Facts, Fiction and Theory

This morning I was sitting at the computer, probably playing Spider Solitaire. My mind was wandering through various subjects and I suddenly noticed that I was running a scenario in my head. I’ve been told and I have also read that creating scenarios is a bad thing. While I definitely agree that running them in order to try to rigidly script some upcoming event (or scaring the bejeebers out of myself) is not healthy, I’ve always run them.

Being the kind of person I am, I decided a couple of years ago to find a way to use them in a healthy manner, rather than trying to delete them from my thinking, at least for now. I may yet change my mind somewhere down the road and decide that either they aren’t healthy in any way, or that I don’t need them anymore for whatever reason, but at the moment I have a use for them still.

This morning’s scenario was actually a daydream as much as anything, I wasn’t really paying attention to it, so the following isn’t as specific as it might be — at least not until something happened in it. The scenario had me sitting in the vice-principal’s office of a (fictional TV show) high school, talking with the VP about some problem he had with a student for whom I was responsible, perhaps as a guardian. He wanted to know what had happened and I proceeded to tell him.

His next comment within the daydream is what really got me thinking. I don’t remember the exact phrasing; it was a variation of, “That’s not possible. It couldn’t have happened that way because it’s contrary to how the world works.” In the scenario, I blinked in astonishment and started sputtering. Then I shut my mouth because I have learned that when someone is bound to “that’s not possible,” they often refuse to look outside of it. They are so caught up in their view of how the world works, that they cannot or will not look at any evidence or facts that do not support their ideas.

In order to discuss this, I need to go back quite a few years and dust off what I remember from taking physical science in high school. When an event happens that is new and lacking in obvious explanation (murder mysteries make their money from this), one or more hypotheses are thought up to try to explain the phenomenon.

A hypothesis is basically a guess, hopefully backed by experience or at least common sense and whatever evidence is available and observed. The next steps in the process include looking for more evidence and experimentation. As more evidence piles up and as results come in from conducting experiments, a hypothesis should either move toward being considered theory, or be discarded. If it explains part of the event, but not all, but still appears useful, then it should be refined to include the new information.

Therefore, a theory is a hypothesis that has been tested, but not yet proven. It’s a step in a process and it’s not the final one. The final one involves proof.

This is where a lot of people get in trouble. They are so attached to a theory they forget that it’s only a possibility or probability and not yet proven fact. Too often, instead of being willing to either refine or discard a theory, people start ignoring facts that don’t fit within it. This is a bad idea. Most of us do it, at least occasionally, but just because it’s normal, doesn’t make it healthy or right.

As I said, I’m dredging up this information about hypothesis and theory from my long ago physical science class. However, it’s adaptable to most things. There are exceptions. Much of philosophy is an exception and so are most religious beliefs. There is a reason that one speaks of beliefs when talking about religion. If something is provable, it becomes a known element. Of course, that doesn’t always mean people will quit believing what they already do. Many people don’t like change very much.

Dysfunctional people often like change even less than the rest of the world. It is, in my opinion, one of the more significant pointers to how dysfunctional someone might be. An inflexibility of mind, the unwillingness to entertain anything that does not fall within one’s own personal limits, tends to suggest to me that a person has something they are unwilling or unable to look at within. The more areas of inflexibility there are, the more likely it is that some kind, or kinds, of trauma has been suffered.

I’ve come to a — hopefully tentative — conclusion (theory), which I think accounts for much of the trouble victims of childhood abuse suffer. I believe that trauma freezes a part of the child and that this part never gets any older, never grows beyond the traumatic experience. At least not until or unless he or she is able to face it, accept that it happened and then truly begin to heal.

This freezing combined with the fact that children have so few options to begin with and precious little experience, tends to enforce a rigidity of thinking, an inability to be flexible when confronted with something different. If the part of one that has been traumatized does freeze at this childhood level, it makes sense that the adult will continue to have problems long after the abuse or neglect has ended. The child they were had few options; the child-part that is frozen has equally few options and often limits the adult they are now.

I’m not claiming that I’m the first one to think of this. I’ve read various bits and pieces of stuff that indicate that I’m not alone in this belief. It makes sense to me, because it is what I seem to be observing within myself as I search for inner health.

What does this have to do with my scenario this morning? In many ways, daydreaming is similar to dreaming. There is generally a fair amount of symbolism, although daydreams tend to be more structured than the dreams that occur while sleeping. However, I’ve learned (from experience) that if I have a problem with someone, even in a dream or daydream, because they have done, or have not done, something, then it’s time for me to take a look at my own behavior.

Ouch! It is my opinion that the TV character of this vice principle is inflexible, lacking in humor and extremely unforgiving. The daydream seems likely to be accurate in portraying him as rejecting at least some types of evidence that do not support a hypothesis or theory of his. My problem here is that my non-conscious mind is almost certainly trying to make a point about my behavior on something. The fact that it’s the conversation that caught my attention, not the specific example, quite likely means that it’s an overall pattern that is causing me trouble — not an isolated event. The fact that the scenario takes place within a school setting probably says I’m having problems with learning something new, or possibly trying to unlearn and then relearn something different from what I thought I knew.

There is the possibility that it’s someone close to me who is exhibiting this behavior, but experience tells me that the daydream would probably have been staged differently. It is also possible that I’m working on a big picture issue, where I have bought into some idea, because “everybody thinks so.”

What does this mean? My experience tells me that it means I have some sort of realization about to pop up. Apparently, I have not noticed that I’m trying to fit facts or evidence of some kind into a hypothesis, theory or belief to which I am attached. It means, that whether it’s a personal hypothesis or some idea the whole world has latched onto, my non-conscious mind (probably the part which I asked, “Pretty Please look for discrepancies and let me know when you find them”) has found something that doesn’t match something else within my head. Paradox!

I don’t know what yet. As I said before, my best guess is that it’s a pattern, not a specific incident, because of what I remember about the daydream. Also, some night dreams point in the same direction, and some of the other realizations I have been experiencing recently do the same.

Could it be something totally different? Of course! I won’t know for sure, until the realization works its way to the surface and presents itself with a “Ta da!” Everything so far is a teaser, foreshadowing the main event to come. That there’s so much foreshadowing lets me know that it’s probably something major, not something little or unimportant.

Most of this article is hypothesis — or perhaps theory. It’s been tested quite a bit over the past few years and definitely been refined as I become healthier. The knowledge of whether this particular hypothesis or theory is correct will take its own sweet time unfolding. As with most things, I will probably understand it just as soon as I am ready and not one second sooner.