You get on a plane, find an overhead compartment for your luggage, tuck it away and sit down. The people sitting next to you did the same thing. After all the passengers are seated, the flight attendants close the luggage bins hiding your hidden lives from each other.
But sometimes, during your flight, you may actually talk to the person next to you — partially exposing the luggage you carry around. Most often, conversations on planes are careful and polite. Occasionally you’ve feel each other out and find common points of interest to share. But in your luggage, tucked away carefully above your seat, may be big differences between you and that person. Differences neither of us could expect of the other. We don’t hold our luggage in our laps and expose ourselves fully to our neighbors. Or well, most of us don’t.
I imagine most of you have the experience of finding out that a friend believes something you consider irrational, unreasonable, uneducated, delusional or immoral — whether that be in the realms of politics, ethnic biases, cultural values, children raising or ethics. You may have known that person for so time before you find out their odd opinions. This is because many of us tuck away areas of our lives in luggage out of view of others. (see my “Luggage” analogy here)
In my work, I have met many physicians, who I otherwise know as very educated and intelligent, yet who believe in things I consider unreasonable, confused or even irrational. And I wonder how they could possible hold these odd opinions while still being careful, highly rational and objective in their practice of medicine.
Echo-chambers is a primary method. We isolate ourselves from the opinions of others and feed ourselves only with opinions that echo our own. But it is difficult to have a safe echo-chamber when your job takes you out into the greater community and mix with others. For that reason, in my post here, I liken such thinking to water-tight chambers in submarines. In other words, we keep our unique ways of thinking isolated from others and only open them when we feel safe or surrounded by similar believers. I think the luggage analogy helps a bit too. What do you think?
Conclusion: We all have abstractions wherein we package our preferences to guard from both others and ourselves.