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When one thinks of the term “delusional”, the first thing that comes to mind is “crazy”, but, when you think about it, everyone is somewhat delusional. In typical everyday situations, everyone bases their interpretation of an outcome on their previous experiences. After all, that is all one knows. We call this experience. What has happened to them. However, despite the amazing capacity of the brain, we as Humans, cannot predict the future. The best we can do is “guess” what will happen based on earlier experiences. But, guessing is about as predictable as gambling. You lose more than you win. The odds are always with the House. Yet, in everyday interactions we tend to mis-perceive what is right in front of us due to our own internal bias and this can cause anxiety and in some cases, true mental illness.
Examples of this type of everyday tendency is when someone believes ” she must think I’m a complete idiot because I forgot to wear socks”. How do we really know that? Maybe she really likes feet. The point is that people tend to falsely predict outcomes in order to “better prepare themselves” for the outcome, but tend to be wrong more than half the time. Guessing has about a 28 to 30% hit rate. Yet, most people do not know that they are about to falsely interpret something and do it anyways. It’s designed to be adaptive, but it really isn’t.
In the Cognitive Science world, these are called “false beliefs” and in CBT , or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, patients are guided through changing their thoughts and are encouraged to focus on the present without bias. The idea here is to go into situations with an open mind. This does not erase one’s prior experiences, it merely allows for a possible different outcome and lessens your chances of being wrong.
So, the next time you enter a conversation, try staying present and hold back from jumping to conclusions. You could likely be wrong and ruin the chances of a better outcome.
Dr. Keith Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst. In addition to a full-time private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego where he teaches both human development and also trains medical students how to better understand and relate to their patients. He also serves as the Director of Clinical Counseling for La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, and is a Clinical Professor at The San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Kanner also sits on the National Board of Directors for Kids Korps USA, which is the largest organization in the country that teaches children and adolescents the importance of volunteering to help the community at large. As a father of three children, he is also a dedicated baseball, football, and soccer coach.