There’s a cognitive bias called attribution error. It’s a common glitch in thinking, yet not many people talk about it. Unless you’ve dabbled in psychology or rationalism, you might never have thought about this before.
If you’re vigilant, you might catch yourself doing it. If you’re perceptive, you’ll definitely see others making this mistake.
The idea is this:
You see someone lose their cool at their computer. They yell at it, maybe even smack the monitor. What do you think? You think they’re an angry person, a violent individual, someone who struggles with self-control.
Let’s change the scenario: one day, you experience one too many computer issues. You yell at it, maybe try a little kinetic maintenance.
What do you think then?
Well, you point out how you didn’t sleep well, your pet is sick, you fought with your best friend, you’re just trying to do your job but the computer keeps bugging out…
In other words, you attribute other people’s anger to their personality, but your own to your circumstances.
It’s extremely common and problematic. You judge the other person, while letting yourself off the hook.
The answer isn’t to judge yourself too. That’s bad in a different way.
It’s to take a different perspective.
Because the truth is obvious, isn’t it? What makes someone lose their cool at a software crash isn’t personality or circumstances, but both those things. Some people have hair trigger tempers, while others have cool demeanours. Even so, your situation makes a difference.
Think of a barrel. A barrel is just a container. It sits there, passively, holding whatever you put inside it. In many ways it’s not different to a box, a carton or a pit.
As long as the walls can hold whatever you put inside, it makes little difference.
Unless you’re making whisky. Then the barrel is an active part of the process. The flavours from the barrel seep into the spirits over time, enhancing it.
What you put into the barrel matters, of course. Quality ingredients make a difference. But it’s not all about the ingredients, and it’s not all about the barrel. It’s both.
Like a barrel, your circumstances aren’t calmly sitting in the background. They’re flavouring whatever is going on in your mind.
So you can improve your life by changing your circumstances. A better job, a friendlier neighbourhood, a more supportive group of friends – it all adds up.
The smallest step is to listen to better sounds.
Sounds that reach deep inside you.
That begin to change the way you unconsciously think about yourself.
For most disciplines, that’s a tall order. It might even be impossible.
For hypnotists, that’s all we do.
So check out my hypnotic guided meditations here: