Occasionally, just when things seem to be going swimmingly, life throws us a curve ball. A curve ball in the unsuspecting form of information. Unwanted information.
Have you ever had the experience of finding something out that you sort of wish you hadn’t? Information about someone or something that changes the way you look at that person, or at life as a whole?
There are times when we actively seek out information, on a hunch, suspecting some degree of what we find, but still shocked to the core to discover it. It reminds me of something that happened once when I was a little kid. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth with the door open when I saw my older cousin tiptoeing along. I spotted him in the mirror and, not having factored that in, he continued on his way to scare me.
As he approached the door, all the while not knowing I was watching his every move, he yelled, “BOO!!!”. And I’ll be darned. I jumped a little in fright. Even though I saw it coming, I still managed to get a shock.
Sometimes that is the way with information too. We suspect it, we see it coming… And we are shocked by it. It still hits us like a Mack truck. Sometimes, we don’t want to know it. Sometimes it was easier when it didn’t exist. Sometimes we can delude ourselves into thinking it doesn’t exist.
Other times, information trickles its way into our consciousness until it is no longer new information but incorporated fact. We can’t even remember how it got there or how long it’s been there, but it still gives us an uncomfortable feeling. We know it to be true, and we wish it wasn’t. Sometimes we are grateful for the knowledge, and other times we curse it and long for the blissfulness of ignorance.
I liken this scenario to my discovery that refined sugar is “bad for you”. We all know that, right? Do we? Sometimes I genuinely don’t know.
There was a time when I used to climb up onto the bench when my mum was out, get the sugar bowl down and spoon the white grains into my mouth by the bucket load. I crunched and crunched, the sweet grittiness sending me into a sugar-induced high. Doing all sorts of things to the ol’ neurotransmitters.
I don’t specifically remember finding out that sugar was “bad”. It was a long process of knowledge acquisition and choices that led me to where I am now: An Occasional Denier. I know enough information and have enough skillls, but sometimes I discard it all for a delectable tart or a tantalising gelato. There are alternative treats I can make, but they’re never quite the same without the white death, are they? Just writing this makes my mouth water. I’m that addict. The one preaching on the soap box, more to myself than to others, only to scamper away into the darkness to get my sweet fix when the crowd dissipates.
But this is not a post about sugar. You can see that sugar film for that. No, really. That’s the title. That Sugar Film.
This post is about any and all information that challenges our beliefs, our constructs, the very core of our being.
Often, when difficult information is presented to us, there is a huge battle that ensues within us, with or without our knowledge. This is often known as cognitive dissonance. When we believe something so strongly and it is our truth, anything that goes against it is denied or even outright attacked. It would be too hard to accept a new belief which would in turn mean a new way of thinking, of living, of relating. And so, as creatures of habit, we hold on with vigour to what we believe.
Many times I’ve heard of people who are made aware of their partner cheating, but continue to act as if it hasn’t happened. Worse still, sometimes they shoot the messenger. Not because they’re foolish, but because believing it is simply too difficult to bear and would require decisions and actions that they are currently not able to face.
Sometimes, it takes us a long time, maybe even a lifetime to accept new information, but we get there. We’re complicated things, us humans.
I believe the stages of grief often come with the presentation of difficult information. Denial comes first, then anger, then bargaining, then depression, then acceptance. Sometimes we go back and forth between these stages as we learn to deal with new information and a new way of living and thinking.
The stages of grief don’t just apply to losing a loved one through death, or even losing a loved one at all. They can apply to any loss. The loss of a belief is something that cannot be understated. Changing our beliefs, our construct systems, the core of who we are, sometimes requires a complete upheaval in our life. Sometimes it comes with a loss of friends, or family, or support networks, or all of the above. At the very least it results in a change in the way we think, and therefore a change in our lifestyle.
It’s ok to grieve the innocence and ignorance we once had while we move on to a place of acceptance. It’s ok to be angry. Why do I have to know this? Why do I have to deal with this? But after our pity parties come the hard questions. What does this information mean to me? How does it change the way I think? In which ways am I still the same? In which ways am I now different? How do I need to change my life to incorporate this new information?
Maya Angelou once said something to the effect of “When you know better, you do better”. I would extend on that and say “When you know better, you do better… or you pretend you don’t know”.
Whether dealing with difficult new information or having reached the acceptance stage, the important thing is being thankful for that information and moving forward to becoming beings who are truthful to ourselves.
The truth can hurt, but knowledge is power.