Anosognosia: A Nose For Success

Another one of society’s ills today. We urghhlings reward those who portray themselves with confidence. Especially those who know how to package themselves well, well groomed, smartly attired, flaunt with their high street wares, taunt us to follow in their success. Those who trumpet their big success in big business without showing their tax returns can even win the highest office in the land. We frown upon the self doubters, the “slower” ones who ponder and think twice, we call them procrastinators. We deprive them of their rightful opportunities because they lack assertiveness, leadership, confidence. But what if maybe, just maybe, what they lack is Anosognosia? Anosognosia , which comes from the Greek word for disease (nosos) and knowledge (gnosis) means “to not know a disease.”

A sister told me about the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess they possess abilities that they do not have. They have an illusory superiority, the inability to recognise they lack the ability. Our wisest forefathers cautioned us about this illusory superiority, it may be useful to remind ourselves. Confucius may have been the first, he said “real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance”. Plato’s account of what Socrates said ” I know that I know nothing”. From Shakespeare we are reminded that the fool thinks he is wise but the wise knows himself to be a fool. Charles Darwin chipped in much later, in the 19th century, ignorance often begets confidence, more so than knowledge. Yeats said the best lack all conviction but the worst are full of zest.

Anosognosia is the result of physiological damage to the brain, a neurological disorder. So, we have the Alzheimer’s patient who doesn’t know they have memory loss. Or the sufferer of speech disorder who exhibits anger at those who cannot understand what was said. There’s also the bank robber who painted his face with lemon juice, believing that the effect will be like invisible ink and his face will be invisible to all. Why do more and more fail to recognise their own incompetence? A 2003 study concludes that much incorrect self assessments of competence resulted from the ignorance of what competence is. Maybe it’s the education system we have today, the idea that we ought to encourage our school kids about self worth, self confidence, the emphasis about our rights and entitlements. The false praise we heap on them for mediocrity. We are told it’s the effort that matters, to strive for our personal best. But we forget to teach them that our PB is usually not the best. Is self confidence any good if it’s false confidence?

I suspect I am also an Anosognosia sufferer, at home, I’m often accused of behaving like a child. Urghhling.

Teaching Murray to do my work… that’s Anosognosia.

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