Even if something isn’t proven by science, it may be true in the common experience and/or practically useful.
A few years ago I participated in a 50-hour advanced yoga teacher training on energy and the subtle body, led by my yoga teacher Justin Ritchie.
The workshop was focused on the spirituality and science behind the psychosomatic experience — aka the body/mind connection.
I have worked with a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine for years, and have also received benefits from other energetic and “alternative” remedies in the past, so I had some familiarity with these topics.
The experience deepened my understanding of how our bodies speak to us, and how we can read other people’s emotional histories based on their body language and posture.
A New Mental Model for Evaluating Information
One of the best tools I received in that workshop was a new mental model, or frame, that I’ve applied beyond the yoga mat and mind/body experience.
This is a great one to have in your tool box when you evaluate the messages thrown at you by various experts.
Truth vs Common vs Useful
There is a distinction between what is objectively true, subjectively common, and practically useful.
Objective truths are proven by science. They are true regardless of whether you believe in them.
Gravity is objectively true. You don’t have to believe in gravity to be subject to its effects.
Much of what we accept as truth is not objective truth, but rather subjectively common. “Proven methods” that work for most people, most of the time, are subjectively common. Chicken soup as a remedy is subjectively common.
Things that are subjectively common may not be objectively true, but they feel true in our experience.
The placebo effect is a good example of something that would fall under subjectively common.
Something is practically useful if it has a practical application to our lives. Whether something is practically useful is not dependent on whether it is objectively true.
The ancient yogis, didn’t think of “objective truth.” If something was subjectively common and practically useful, they called that truth.
Just because something is proven by science doesn’t mean it’s practically useful.
And just because it’s not proven by science doesn’t mean that it’s not subjectively common and/or practically useful.
Subjectively common can feel like truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. We often have a filter based on our experience: what has worked for us and people who are like us. This filter doesn’t allow us to see how the thing we believe to be the obvious or universal solution is neither obvious nor universal.
Echo chambers can make us feel like subjectively common things are objectively true.
When you’re considering new information or advice, test it for its practical utility, rather than for how it meets the criteria for objective truth.
Ultimately, what we want is to cultivate tools and approaches that are practically useful.
Try it Out
If you tend to seek proof for advice that others offer to you, try using this framework to process information. Ask yourself whether it’s practically useful, even if it’s not objectively true.
Let me know how it shapes your perception!