Beware of the Hazardous “I know things” Phase

Most of us interested in meditation and the world of the mind will spend a huge amount (if not a majority) of our time in an awkward middle phase.

This awkward middle phase lies somewhere between the beginner and the expert, and comes with one particularly insidious trap:

knowledge graph

As beginners it’s easy to admit to ourselves that we know nothing.

But as we advance our ego steps in – we’ve been doing this for a while… two weeks, two months, two years, two decades, two centuries (hey Yoda). So, hey, we feel like we know some things.

But are you really in the Expert phase (even if you just know something specific), or are you actually in the Hazard phase?

While the graph above isn’t exactly a scientific endeavor, it matches up with the psychology in this area. A phenomena known as the the Dunning-Kruger effect provides evidence for a common intuition: that people with partial information do a bad job at evaluating just how partial their knowledge really is. In other words, the less you know, the less apt you are at recognizing how little you know. And as you know more, your ability to fully understand your own ignorance grows. Or, in the psychologist’s language, the unskilled lack the ability to “to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately.”

In meditation circles, everybody thinks they know how it is. On Facebook, on Reddit, on Youtube, in person. “Conscious experience? I know something about that.”

And as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and writing about this stuff, I get it. I fall into this trap on a regular basis.

I’ve revisited beginner techniques that I thought I’ve mastered, and have been truly humbled by the realization of how much power my ego had over my sense of “what I know.” I don’t want to be at the same place “on the path” in ten years because I was wrong about something I thought I knew.

So, do you know things?

Or do you “know nothing?”

If so, you’re in good company, standing right alongside Jon Snow and I. Come on in. Our minds our open, and we’re ready to learn.


5 thoughts on “Beware of the Hazardous “I know things” Phase

  1. This is so true. Says a recovering know it all. But since I know about my know it all bias, I can totally say that I don’t know what I don’t know, and so I know nothing. Here, I’m joining the club, brother on the wall :).

  2. Taylor

    First happy new year ..
    I just came across your web sight and I found the article on the Kruger affect very interesting.

    1. Thanks Craig. In other posts* I’ve attempted to express how I felt about the Kruger effect subjectively. How it feels to be lost, and then “wake up” and realize your ignorance.

      Because we are so cocksure one moment, and humbled the next. It’s quite a thing.

  3. Just because you have a fire extinguisher doesn’t mean you know how to use it. For example, if you spray the extinguisher directly into a pan of flaming grease, flaming spittle can go everywhere.

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