This has been rattling around in the back of my brain for sometime so bear with me.
As usual Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband and The Marriage Bed wrote a post, If I Don’t Admit it, It’s Not True, that finally dislodged this thought from the back of my brain and forced me to contemplate it further. Read Paul’s post and the article, Why People Avoid the Truth About Themselves from the Blog PSYBlog that Paul mentions in his post, before reading any further.
It probably comes as not surprise to anyone that those two posts about marital sex generated a sharp increase in page views for my blog. Sex is a hot topic (pun intended), who wouldn’t want to read about sex? The vast majority of you reading that last question probably answered it, “My spouse.” How do I know you answered in that way? Well if you’re the one here reading this post it is likely that sex is important to you and you feel it is important to your marriage. I agree with you. However, it probably means that sex is an issue in your marriage, one that you are working to overcome, because, sex is important to you and to your marriage. You may have even sent the links of the my posts about sex along with other articles about sex in marriage to your lower sex drive spouse and they likely didn’t even read them. Why? Well let’s say that your spouse handed you a diet book, what does that say about how they feel about you and how would that make you feel? It says, “I have a problem and the problem is you. Here’s a book to fix you.” It usually isn’t well received. Stop sending your spouse articles to “fix” them unless they ask.
Now the PSYBlog post mentions three reasons why people avoid information:
- It may demand a change in beliefs. Loads of evidence suggests people tend to seek information that confirms their beliefs rather than disproves them. (Do some research on cognitive dissonance.)
- It may require us to take undesired actions. Telling the doctor about those weird symptoms means you might have to undergo painful testing. Sometimes it seems like it’s better not to know.
- It may cause unpleasant emotions.
So, here we see the motivation for lower drive spouses to ignore the damage their actions are causing the marriage. These three reasons are about being more comfortable in avoiding the information than in facing the information.
The PSYBlog article says there are four things that determine whether we try to find out the truth or avoid the information.
- Expectation. Most obvious and maybe most powerful. The more we expect bad news, the more effort we make to avoid it.
- Lack of control. Less obvious but it explain a lot. When we feel we have less control over the consequences of information, we are more strongly motivated to avoid it. Like when you could be getting news about a life-threatening disease. Because there may be little you can do about it, it may be better not to know.
- Lack of coping resources. When people feel they can’t handle distressing information at the moment then they’re more likely to avoid it.
- When the information is difficult to understand. The harder it is to interpret information, the less we want to know about it.
The PSYBlog article goes on to talk about the reasonableness of not wanting to know information if there isn’t anything we can do about it such as being genetically predisposed to cancer. The article also says that our procrastination for getting the information can also harm us like not getting that strange mole checked out thus delaying skin cancer treatments.
The author stops short of giving any answers but observes that, “The trick is to know which information to avoid and which to seek out. But we can’t know this without knowing what the information is. But once you’ve learnt the information you can’t unlearn it. It’s a problem.” In other words, you cannot know what information to avoid or seek out without seeking out the information and, once you have the information, you cannot unlearn the information even if it is something over which you have no control.
So, how can we use the list of reasons to seek the information to seek solutions? I think that the answer is an obvious one. It seems to me that we avoid the information because it is more comfortable to avoid it than to face it. Until it become less comfortable to avoid the information than face it we will continue to avoid facing the information. A friend of mine tells me that in recover this is called “the fearless moral inventory.”
Scripture says this:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.~Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)
There is your fearless moral inventory and when are we supposed to do this? Before we deal with the speck in our brother’s eye. Notice that scripture doesn’t say to leave the speck in your brother’s eye. It says to examine yourself first, then remove the speck.
So, now that we’ve taken a look at this more closely, what information are you more comfortable avoiding? How can you apply the information from the PsyBlog post to your life? Are you deceiving yourself into thinking that if you don’t admit it then it’s not true?