I took a few weeks off from writing because I was attending the Pennsylvania Counseling Association's annual conference. It was in Pittsburgh this year, so it was great to be back home for a bit. I always love conferences because it provides the opportunity to interact with like minded professionals, to hear new things going on in the field, and then in this case to connect with old friends. Also, we had the Thanksgiving holiday just last week. So I'm really just getting back to all of this.
I wanted to comment, though, about the loss of one of my heroes, Stan Lee. I grew up reading comic books. One of the things I often share with people is that I basically learned to read through reading comic books. My dad bought me a mixed package of comic books one Christmas, and it provided the springboard that got me into super heroes. Though I've always been willing and interested to check out any good comic book series, my favorite stories surround the Marvel Comics characters. Specifically, Spider-Man has been a personal favorite of mine. I loved the way that these characters seemed to have real lives, interacted with one another in what felt like a living breathing universe, and were based in real world locations. I loved the depth of the characters (both hero and villain) and being able to understand the depth of motivation and decision making that led to each of the characters making the choices and living the lives that they did. They also provided me a great deal of comfort and support when I was dealing with everything we deal with growing up. Particularly bullies. I was picked on quite a bit. I had teachers that would step in, and family that tried to comfort me, I was lucky in those ways. But I could go to my heroes to get a break from all of the negativity that I still had to see. They gave me courage, and an example of doing the right thing even when other people aren't.
All of this was possible because of Stan Lee. He created these characters and spun the universe into existence. He may not have been involved on the day to day projects that I was reading at the time, but I still knew exactly who he was. He was still so active in the development of that universe and being the spokesperson for the company he was heading. I admired him. He was as much of a hero to me as the characters I was experiencing on the page. Over the years, just as much as I would continue to explore the characters, I would follow his projects. I'm proud to say that a handful of years ago I was able to meet him ever so briefly at a Wizard World Comic Con. I got his autograph, and a few minutes to express my appreciation and get a "no thank you" back from him. It was a great experience. I knew over the years that he was aging, and the reality was clear that at some point we'd lose him. But I still looked forward to catching his cameos in all of the Marvel movies. When I'd catch something he happened to write or someone was referencing about him, it would put a smile on my face. But now unfortunately, he's gone.
Stan Lee is one of those people, though, that will live on in all the stories he's created, and through those he's inspired. That was the real magic of Stan Lee's impact. He's left a legacy that, I imagine, will go on for generations. The lessons I've learned from the heroes he created have found their way into my life and my work. I'll always appreciate that and carry that with me. I'll end with a quote from Spider-Man 2 that I always think of when I consider what it is to lead a good life. Rest peacefully Stan. Excelsior!
"I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most.” - Aunt May to Peter Parker, Spider-Man 2 2004 Columbia Studios
- This post written by Dr. Steve Kuniak
I tried to come up with something that I could write focused on my typical interest in geeky and gamer topics. My mind keeps drifting to a mental health theme instead. However, this theme is still present in our geeky world, it's just different in that this is a theme that shows up in everyday life with just as much frequency as it does in our great culture. The concept that I want to focus on for this blog entry is that of Confirmation Biases.
A confirmation bias is a cognitive experience wherein we seek out information, only seem to recall information, or interpret information that backs up our pre-existing belief pattern. This could mean that you only seek out information that backs up your perspective, or it could mean that you interpret ambiguous information as being tied to your perspective. From where I sit, it's a dangerous phenomenon.
First off, I believe that we all struggle with this to some degree. However, I think when people really struggle with confirmation biases, they put themselves in a precarious place. They cause problems because they can lead someone into being overly confident (about something that may not be true) even in the face of contrary information or they can lead to people making poor decisions based on inaccurate information. Of particular concern, to me, is that once someone starts down this path, it becomes more and more difficult to step away. The stakes are constantly increasing as a person becomes more and more polarized in their particular viewpoint.
It's believed that confirmation biases result out of our brains attempts to simplify complicated concepts, or that it may be related to our brains propensity to focus on one topic at a time (so not entertaining alternatives as a result). From a mental health standpoint, this relates to an old explanation of how we get stuck in problematic thinking.
I come from the school of thought that many of the diagnoses that we deal with in counseling are related to behaviors that at one point existed to protect us, but now are getting in the way. So anxiety, or fear of a future that hasn't happened yet, is in some ways protective. It gets us thinking about problems before they've arrived. It's just sometimes these fears become completely crippling, and we become paralyzed in living our life. Or these fears may be based on things that are extremely unlikely to happen, but we get paralyzed nonetheless. Regardless, it has a noble purpose, but it really isn't helping us at all. Confirmation biases do this too. They help us to feel comfortable and safe. They help us to support our belief system, when others are trying to get us to think differently. However, they get in the way and lead us to really negative patterns of behavior. From my perspective, when I assess my own biases, I have to ask myself who else this impacts, and if my perspective is in any way harming anyone else (or at it's highest degree might it have the potential to infringe on someone else). If it does at all, then I need to reevaluate what I'm doing.
Please consider how this relates to things as simple as disagreeing about which console you should purchase and play on, or which Avenger ought to survive the next Infinity War movie. Please also consider more deeply how confirmation biases may be impacting your life and the lives of others on a more global scale. And before I go, if you're saying to yourself, "yeah, this is totally what's wrong with ________," then please turn that mirror back on yourself for a moment and see if you've got a little of your own bias showing too.