How often do you engage in blind thinking?

Today is January 19 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How often do you engage in blind thinking?” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well is hard work that requires one to work hard. This is especially true when it comes to today’s topic of thinking in a manner that will challenge you to grow. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones wrote in a July 25, 2019 tweet: "Rather than trying to be right, assume you are wrong and try to be less wrong. Trying to be right tends to devolve into protecting your beliefs. Trying to be less wrong tends to prompt more questions and intellectual humility.” Clear’s reference to ‘trying to be less wrong’ allows us to segue into today’s topic of blind thinking.


British author Marion Milner wrote that “Blind thinking could make me pretend I was being true to myself when really I was only being true to an infantile fear and confusion of situations; and the more confused it was the more it would call to its aid a sense of conviction.” Blind thinking, to paraphrase Clear, involves ‘trying to be right and, therefore, protecting your beliefs.’ Growth occurs, however, when one challenges their own way of thinking and, if need be, identify when they are engaged in blind thinking.


Blind thinking can cause anyone to get lost along their way of navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well. Blind thinking can result in a wrong turn, a dead end, or a retreat if serious enough. Blind thinking can easily be the difference between success and failure, but you need to be willing to put the work in to identify it. We often equate blindness to sight. But how often do you think about your blindness as it relates to thinking? You may have 20/20 eyesight, but do you have 20/20 thinking? Just how muddled is your thinking? How much time do you spend considering just how muddled your thinking could be? One person who spent time reflecting upon your thinking was Marion Blackett.


Marion Blackett was 26 when she began the research for the book A Life of One’s Own in 1926, and 34 when she published it, under the pseudonym Joanna Field. She had completed a degree in psychology and physiology, in 1923, and soon after started working for the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, headed by Charles Samuel Myers, collecting data from various factories and industrial workplaces across England. The winter of 1927–28 was spent in the United States on a Rockefeller scholarship, attending Elton Mayo’s seminars at Harvard Business School.


As she wrote in A Life of One’s Own: “I had also learnt how to know what I wanted; to know that this is not a simple matter of momentary decision, but that it needs a rigorous watching and fierce discipline if the clamoring conflict of likes is to be welded into a single desire. It had taught me that my day-to-day personal ‘wants’ were really the expression of deep underlying needs, though often the distorted expression because of the confusions of blind thinking. I had found that there was an intuitive sense of how to live. For I had been forced to the conclusion that there was more in the mind than just reason and blind thinking, if only you knew how to look for it; the unconscious part of my mind seemed to be definitely something more than a storehouse for the confusions and shames I dared not face.”


Milner did point out, however, that identifying one’s blind thinking was far from easy. It is rather difficult to engage in the introspection required to identify blind thinking. As Milner wrote: “Let no one think it is an easy way because it is concerned with moments of happiness rather than with stern duty or high moral endeavor (sic). For what is easy, as I found, is to blind one’s eyes to what one really likes, to drift into accepting one’s wants ready-made from other people, and to evade the continual day to day sifting of values. And finally, let no one undertake such an experiment who is not prepared to find himself more of a fool than he thought.”


Blind thinking, like so many other strategies in this Navigate the Chaos series, is hard work. If you are adventurous enough to ‘undertake such an experience’ and explore your blind thinking, are you ‘prepared to find yourself more of a fool that you thought?’ Your exploration into how you think may just expose that which you have been avoiding.


Venturing into your mind, however, requires patience as noted by Friedrich Nietzsche in his Twilight of the Idols: “To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”


How often do you engage in blind thinking?