be questioned and should be reaffirmed only if they stand up under questioning.

"The United States would never fight an unjust war."

"More industry is good for everybody."

Nine, deciding that a conclusion one reaches after a number of experiences or experiments which all agree with each other is now a "law" or "flat rule," instead of remembering that it is at most a "useful generalization" which has at least some validity but which we cannot know is totally and universally valid, and may, in fact, be contradicted by the next experience.

"Any piece of paper has to have two sides. I've never seen one that didn't. What do you mean, a Moebius strip?"

Ten, failing to take into account the longer range implications of a decision or an action. What seems advantageous short range can turn out to be a very bad error long range. One needs to think of the interests of everyone concerned and be sure that the action is in everybody's interest before one can be sure of the correctness. A short-sighted view is likely to be an incorrect view.

"It's very handy to have the lake right here beside the factory. We can dump all the waste easily, and get rid of it that way."

Eleven, confusing a compulsive patterned "idea" with a true, rational hunch or intuitive insight. Real intuitive insights or hunches represent some of our most brilliant and unfettered thinking, but it is also true that they need to be checked on rigorously that they are actually logical, as much as the time and circumstances permit, simply because patterned compulsions often disguise themselves as brilliant insights.

"lt finally came to me that what I really needed was another drink."

Twelve, rejecting an intuitive insight or hunch without trying to check it out logically to see if possibly it is correct, failing to take into account that the intuitive leap is a valuable and often necessary part of thinking correctly and completely complements the rigorous checking out and proving which should follow it.

"lt was just a guess. Forget it. We'll do it the hard way."

Thirteen, failing to allow for the difference in viewpoint of two different people. Oppression appears very differently to the oppressor, to the oppressed, and to the bystander. If the viewpoint of the observer is taken into account, then agreement between any two observers can be reached to any desired degree by communication and the elimination of patterns.

"How can you on the other side of the house claim the house is red, when I can see very plainly that it's white on my side?"

What examples can you add to the list of these familiar pitfalls and gaps in thinking intelligently all the time?

Harvey Jackins
(Present Time, No. 19, April 1975)

Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07