Convenience versus Accuracy
Our minds seek generalizations and totalities.
I think they are easier to conceptualize, and they are convenient when creating rules to stay alive and safe from harm. They are not always accurate though.
It’s odd how many friendships and relationships I now see negatively because they ended poorly. I can watch as my mind digs into the whole of the relationship and mines for evidence that the bad ending was always obvious, that it was always in there waiting to happen, that the person was always shady. It might even be one incident, one misstep that ended it all, yet the whole thing is corrupted.
A Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch
But does it really?
I had this one job for a few years, and in the balance, it was a really good place to work.
I was given space to be creative, to try new things, to work with people as I saw fit. It had good hours and good people and things were worthwhile and nice and productive. This place genuinely cared about the customers, and I saw many instances where people went well out of the way to help others. Good stuff, right?
But, when things went sideways, they went sideways really hard. I kind of saw it coming, but by the time things were bad, they were really bad. It was gut-wrenching and sucked and I felt betrayed and it all ended with me leaving, voluntarily and on good terms with most people involved. I am still connected, personally and professionally, with many people from this job.
The weird part is that my mind goes back and tries to paint the entire time there as bad.
It wants me to resent everything and everyone and all the years I spent there. It forgets all the really good stuff, even though it outweighs the bad pretty significantly.
Maybe the bad was 15%. Does that really spoil the whole bunch?
There seems to be a self-protective element to this kind of thinking. It’s not as important that we remember the good, because the good won’t ever hurt us or threaten our survival. But we aren’t living some hard-scrabble life of bare survival. We live in a complex cultural environment where many things are shades of gray, and staying alive is rarely our primary concern. It’s important that we are able to step back and separate out the good and the bad and the neutral.
We probably can’t completely fix our mind’s tendency to focus on the bad, and we might not want to. Remembering harm is important to survival.
We can be intentional in our memory and perception of things though. We can choose to remember that things are never one thing, and we can give the good parts some time and energy.
I’ve never met an all-bad person or seen an all-bad situation. I am not sure they exist.
I don’t see why the way something ends necessarily has to mean that the whole situation sucked from the get go. It’s not necessary that the outcome retroactively spoils everything that came before it.
One bad apple doesn;t have to spoil anything. Just set it aside.
Are you globalizing a person or situation based on a small percentage of the whole?
How does it look without this small percentage?
Does one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch?