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Sometimes, the Why Really Isn't Crucial
Satel, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, explains why patients suffering from drug and alcohol addiction don't need to unravel the psychological roots of their problems before embracing meaningful life changes.
Reconstructing the story of one's life is a complicated business for other reasons. What scientists call hindsight bias kicks in when we try to figure out the causal chain of events leading to the current situation. We may well come up with a tidy story but, inevitably, it will contain large swaths of revisionist history. It's not that we bias ourselves deliberately; it happens because the mind tends to make events in the past appear comprehensible and orderly. We forget the uncertainties that might have beset us as we struggled in real time. Narratives are shaped also by a natural tendency to focus on information that confirms theories we already hold. These theories—for example, that molested children are likely to grow up to have sexual compulsions of their own#151;may be imbibed from the media, self-help books or therapists.
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