Yesterday, I performed a complex operation known as a “narrative correction”. It involves three steps. First, the recognition of a false or faulty narrative in the mind. Second, the scourging of said faulty narrative. Third, its replacement. This may seem analogous to “updating your priors”, which is the incorporation of new data from an experiment, but it isn’t. An example of “updating your priors” would be thinking that Jack is an unbearable bore, spending the weekend with him and discovering that he’s actually quite interesting, and modifying your perception of him from “Zzzzz” to “acceptable companion for short- to medium-distance travel”. As you can see updating priors is a small-scale, domain dependent activity. Like stitching up a minor cut. Narrative correction can also be small-scale, but its effects extend far beyond the domain in which the correction takes place. For example, the narrative correction I undertook is as follows:
Primary Narrative - My early twenties were the turning point, the period in my life during which I learnt about, absorbed and chose to pursue the ideas and ideals of self-improvement and mastery.
Outlying Episode That Doesn’t Correlate With My Primary Narrative - As a young boy who loved football, looking up solo practice drills on the internet and then spending hours in my parent’s garden, alone, kicking a ball against a wall.
Alternative Narrative - Preference for solitary practice was latent within me and exaggerated—not created by—the learning experiences of my early twenties.
You see, a narrative correction is no small thing. In the space of one recollection, I went from believing that my trajectory was altered due to a decision made freely by me to questioning the amount of credit I give myself for choices made at all significant crossroads in my life. That one outlying episode of a boy kicking a ball against a wall so that he can be better at kicking a ball on a playing field could be the episode that sparks the invalidation of multiple fundamental beliefs about my life and human nature.