Other real cognitohazards

I wrote an article a while back on real cognitohazards.

A cognitohazard is something that’s dangerous to think. Not because it’s wrong and leads you to the wrong idea, though. If you think this suitcase contains money but it actually contains angry bees with rabies, that’s simply wrong information.

A cognitohazard is dangerous to think – whether you act on it or not.

Fiction is full of examples. The term comes from the SCP Foundation, where certain anomalous things could harm you just by you thinking of them. “Harm” ranges from slight discomfort all the way to instant death.

And worse, probably.

The classic example from fiction is… well, just about anything from anything written by Lovecraft. Humans aren’t meant to learn certain knowledge. If we do, it drives us insane.

Or worse, probably.

But that’s all fiction.

How can a mere thought – one you don’t even act on – hurt you?

Oh, so easily.

When you delve deep enough into the psychological arts – or your own psyche – you’ll observe all sorts of thoughts that are dangerous to think.

You don’t even have to do that, though.

Here are three obvious examples:

  • Beliefs – if your beliefs about the world leave you trapped, scared, angry, sad, confused, miserable, pessimistic, defeated or just about anything else, then thinking them immediately does bad things to you. If you believe other people are stupid, worthless or out to get you, then you’ve already failed at anything worthwhile you try to do.
  • Bullying – related to the above. What’s the most persuasive voice in the world? This voice inside your own head. It has the advantage of persistence – who else would whisper things to you during every waking moment? What it says to you can warp your mind, even if you don’t act on it or even believe it.
  • Baggage – we all have emotional baggage, stuff that was too painful to deal with at the time so we bury it. I’m proud to say I have less than I used to, which is a far cry from saying I have none. A healthy approach is to explore these issues with patience and respect. An unhealthy approach involves digging into them at random. This is the difference between a good trip and a bad trip – whether you’re ready for what your unconscious presents.

Here’s a funny thing about that good trip/bad trip thing:

You’re not supposed to dive deep into your unconscious on your own. Whether you do that with drugs (meh) or with your mind’s natural mechanisms for this, it pays to have a guide.

Sure, if you simply want to change a habit and feel good, you can manage that on your own.

Going deeper, though?

You risk thinking a thought you’re not ready for – a cognitohazard landmine in your psychological dirt.

Good thing you never have to go alone, isn’t it?


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