Tuesday, April 20, 2010

EFM: Entering a Filosophical Mood

Sorry about the headline, but I felt like cheating today. For the record, I know it is "ph."

Being home all day, no matter how busy I try to keep myself, ultimately leaves ample time to be alone with my thoughts. And one of the lectures I covered in Boston has been weighing heavy on my mind, and it seems pertinent for people in our fold.

This lecture was given in the context of preparing eye surgeons how to inform a patient and/or the patient's family that there was an error during surgery.

The speaker explained that delivering bad news is difficult for people to do because it makes the messenger uncomfortable. In the case of surgeons, the message is hard to deliver because it means they have to admit they made mistake or something went wrong under their watch.

And as we continue to peel away to the center of the matter, admitting a mistake is difficult because it means we have to grapple with the concept that something we were certain to be true was confronted with a situation or evidence that proves that belief is wrong.

In psychology, this is known as cognitive dissonance. The speaker explained that when faced with these situations, it is human nature to deny the new evidence exists, rationalize away the new evidence or reinterpret that evidence to fit into our previously held beliefs. This is part of human nature because much in the way our body responds in dangerous situations to protect itself, our brain also reacts in a manner to protect our psyche and self esteem.

It doesn't take a philosopher to see how cognitive dissonance relates to the foreign service. I don't think it takes a great leap of faith to say that in order to enjoy this lifestyle, a foreign service officer and his/her family that is more capable to cope with cognitive dissonance will strive in this lifestyle.

I imagine that along this journey, which starts in Mexico but then who knows, we will have preconceived convictions and deeply held beliefs challenged by what we see and experience.

Now we just have to be ready to admit that we thought to be true was wrong.


  1. Because this obviously ties into my pre-FS life profession (as a clinical social worker) I was hoping to come up with something profound to say - then I realized, nope, just really like the post - you said it well. : )

  2. Oh, David.

    Well, and now, after being a full-contact, every-single-second -of-the-day parent, I will say that nothing I have encountered serves to show me how insanely wrong I can continuously be than PARENTHOOD.

    After staying at home with my kids for so long (nine years?), I have gotten to the point where I almost don't think I'm RIGHT about ANYTHING. Ever. So I totally get where you're coming from.