Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Flashback 5/29/2002: Cognitive Distortions

Here is another 5 year old blog entry warning against making bad judgments in the face of the so-called "new normal" of post 9/11 life. It is a bit raggedy and I might have stated a couple of things differently if I wrote it now, but the final conclusion still stands as humanity bumbles its way into an uncertain future.

At the time this was written, there was a lot of heated rhetoric going on between India and Pakistan, so that is the reference to the nuclear powers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002, 11:00 pm

Cognitive Distortions

There is a phrase that is used by counselors and psychologists: Cognitive Distortions. According to Brooklin Baker, "Liau, Barriga, and Gibbs (1998) define cognitive distortions as inaccurate or rationalizing attitudes, thoughts, or beliefs concerning one's own or others' social behavior." Cognitive distortion intensifies during times of grief. Whether it is the passing of the loved one or the shock of a national tragedy such as September 11, it is easy to let our emotions distort reality.

Economic writer Scott Burns used 10 signs from “Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy” by David D. Burns, MD to describe how cognitive distortions affected our view of the economy. Here are the 10 signs with examples to show how we think of terrorism and politics after 9/11:

* All-or-Nothing Thinking (You are either with us or with the terrorists.)
* Overgeneralization (Peaceniks are irrelevant now.)
* Mental Filters (Jimmy Carter is just trying to get attention)
* Disqualifying the Positive (A nuclear bomb attack by extremists is inevitable)
* Jumping to Conclusions (Most Arabs are crazy. They are trying to kill us.)
* Magnification or Minimization (An all-out War on Terrorism is the only answer.)
* Emotional Reasoning (I am so sad; New York will never be the same again.)
* Should Statements (We should have finished the job in Iraq.)
* Labeling or Mislabeling (My flag makes me a patriot. Those who do not are traitors.)
* Personalization. (I wanted peace. No wonder there is terrorism.)

Grief is a difficult process. However, the time has come to progress into our future. We gradually realize that our reactions have repercussions as well as the actions that precipitated them. What is the reality? Where are we to go?

We must choose whether to jump at every warning or to adapt to the new possibilities of danger. We must choose whether to stoke the fires of aggression in the world with our own aggression and money or to withdraw our resources until peace returns. In our anger, it all seemed so simple. Bomb the s**t out of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The result is a lower level of security, two countries on the brink of nuclear war, and dictators throughout the world shouting "Terrorism!" at any conflict. Our media has chosen to sit back and accept information that is false rather than uncover the sometimes ugly truth.

We acted on our distortions of reality. We wanted to relive World War II and escape the labyrinthine complexities of life in today's world. We can't escape to peace and we can't escape to war. We can only accept what is real and move forward.

It is real that our oil addiction creates what the founding fathers called "entangling alliances." It is real that we make deals with non-democratic states to make our democracy more prosperous. It is real that the land on which we live is straining and we use stop-gap technological measures to maintain production.

There are ways to simplify these complexities and live within reality. However, we will need to shed our cognitive distortions to achieve them. Hopefully we will do so before the reality we are trying to avoid imposes itself upon us.


Anonymous said...

There can be no doubt that 911 seriously affected people emotionally here in the US and everywhere else too.

The idea that flying an ordinary comercial airplane into a building had simply not been thought of, that anyone would do that on purpose. Sure, the idea had been given thought to it happening by accident, that is why there was so much debate about why the towers actually did fall.

Very well written and insightful.

Swinebread said...

I watched the end of United 92...


Since 911 with all that has gone on in name of those killed, it feels like a double tragedy now

The Moody Minstrel said...

It seems like the American people are only now starting to get over the post-9/11 cognitive distortion, too...more than five years later. Now people seem to be more willing to accept ugly truths, but we're so far entrenched in them that an easy solution is out of the question.

ladybug said...

I remember my dad telling us about how they took the Japanese kids out of school and their families off to the camps. They played "Germans & Japs" instead of Cowboys & Indians.

He also talked about the level of hysteria in the early 50's w/the McCarthy trials. Everybody who even questioned that political witchhunt was considered a "commie".

It sure felt like that to me these last 5 years if you didn't fall lock-step into Bush & Co's/Fox line of "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality.

It would have been more effective, cost less life loss, and CHEAPER (how many billions have gone to Haliburton and Blackwater now?....)
be more sly- with elite military squads.

We could learn something from the French.

Pandabonium said...

Actually, Pa've, it had been thought of.

Terrorists in the Philippines who planned to do just that (target: CIA headquarters in Langley) had been busted in 1995 and the USA was well aware of the details.

There was also a TV episode of "Lone Gunman" (sequel to the X-Files) which depicted an airliner being highjacked and used as a missile. Target? WTC Twin Towers. It aired in March of 2001.

At the G7/8 summit in Genoa, Italy in July of 2001 - "Acting on previous warnings that al-Qaeda would attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders, Italian authorities surrounded the summit with antiaircraft guns. They kept fighters in the air and close off local airspace to all planes." [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001]

Another plot, to crash a plane into the Eiffel tower was also thwarted prior to 9/11.

That threat was well known by most governments, including the USA, long before 2001.

Snabby -

This post brings Kipling to mind:

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too"....

Dean Wormer said...

To me the scary thing is how easily things that we take for granted, such as the very nature of our democracy, are really just illusional.

If a signifigant portion of Americans don't buy into the entire concept of America and the protection of all our citizens, then America doesn't exist.

That and the realization that about a third of our population are functionally insane.

Anonymous said...

brought to you by Eltigris:

pandabonium ... yes I agree. Its been thought of before lots of times ... by none other than Tom Clancy with a fully loaded 747 crashing into the capitol building in 1994...

and the pilot was japanese which brings back the common idea of crashing planes as missiles into ships... as kamakazi in WW2