19 Oct The mind can and will justify anything. Really? Yes, really.
I remember being told this years ago by a retired judge. Eyebrows bushy, teeth flinty, half moon spectacles firmly on the bottom third of his nose as he peered over the top of them never losing eye contact, scrutinising me as he spoke, checking for my reaction to his words, not as interested in my verbal reply as my physical reaction to his pronouncements.
‘The mind can justify anything. It does and it will.’
Thirty years plus of being a court judge I pretty much guess he’d seen and heard every excuse in the book as well as every defence possible. Far from being world weary he was a realist and rather non-judgemental. He said he’d follow the words of the defendant intently, put himself in the their shoes, relive the situation as he was given the explanation and the reasons for their actions. And he’d follow and follow, until, he could follow no more, like hitting an obstacle in the road, when the explanation stopped making sense, and didn’t align with logic or the evidence of other statements. Not that everything is logical but all the pieces in the puzzle need to fit. ‘I need to be shown how they fit.’ This is where you get to see how the mind can justify anything.
Here’s a simple example; smoking. Logically everyone knows it’s not good for you. However, ask a smoker and they can tell you about a family friend or an uncle who lived until 100 smoking Capstan Full Strength. They can tell you about a jogger who never smoked but dropped dead whilst out for a run. They can tell you they could stop tomorrow. They can tell you they enjoy it. They have facts and stories to justify their smoking and explanations why it’s not that bad for their health, others maybe, but not them. Despite the logic, despite the medical evidence, their mind justifies what they have chosen to do. And so the mind can, and will do, on anything.
The mind is a coping mechanism for the person. It explains away the illogicality of the owners choice. If biologically we’re here to procreate and exist, anything we do against that, the mind has to reason why.
It also applies to me. For example when I don’t make it to the gym (and that’s often) I have every excuse in the book, some so good even I believe them! The mind has allowed me to cope with a decision that goes against the better interests of me, it soothes me for the decision I’ve taken.
And during the day we can have many mind justifying moments; don’t make that phone call, put off seeing that person, eat that extra piece of cake, don’t work late. Also more serious matters, things that under normal circumstances you’d frown upon if others did it – like date a married man, have an affair, steal something from work, don’t return something. The list is endless. Some you’ve done, some you’ll never do, some you may yet do and some far worse that you want to block out and the mind allows for that too.
Now you know this about your mind – how do you protect yourself from yourself?!
Ok, so here’s 3 of the simplest things you can do …
A psychiatrist told me ‘there’s no such thing as will power’ at least there isn’t for the vast majority of people. So what you have to do is make sure you don’t put yourself in a ‘vulnerable’ position, a situation where you could buckle. So if you’re on a diet, don’t buy a pack of kitkats thinking you’ll eat one a day for the week, only buying the big pack because it was cheaper than buying them individually – the latter is a mind justification for buying a pack. No, as the psychiatrist said, remove temptation, buy 1 single kitkat, then you’re not being tempted by the other 6 every time you go the cupboard, because the odds are you will relent, you will give in and you will eat more than you intended. Your mind will justify it by saying you’ll go on a jog tomorrow, or you’ll eat less for dinner tonight. You name it, you’ll have an excuse.
Get organised and write yourself a list.
From shopping to working, jogging to stopping smoking. Write down what you need to do and tick each one off as you do them. So if it’s stopping smoking, write down what you need to do and do it. If it’s getting fit or eating better then write it down and follow your own instructions until it becomes a habit.
When writing your list.
At first you may need to do it in absolute detail, especially if you’re wanting to remove an old bad habit from your life or add a new good habit into it. So for me to get the gym or do a jog, I literally time everything right down to putting on my gym kit and by doing this I’ve got over the hurdle in my mind and by breaking it down like this, even if I only manage a 15 mins jog, at least I’ve done something. Then the feeling of good outweighs the bad feeling of letting myself down.
Can you weigh up your feelings and learn how to recalibrate your mind so it doesn’t justify your bad actions and let you down.
I’ll get on to that in my next blog…..