Enemies of Truth
William Cottringer, Ph.D.

Truth is like the beauty of a great sculpture—all that is left when you can’t take away, add, or change anything more. ~Anonymous.

At times there seem to be more enemies of truth than friends. If you are a real truth seeker, here are a few truth “enemies” of which to be more watchful:

1. The Brain.

Now here is a real disappointment to truth seekers. The brain is not really hard-wired for the truth. The main function of the brain is to experience rewards and avoid harm. In this sense, the brain’s main goal is peace of mind so to speak, or homeostasis without unresolved conflict or turmoil. And since conflict is difficult to avoid, solutions often become the better of two lesser truths. So, it becomes ironic that we have to learn how to out-think our brains in order to find the real truth.

2. Hubris.

The more effort we put into learning information, knowledge, and wisdom, the stronger we feel we are correct in what we think we know to be true. An important realization here is that our sense of self being something separate from everything else, fails to give credit to other sources that gave us what we know. And the trouble with this personal pride is that it becomes overly protective of the knowledge ownership rights and virtually impervious to being corrected with the real truth.

3. Popular Facts.

The most unpopular “fact” is an inconvenient truth that remains so, at least until it becomes more popular in mainstream thinking. But that usually happens with adding, taking away, or changing some aspects of the above quote about truth being similar to the beauty of a great sculpture. The other trouble with facts is that feelings always outweigh them, and this contributes to the miscommunication problem below.

4. A Yin Becoming Better than a Yang.

Dualistic Yin and yang polar opposites existed before the ability of self-consciousness came about. This first level of dualism is an absolute truth, which we made artificially relative by adding a second layer of dualistic judgement into qualities such as good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, useful vs. useless, and so on. So, this second level of dualism is where many truth enemies reside. Containing the judgment habit is admittedly one of our hardest challenges facing us, but one that reaps the most rewards, which will please the brain.

5. Unquestioned Assumptions.

Although it seems impractical to not make some starting assumptions, especially with complex things where time may be a factor, but when these assumptions go unchallenged for too long, they can stall progress in finding the real truth of something, when we may need it most. The paradox here to figure a way around, is that sometimes assumptions have to be made which can’t be verified with rational thinking or discourse. These often involve spiritual or moral matters that are emotionally laden.

6. The Space Between a Biased Belief and a Compelling Conviction.

Many beliefs are just personal opinions that have never been fact checked. And the stronger and longer we feel that our beliefs are true and correct, the harder we fight for them being true with our behavior, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. Wars are often fought from a position of a biased belief. On the other hand, it is the fewer compelling convictions that are worth dying for. Knowing the difference is maturity.

7. Apathy.

Indifference to the truth of information, may not be so bad. Given the extent of misinformation overload today, apathy is easy to understand. But when the apathy spills over to the truth of knowledge and wisdom of important principles of dealing with conflicts in life, it quickly becomes and enemy of the real truth. Sometimes you must decide to stay or jump the fence, when riding it won’t do anything for you.

8. The Whole Truth Cut in Half.

Sometimes half-truths seem to be enough to satisfy the brain, but missing half of anything is always a big mistake. The whole truth often presents the challenging problem of reconciling two half-truths, especially when they are seemingly contradictory. Just image the amount of time and effort that went into creating a bigger picture of how the universe operates, such as combining the realities of general relativity and quantum physics, or how better mental health is achieved, with joining behavior therapy and cognitive therapy.

9. Hidden Cognitive Biases.

One big bias that hides much of the truth is the time illusion giving us a sense of sequential movement from the future to the present to the past. This alluring sense of movement creates a false belief that any situation we are now in has an actual beginning, middle and ending part to it, which is only imagined. The main point here is that our many cognitive biases hide the truth, while becoming more aware of their influences can lessen the contamination of those influences.

10. Lazy Thinking.

Lazy thinking can be best described as not being aware of all these truth enemies. Lazy thinking stops at concentrating on noisy symptoms in problem-solving, instead of digging further below the surface to discover the real core problem underneath, usually hidden like the bottom part of an iceberg. Of course, time constraints get in the way in limiting the needed efforts to dive underwater to see the whole picture when we can’t see it without getting wet.

11. Undoubted Certainties.

Undoubted certainties are much like unquestioned assumptions and the stronger the feeling supporting the certainty, the more resistive it becomes to acknowledging the real truth. Since perceived certainty pleases the brain, our lazy thinking often gets lazier in being satisfied enough that we have captured the truth. Afterall, enough is enough. No need to go further to prove the possibility of uncertainty. That tends to make the brain very uncomfortable.

12. Unfounded Fears.

Long ago, Thomas Jefferson predicted the main obstacle to democracy being a primary difference in peoples’ world view. This is the division that permeates all the fierce arguments we have today between the positive, hopeful, trusting optimistic half vs. the negative, fearful, untrusting, and pessimistic other half. Both views are needed to give our lives a sense of living, but there are plenty of real fears to go around without inventing false ones. The same is true for negativity, lack of trust and cynicism. Already enough.

13. Lost Common Sense.

Mark Twain had a definition of common sense that is hard to beat. Here is his version: “Common sense is the simple knack of seeing something as it is and doing something the way it should be done.” Sadly, this type of common sense is not so common anymore and mostly lost today. This is because we are trying to thrive before we learn to master surviving, which will always require a healthy store of good old common sense about how life and people really work, without our imagination, beliefs, assumptions, or feelings getting in the way of the view.

14. Tunnel Vision.

Since the brain doesn’t strive to learn new, unfamiliar truths, we just look for things that compliment and fit in comfortably with what we already know. That information processing just expands our present perspective and doesn’t include valuable truths from others’ perspectives that are different from ours. This is the main utility of the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) movement—to consider a variety of valuable perspectives containing the smaller truth pieces that can fit together to see a larger truth that benefits the whole team of individuals.

15. Poor Communication.

The problem with trying to communicate the truth, is that all these enemies work together to distort the truth, which just gets miscommunicated and misunderstood further. The only way to stop any unproductive behavior starts when we notice when we are engaging in such behavior. That becomes the solution in motion. Another good solution is to create a supportive tone of communication by conveying qualities of equality, acceptance, empathy, freedom, and tentativeness. Of course, good listening is the best way to improve communication.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, but still teaches criminal justice classes and practices business success coaching and sport psychology. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Because Organization, an intervention program in human trafficking, the King County Sheriff’s Community Advisory Board, and involved with volunteer work in several veteran’s groups and the horse therapy program at NWNHC Family Fund. Bill is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Critical Thinking (Authorsden); Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale, and Christian Psychology (Covenant Books, Inc.). Coming soon: Reality Repair Rx + and Dog Logic. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net.