Being Aware of This Instinctual Mental Process and How It Can Lead to Improved Relationships

Being conscious of how systems organise themselves and operate can often help us find ways to make them more efficient and effective. This works in the context of physical systems, such as technology, however we seem to forget that this also is applicable to mental processes and our psychology. A significant portion of the stress we endure going through hardship comes from the inability to understand the situation. Talking to others about the problem can help locate the problem, which of course is only half of the solution. The other half consisting of finding strategies to alleviate the problem, however finding the problem can produce great benefits to your mental health, as well as others around you.

Understanding something we unconsciously do on a day-to-day basis, has the ability to alleviate a great deal of cognitive stress we put into attributing our own and others actions to intrinsic and extrinsic forces. Simply put, the idea that people attribute their own negative actions to situational forces, and other peoples’ negative actions to intrinsic characteristics. This is a theory called Fundamental Attribution Error, and is a fundamental part of our psychology mostly used to inhibit loss of self esteem and reduce cognitive dissonance. However there are benefits to this psychological process. It inherently leads to an increase in self-esteem, in that we do not usually attribute our own wrong-doings to a fault of our own. This allows us to maintain our generally good self-perception while looking at others as faulted in the way they make intrinsic decisions, which in turn leads us to think we are above them when it comes to making good decisions. 

However, when reflecting on something wrong you might have done in the past, this might cause problems when it comes to admitting guilt over something you may have done wrong. Our first instinct when in an argument with someone is to either make excuses as to why you did what you did or to blame the other person, which is what he Fundamental Attribution Theory would predict. Others make bad decisions due to intrinsic motives, whereas we make bad decisions based on environmental factors. Being aware of this initial instinct is crucial to having a productive argument with anyone. Both parties cannot be acting as if they are not at fault, it is about admitting guilt and learning to change in the future. This will lead to more productive conversations and better relationships with friends and family.


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