There are reasons and there are reasons. Often, the logical reasons we give have nothing whatsoever to do with the real reasons for doing something. They may be worlds apart, yet the logical reason is often put forward as if there was no doubt about it.
Logical reasons are narratives we provide to explain things, often our decisions and actions. But, your ‘reasons’ may have little to do with the truth of what is really behind your decisions. As long as it sounds plausible you might produce all manner of reasons to justify a given course of action. And, therein lies the nub of the issue — justifying.
As the psychologists Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier compellingly argue, the proper evolutionary domain of reasoning is convincing others. Reasons are primarily about evaluating and probing each other in social interactions. So, it does not matter if your reasons are inaccurate as long as they sound logical. As long as you can convince others. And, this can be very dangerous because we might incorrectly convince ourselves too in the process!
So, we might pull all manner of logical reasons out of the air, patched together from what we have seen and heard to create something plausible sounding. Unsurprisingly, this is a recipe for mental confusion, for not understanding the true motivations behind your choices.
Seeking the truth within
The only way to clear the confusion is by really asking yourself if your so-called logical reason feels true? By not buying into a reason simply because your mind happened to produce it. Don’t forget that our minds can come up with all manner of weird and wonderful tales. It is very creative! Part of the self-enquiry is about having the humility to admit this. Part of the self-enquiry is also about acknowledging how you really feel about something.
For example, perhaps you decided to opt-out of a trip with friends. Not because you are too busy with work (logical reason with some truth), but because you don’t feel close to them anymore? Or, because you have misgivings about their blasé pandemic behaviour? It is one thing to use an excuse, it is quite another to fool yourself about the truth. Remember too that somethings may be more difficult to accept than others, and that is exactly why you might choose to believe the logical reason rather than the real reason.
Only by really becoming aware of the deeper feelings and motivations within, do you empower yourself with real choice. The choice that comes from the clarity of deeper self-understanding.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.