When I approached the kissing-gate, I saw the big red padlock straight away. ‘Oh no!’ I said to myself. The footpath was closed off - how would I continue my walk? I yanked at the padlock and at the sliding bar it was holding in place, but neither the bar nor the padlock budged. I got cross then: it’s a public path, I should have right of way. I’ll take a photo! I’ll send a complaint to the Ramblers Association!
I tried to climb over the gate. As I clambered up, I noticed a gate-latch at the side (where such latches always are) and with one finger, I lifted it up and the gate swung open… The sliding bar was actually locked out of the way.
My mindset had only seen the problem in the form of the padlock but I had not even tested for reality. No questions asked and a whole set of assumptions made, led to a swift raising of my own emotional temperature. It was so funny that one so thoughtful, curious and open-minded as myself (no, really, believe me!) could quickly have become that indignant and righteous.
A book I often recommend is ‘Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)’* that illuminates such cognitive dissonance. Another publication that’s been well-reviewed recently is ‘The Intelligence Trap’** that discusses similar challenges. The problem is that however many books we read, we are highly liable to greatly over-estimate our own capacity for self-awareness. Only practical and sometimes painful examples show us that self-awareness is always a journey. We need to stay humble on the path.
* ‘Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts.’ By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
** ‘The Intelligence Trap: why smart people do stupid things and how to make wiser decisions.’ By David Robson