By James Ryan, Editor-in-Chief
Your Confirmation Bias-Why You Need To Be Aware Of It
I remember about half way through a deployment while serving with the 173rd Airborne, Paktika Province Afghanistan, dealing with constant chronic and sometimes extreme pain in my right knee. I would limp a lot, popping pain pills, and always had an ice bag at the ready. Our Brigade redeployed back to Italy, and I immediately sought help at our Army Health Clinic. After the x-rays, and eventually a MRI, I was told unless it is an emergency, I could never run again. I was devastated, and was also told that I was in danger of being, “Medically Retired” from service. Although I won that battle, had my 5th knee surgery, another combat deployment as a Commanding Officer, I was eventually retired. After retiring, I remember going through our Veteran’s Affairs hospital processing centers, and was told right off, that I was allowed to have a handicap placard. I thought this is something awesome to have, and I immediately starting using it. I finally in my life was able to, “Park at the curb” whenever I wanted to. Everyone wants, and wishes to “Park at the curb” because it saves time, and even gives one a sense of, “Entitlement.”
Your Confirmation Bias, and the Power of Symbolism
Symbolism plays an important part in our lives, even if we are not proactively studying the symbol, and what that symbol represents. Humans are all, “word” and “symbol” controlled creatures. For me, it happened one day as I was walking out of a gym just finishing a workout. As I came out of the gym, I looked at my truck in that giant handicap space-that giant “Infantry Blue” handicap symbol, and thought, “I just finished crushing myself through an extremely powerful workout, and I am parking in a handicap spot?” I started probing deep into my subconscious, and began to argue with myself (because other people will just tell you), “You earned it.” Now, upfront, I am by no means against anyone using a handicap placard. If you truly need it, or perhaps you are having a really bad day, then, that is your business, and uses the placard-BUT that symbol stared back at me. It forced me to confront my confirmation bias, because even if indirectly, I continue to look at that symbol, and keep telling myself, over and over again, through the use of symbolism, that I am disabled. From that moment onward, I look at that handicap symbol in a different manner. If physically fit, and able, why not use the extra distance in the parking lot, to burn some unwanted calories? Why not let someone else use the spot, if they are worse off than you? Have you ever thought that if you have a handicap placard, the symbol could be confirming your inner critic voice, that you are wounded, or disabled, when in fact you are way better off than you realize. I know for myself, even though I was a decent runner, ran a couple of marathons, and triathlons, I despised running. When I see someone running by me now, I wish I could run with them, but I never will be able to again. You do not realize how much you miss something, until it is taken from you. However, that’s where you find other ways to condition yourself, physically. Military Veteran’s tend to define themselves physically. Break out of your confirmation bias. Where you cannot perform one type of exercise, certain type of sport, or racing, find different ways to, “Get Back On The Horse!!”
Your Perspective And Your Confirmation Bias-How They Can Be Used To Help You
Military Veterans are excellent on gauging perspective. Unfortunately, and fortunately, I have had to spend quite a bit of time assisting wounded and disabled Veterans, either in hospitals, on multi-day white water rafting expeditions, long bicycle rides, in order to raise funding and awareness, or even assisting them in their homes with their families. You can learn a tremendous amount about life when you spend quality time with wounded and disabled Military Veterans. Through the use of perspective, the person with the shrapnel, or gunshot wound, will look at the person who lost their arm. The person, who lost their arm, will look over at the person, missing both arms. The person that is missing both arms will look at the burn victim, and the burn victim will look at the person who lost their vision. The person with the Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress will look completely normal, but are hurting inside, and feel just as wounded as everyone else, though their wounds are not visible, which in many ways could be way worse.
You are in control of your injuries more so, than you give yourself credit for. Your mind is one immensely powerful, “Supercomputer.” Having a profound confirmation bias is an extremely powerful influence in your life, and everything I am conveying here, completely ties into preventing Military Veteran Suicide. “Suicide is a permanent solution, to a temporary problem.” When things are taken from us in our lives, or we feel “The Walls Closing-in” or you just think there is no point in life, take a step back and size up your confirmation bias. Fully assess your confirmation bias, and then use perspective as a technique and management tool to keep your attitude, and outlook strong. Do you have confirmation bias, and if so, what are you doing about it?