One question to start with is, do I actually think better now than I did ten, twenty or more years ago? That leads me to ask, what is thinking? A quick google search shows the Oxford languages dictionary saying, the process of considering or reasoning about something. Then, searching reasoning, the action of thinking about something in a logical, sensible way. Okay, this could get quite circular quickly, but I notice that there is nothing here about emotion.
What strikes me about this is that I find logic often being a front for justification. When some emotion is stirred in us and we are triggered, reason, logic, and our perception of what is sensible all become biased by, or secondary to, whatever emotional trigger has been activated. Reason becomes the slave of emotion rather than the nice and tidy sense of detached logic we propose to validate our actions.
With the help of time and distance from experiences, I can look back over the years and see a LOT of thinking to justify some messes I got myself into. No need for gory details here. What is obvious to me now is that while I could construct very convincing arguments to talk myself out of situations, the underlying trigger for needing to think about something in the first place was some sort of self-betrayal. (And the situations almost always came back in need of cleaning up in some form).
I would do or say something in a moment, and somewhere deep inside, a switch went on. That switch basically alerted my well-honed self-defense mechanisms that I had somehow, inadvertently stepped off of the straight and narrow. Now I was vulnerable, and rather than sit with that, it was thinking to the rescue. All manner of well-dressed reason and logic were deployed to justify whatever had been said or done. The Arbinger Institute does a great job of not only understanding this process but helping us get out of it.
So, back to my earlier question, do I actually think better now than I did ten, twenty or more years ago? I can say that my interest in getting into debates about the rightness or wrongness of a given perspective has lessened to a degree, which is a relief. I do hope that I’ve managed to loosen the hold of at least some emotional triggers. For me, these are at least some hopeful signs that my thinking is at least cleaner in some areas.