Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Retrospective Falsification

This is an amazingly common psychological process.  My favourite example is arguing couples who say "I never loved you", or "I never loved him or her".  They can be anywhere from 1 to 30 years married when they say this and they can have children homes and cars and complete lives built around the marriage.  They will have taken vows and made formal committments yet here will one or the other or both be making this statement without any consideration that they sound and probably are as psychotic as the person who says "The CIA are speaking to me from a micro chip they put in my tooth."
Retrospective falsification is often as in this case coupled with 'emotional reasoning'.  The fallacy here is that "I don't love him now so I must never have loved him".  The notion here is that the person has a capacity for love today and that since this person isn't 'loveable' now then they must not have loved them.  Further the idea is that love is some kind of romance novel magic that gets permanently bestowed on a knight or princess and if that person doesn't remain loveable then it wasn't 'love' originally however the grandiosity and arrogance of the person who makes such statements is that they 'today' have the capacity to know 'true love'.  The fact is that love is what love does and that relationships that last, beget children, result in people staying together through crisis, building houses together, etc is as much love as love is.  A person may grow and realize that what they liked a decade or more ago is different from what they liked now. A woman who was a sociopath might well have loved as sociopath at the time, the love of two sociopaths (minimalist at best) being the best she was capable of given her limitted capacity herself.  Years later when she has grown as a human being she may realize that she no longer needs to be a sociopath, having developped spirituality and gained the capacity for care and generosity for others.  She then may experience a greater slice of the big world of love and say that what she had before wasn't what she has now.  She has matured in her capacity for love and her taste has become refined as say one's taste for music or food.  I 'loved' fast food as a teen ager but today while I still 'like' fast food" I love a well made salad or venison liver pate. I hated liver as a child though.
Retrospective falsification is the 'rewriting' of one's personal history especially in a 'politically correct' way. The communists were masters of rewriting history. When Trotsky was 'in' his picture was everywhere but when he was 'out' the Communists actually air brushed him out of group photos.  This is 'retrospective falsification'.  It's a sneaky form of lying to maintain the appearance of infallibility.  In this case the 'state doesn't make mistakes' whereas on a personal level its usually "I don't make mistates". To maintain one lie another lie is used.  In the case of retrospective falsification an person might have once been a friend of Clifford Olsen.  However when it turned out Clifford Olsen was secretly killing women the memory of the relationship might change to "I was his acquaintance but never liked him."  Certainly Peter's denial of knowing Jesus in the Bible is a classic example of retrospective falsification.  He only realized his 'lie' when the 'cock crowed' and he realized Jesus had 'prophesized' his memory lapse and denial.
Retrospective falsification is changing the past based on new information in the present.  It's been recognised that people are 'lying' routinely on a daily basis and many times a day in many ways not necessarily black hearted lies, but what are considered 'white lies' or just good manners.  One classic example is 'How are you?"  "Fine", the person replies, not because they are, but because they don't want to discuss being fired with the office gossip.  Retrospective falsification is often just a means whereby a person defends the ego and maintains the illusion of their being good decision makers rather than recognising that people commonly err and that we can learn by our mistakes.

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