We wake up again and again to pictures and videos of cars on fire and clouds of tear gas. However, there are also stories of people coming together and peaceful protests. We picture an alcoholic as a man sitting on the street with a paper bag. We, as a country, are feeling feelings of anger and frustration. Negative feelings towards all sorts of situations only hold us back from understanding. Negative feelings will lead to negative thoughts and actions.
Biases usually have a negative connotation. They are a disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair. They can begin from a very early age by following the beliefs of our parents or guardians. As we grow, biases can be morphed by a group you are a part of, your beliefs, by religion, and more. We as humans make split second judgements everyday all day. This is a subconscious thing. Biases can be innate or learned. Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that have an affect on our understandings, actions, thoughts, and decisions unconsciously. These biases reside deep in our subconscious. They can have positive or negative effects on how we act or think.
There are different types of bias that at any age may sway the way we feel or may sway our beliefs. This applies to everything in life. It applies to how we feel about people we see- even if it is for a brief moment as we walk by them. It can even apply to a type of clothing that you would never wear because of the way you think people will receive you. If we tried to think from someone else’s perspective those judgements we make about ourselves will change.
How Biases can be Counteractive
The problem with bias is that we may miss opportunities to learn new things about people, being compassionate, or how to properly help our communities. People may develop biases for or against an individual, a group, or a belief. There are known biases that people may choose to conceal to avoid confrontations or are used to spread an idea or belief that can be detrimental to progress. In terms of addiction, there are some ideas that being an addict or an alcoholic is a choice. They can stop any time they want to. This idea is very far from the truth.
The truth is that addiction takes control of an addict’s life. The crime, lies, and hurt that come along with an addiction are just symptoms that an addict’s or alcoholic’s life is out of control and at risk. A part of being in active addiction is ignoring possible negative consequences to get that next fix or drink. Being an addict or alcoholic, in most cases, bad things that happen are not personal. They are only a means to an end.
Being honest with yourself about what thoughts are provoked when situations present themselves is a part of being aware of your own biases. Those split second judgements will happen. Progress is made when we take a moment to step back and look at these situations. We need to try to see them from other perspectives. Biases will always be a part of being human. What makes us better as people is when we do not act on that first initial thought and consider other perspectives.
For example, an addict or alcoholic was not born that way. Seeing an addict or alcoholic is seeing someone that is suffering. Seeing a homeless man is seeing someone that is suffering. Sometimes, we just do not understand that we are seeing suffering. Being aware of your own biases is understanding that you do have them. We all have them. Being honest with yourself is understanding that that first initial thought may not always be right.
We all need to step back and think about where our thoughts, behaviors, and actions are coming from. Anyone who is close to someone that is suffering, please try to understand where that suffering is coming from. Unfortunately, there is suffering all across this country. We can make changes. They begin with individual change. If we all tried to understand and change even a little bit, it would make us better people.
It begins with asking questions about things or situations that we do not understand. Do research. Ask those hard questions. Begin to help yourself to understand. If you or anyone you know is suffering- try to help them. For anyone suffering from any kind of addiction- reach out. There is help out there. There is help out there for anyone that needs it.