Intelligence, one of the most highly valued aspects of human evolution, but can intelligence itself lead to ignorance and self deception?
When any given society looks to solve a social, technological, economic or health related issue, they look to their best and brightest- the experts. The experts are those who we consider to be at the forefront of knowledge and wisdom, forging the path forward as the pioneers and decision makers. Of course expertise at such a level requires great intellect whether it be specialized or otherwise. Intelligence is indeed considered to be a valuable attribute to have and is highly correlated with a certain degree of success throughout life. One could assume that intelligence has no weakness, no vulnerability and could only be seen as a compliment to the character of any individual. Is this the absolute truth of intelligence, or is there more than meets the eye? Is it be possible that intelligence might actually lead to blind spots within the frame of ones awareness?
It is not intelligence itself, which leads to psychological blind spots, but rather the idea of perceived intelligence. Consider the common pathway of the intellectual, expert or academic. In many cases such an individual would begin life within a supportive family unit. Their parents are possibly professionals and have access to the funds to ensure their child receives a top education. The child moves through private education, which eventually channels them into college or university. They study for many years, then choose to specialize and continue with post grad studies, possibly completing a PHD. They have now become an expert, an academic, a lecturer and paragon of intelligence. These intellectuals can be separated into two groups- Intellectuals with a stable ego and intellectuals with an unstable ego.
The intellectuals with the stable ego understand that they are in fact intelligent people, but this awareness has little impact on the way in which they process information or express themselves throughout their lives. This is not the case with the intellectuals with unstable egos and this is where the intellectual blind spot occurs.
Consider the generalized example used in the earlier paragraph- the life of the developing intellectual. From an early age they are told that they are special. They possibly skipped a year at school or completed higher education at an early age. As they move through the education system the idea that they are special is reinforced over and over again. They attend a private school, which has a good reputation and then move into university where they complete the highest level of study. They are given a title, which automatically places them within a specialized and highly accomplished group of people. Everything they have experienced particularly during their educational development conditions their perception in a manner to which they could only conclude one thing- they are transcendent. The weight of the compounded evidence encourages self indulgent thinking, narcissism and gives rise to the ego.
The Rise of the Ego
As the fully established intellectual, academic and expert ventures out into the world they begin to encounter differences of opinion, conflicting virtues, incompatible ideologies and beliefs which are counter to their own. When this occurs the intellectual with an unstable ego will start to impose this ego onto others. Overtime they develop a self-righteous attitude and approach to discussion and argument, assuming they are correct before a single word is spoken. Their internal dialogue reminds them of their position and status and contrasts that with those who disagree or have a difference of opinion. The unconscious mind of such a person is almost offended that someone with a lesser pedigree would dare challenge their esoteric insight, which is evidenced by numerous academic achievements and milestones. As this indulgent self-perception advances so does the disconnection from reality, emotion and awareness. The intellect and ego start to overshadow and overwhelm the emotional mind, which stifles the potential to build greater awareness and insight. The approach of the intellectual into any discussion is now one of certainty, which suggests an inflexibility of thought and solidification of mind.
Although the emotional mind exists, its primary purpose is not to increase insight or awareness, but instead to defend and protect the developed ego of the intellectual. If the intellectuals wisdom is challenged to the degree of an offense, it will trigger a highly defensive emotional response depending on the manner in which the ego has been developed. In the case of a narcissist, there may not be an emotional response as the ego simply dismisses the opposing force and undermines the value of the opposing party.
Self-perceived and indulgent unconscious or conscious intellectual labeling narrows the view of the individual harboring such a profound opinion of self. The mind becomes closed off which restricts their ability to absorb and accurately integrate new awareness. Emotional intelligence falters and becomes stagnant, as the reliance on doctrine, rigid ideology and inflexible thought is further reinforced. The unstable ego unconsciously applies evidence to justify the intensity of belief and sense of intellectual absolutism held by the academic.
In simple terms a person who believes himself or herself to be more intelligent than anyone of a lower pedigree, shuns opposing opinions due to an unconscious contrasting of intellectual status. In many cases they also believe their intellect to be all encompassing, transcending the boundaries of their highly specialized knowledge into seemingly unrelated areas. Their ego has gotten the better of them and has created blind spots in their thinking.
Although it may seem to be my motivation, the point of this article isn’t to attack intellectuals. In fact, this particular phenomenon is not confined only to intellectuals and academics with unstable egos, it is also relevant to anyone who holds the belief of ultimate knowledge and or ability. It is necessary to understand the line between a healthy self-perception that reinforces our confidence based on a positive opinion of self and an unhealthy and conditioned form of self-deception, which may create blind spots in our awareness. It is also important to understand that, although probability and assumption would suggest that the experts are the most informed and are sufficiently equipped to handle the responsibility of making some of the most influential decisions within any society, the results of the approaches espoused and implemented by such academics are at times catastrophic.
There is more to be said on this particular topic, however it would require several articles to cover this topic sufficiently. The important thing is to draw lessons and awareness from your own mind, as your thoughts naturally emerge upon reflection.
Intelligence informs awareness, but intelligence is not awareness