When Cognitive Biases Hit Too Close To Home

When Cognitive Biases Hit Too Close To Home March 7, 2017
CB Close to Homeby Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace
Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion more jocular, we’ve defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).
All images by Cindy Kunsman and Under Much Grace and used with permission.
We don’t come with a user’s manual for our parents when we’re born, and no one gives us one when we head towards adulthood. We are human, and as the old slogan goes, “Children learn what they live.

I can see where I’ve made nearly every one of these errors in judgement at one time or another, and I ventured into this topic as a growth experience for myself. Like every other creature on the planet, I fall into predictable patterns of behavior, and I’m blind to some of them. Always remember that the most amazing thing that our minds do involved avoiding painful truth, but sometimes if we dare stare into the abyss of what we think that we can’t see, we see how self-destructive we become in our blindness.
The term ‘self-destructive’ brings to my mind the more obvious behaviors like gambling and drinking. Drug abuse or self-injury come to mind next, as they directly and literally destroy the body in an attempt to numb the soul’s pain. But in considering my own most common Cranio-Rectal Inversions, they’re not ones that I like to think of as self-destructive….but they are perhaps the most dangerous of all for me.
I am careful about what I blog about, particularly when it comes to personal information that involves other people in my life. A few years ago, I sent something I’d written to several mothers, because I’d written about how difficult it was for me to forgive my parents for a devastating exchange we’d had — that was not forgivable. I did forgive by releasing them from the debt I felt that they owed me for the hurt they’d caused, but they make the mistake of considering forgiveness and reconciliation to be the same thing. I could move on from that painful moment of the way that they define me, but I couldn’t continue to repeat and repeat the sentiment in word and deed. And they just were not willing to do so. The way they defined themselves became the way that they defined me, and it set my most common cognitive biases in stone in my mind.
Over the past year or so, I ventured into a new challenge of a similar set of circumstances outside of my family. I’ve never faced these things in a workplace because of the operating procedures and clear cut chain of command that provided protective structure for me. Interpersonal relationships aren’t governed by such structure unless we create it through boundaries. Needless to say, having faced these hard patterns of behavior with family, resolving to abandon the self-destructive biases which harmed me and those who love me, that resolve would again be tested.
Part of me felt that I’d never really made any healing, maturing progress at all, but I know to question any statement of ‘always’ or ‘never.’ I had to grow beyond the path of least resistance while honoring my limitations by coming to terms with how I learned to behave – as if this were the next graduate level course that I didn’t know I’d enrolled in. I had to figure out how to make that new information work in a broader situation. How could I do that while committed to the high road?
Painful Grieving
I almost laughed one day when a friend of mine said that it was obvious that I always thought about what I said. I only wish that it were true. Maybe I am with some things, and my own biases have much to do with that. I can also talk to a friend about what I did and didn’t do right or wrong as I walked out this new part of my journey of letting go of people and events that were impossible. Because of my own biases, I didn’t want to let go of the situations as they were, but while in the throes of the pain of it all, I didn’t want to blog about something so fresh. I needed to weather some of the grief so that I could look my own biases head on to see how self-destructive they were for me all along.
Instrusion Constriction

So I hope to pick up where I left off so many months ago, not only to work on the Redeeming Dinah blog, but also to grieve.  And I’m not sure if I fell back into a cycle of hopefully healthy constriction, though it’s lasted a bit longer than I would like to admit.

An acquaintance who I consider a friend who considered my husband and me to be like second parents committed suicide this past year. I was thinking of her as I was traveling and bought her a gift, but while sitting up all night in an airport, spotty internet made it hard to contact her. I returned home and slept nearly all day to be awakened by a phone call that she’d taken her life, right about the time that I was collecting my luggage.

A few weeks later, my sixteen year old cat died, and I have lived without a cat for the first time since I was two years old. It’s strange to me how one experience gets wrapped around another for me. (I don’t know if that happens to other people like it does for me.) I had to move on from people and endeavors and hopes and joy with them because either they couldn’t come with me, or I couldn’t continue to follow along with them. I decided that writing on a blog about such precious things while brokenhearted was not wise. It comes with risk.

Getting Things Right
That phrase of ‘getting it right’ has echoed through my heart and mind my whole life. Firstborn and only children get drilled with this idea as they’re growing up, as their parents learn along with them about how to develop reasonable expectations in life. As an imperfect person in an imperfect world, I had to make peace with the idea that it’s a virtue to seek perfection, but I didn’t know how to temper my expectations. We can perfect our skills which improve our ability to ‘get it right,’ but I learned that this was also possible within relationships, too.

I don’t know that I get anything right, and relationships are so dynamic and changing that setting such an expectation does become self-destructive. But my own biases make letting go of this expectation so difficult. And letting go brings grief for what was hoped for but cannot be.

But in the spirit of getting this Cognitive Bias business right, so much as a novice can do, I wanted to wait. They are just ideas about what I see as I move along on my journey of life, trying to live fully and love tenderly. Love requires vulnerability, and vulnerability involves risk.

For Further Reading:

moreRead more by Cindy Kunsman:

Deeply Planted Seeds of Cognitive Bias


Cindy is a member of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network.

Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.

She blogs at Under Much Grace and Redeeming Dinah.

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  • AuntKaylea

    I just wanted to say that I will be thinking of you as you grieve.

  • Eric Nathaniel Robinson

    It’s self satire.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    In what way is this satire?

  • The picture? The pictures that I made to go with the series of posts are meant to be that way. We tend to take notice to the absurd, and I thought that it would help people remember that there were cognitive biases. You might not remember the technical term, but most people are likely to remember certain ones. My favorite at the moment is the one with John Piper regarding the crazy stuff he says.

  • I hoped that this pic would be seen as a reference to the self-deception and denial that we’re so good at as human beings.

    Unfortunately, what I’ve written of experiences that I’ve had over the past 12 months and my difficulties aren’t satirical at all. If I could indeed figure out how to make it all a satire so that none of this happened, I’d be to rich to blog!

  • Jennny

    Cindy,I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for your posts. My PTSD, deep into my childhood still affects me and your Marcy story could have been me as the innocent victim cast as the aggressor by adults who I thought understood and loved me. I bookmark some of your posts and re-read them, they are a real help. Ignore that negative guy’s pointless comment.

  • Jennny, you have no idea that an encouragement that is to me and the the timing of it is uncanny. (Though I know that it’s not at all, but I really am deeply comforted and encouraged by what you’ve written — especially today.)

    Thank you so much. A king’s ransom can’t buy so precious a gift.

  • (Oh, and I wasn’t upset about the comment as much as I was concerned about what I may have written that suggested that the content was satire. I “choose to think” 😉 that the comment references the picture. I’m guilty of a small handfull of shooting my mouth off about a link to something with a sensational headline and showing quickly that I hadn’t read the article or hadn’t read it deeply.

    Most people are more comfortable with the image of an ostrich, but I married a guy who became the drum major for the military corps band at Virginia Tech (the Highty Tighties). Apparently, one of his favorite things to yell during drills to get people to march tight and cleanly was “Pull your head out of your…” By the time we married, he still used the phrase, never with me, but he’d shortened it to just “Pull your head out!”

    It’s such a painful thing to look at our own behavior to see good intent amount to far less than we’d hoped and to see the end consequences of past mistakes. And it’s harder still to take an inventory and develop enough self-awareness to see our common cognitive biases. We know about them, and we still do them because that’s how people are.

    My husband’s irreverent sense of humor seemed to be of good use here, as did showing myself with my head up my own backside! It’s actually a remarkable topic as are the many tributaries it takes. The subjective nature of memory itself even apart from comparing a memory to someone else’s account is sobering.

    I’m still debating whether I even want to explore that element of our biases, for we remember those things that bring us comfort and ignore the things that are painful until they’re undeniable. Spiritual abuse is very much that way, and it’s a major topic — considering all of the Marcy situations I’ve had. It’s hard to see the limitations, but we all have them. In the process, we can at least get a laugh!

  • Jennny

    That’s very sweet of you. Likewise the Marcy post was uncanny in its timing for me and was both very encouraging and comforting and just what I needed that day.