Therapeutic Thursday: CBT the Evens

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1!

Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.

The Empire Strikes Back

When I was a kid, utterly entranced by everything Star Wars and spending my Christmas holidays watching all three movies every single day, I used to always yell at the TV, “tell him the evens!”, then proceed to find myself utterly hilarious and dissolve into laughter. Every time. No one ever claimed I was a normal child.


IMG_5014[1]I was walking home today, thinking about a conversation I’d had earlier in the day. About the power of thoughts, and the events that happen in our lives, and how the two are related. You know, normal psychology stuff. For some reason, this quote popped into my head, and I grinned as I remembered thinking about “the evens”. After all, it’s not really about the odds, is it?

Getting a job after my MBA is quickly shaping up to be a matter of evens. It’s not about expected salary or job placement rates. It’s very He’s Just Not That Into You, but isn’t it always about being the exception? We all think we’re the exception anyway, maybe because it’s quite common. So it’s not about knowing the odds, or caring about them. It’s about knowing the evens, or everything that’s not the odds: the random, chaotic, chance, freak, lucky events that happen.

The people we meet and the places we go are not designed on a set of probabilities, rather the opposite. That’s why there are no “Laws of Human Behavior”. Human Behavior is the direct result of Human Thought, even when we warp our behaviors in response to our thoughts (this ties into the conversation I’d been having earlier regarding a deeply sinister form of self-fulfilling prophecy wherein people accuse others of behaviors so much that the other people just end up doing the accused behaviors simply to resolve cognitive dissonance, and hell, why not, if you’re getting blamed for it anyway? But maybe that’s a topic for another day…).

We certainly haven’t been able to come up with any laws for human thoughts. We know that people generally respond to simple Classical or Operant Conditioning situations. You can induce certain responses by pairing it with items, or reinforcing and punishing given behaviors. But beyond that, the idea of creating scenarios wherein we can successfully predict how a person will react is entirely about evens. A good example might be the death of a spouse, when the subject in question is a 52 year, 7 month old Caucasian male born in the U.S. working a middle class job in banking. Certainly we could get a sample of men who fit these criteria, but I can guarantee that if these men lost their spouses, we could with no scientific basis predict their responses in the weeks and months to follow.

We’re fucking flying in asteroid fields when it comes to human emotions and behaviors, really.

It can be disheartening. The optimistic pessimist I am, I definitely feel the pull to say it’s all luck, so let’s accept that it’s probably going to suck in the end anyway. (The reality is that being the evolutionary-based, survival-focused creatures we are, we have a guarantee of suckage at the end because the end is death. Again, I’m getting derailed.) At the same time though, it’s kind of exciting. If getting a job is a matter of knowing the right people at the right time, it’s an I-Spy to try and see how that will happen. If every friend I’ve chosen to surround myself with, though we seem to be fluctuating in our lives together right now, is there simply as a matter of an infinite number of decisions made by myself and by others stretching back through a conscious/unconscious/pre-conscious quagmire of 40,000 years of human civilization, well, fuck, that’s actually pretty cool, because these people are pretty amazing. The decision to be in London, here, now, as I am, is an intraceable labyrinth of cognitive and behavioral stuff, none of which we can predict.

It’s all fucking evens. Good thing my favorite number is six.

(Slide.)

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