A desire to be understood can create a false continuum with some individuals. It happens this way: a person is so impressed with how someone understands them that they accept their solution for their problem without reservation.
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It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when you are desperate for answers. Here are three common iterations of what I mean by the false continuum.
- I read this book that explained our marriage just like I wrote it.
- I listened to this podcast from a guy who unpacked me like no one else.
- As the counselor was talking, I thought he must live with us. He understood me so well.
Maybe a wife read a book on narcissism, and it was like reading a biography about her husband. Perhaps a book was written in such a way that it drew the reader into the story because of the strong parallels to her marriage. When this happens, there is a temptation to fall for the false continuum.
If the person understands me and my problem, whatever solutions they provide must be accurate too. If they can be so right about what they see and say about my situation, it stands to reason they are right about what I need to do.
This perspective can be a dangerous miscalculation for the individual who feels lost and wants to be understood by someone. Anyone. What they are not factoring is how easy it is to describe people and their problems. The skill of observing and writing about people and issues is not that difficult.
False Continuum Illustrated
This possibility is one of the biggest traps of the DSM-V. The writers of the DSM frequently and correctly describe problems. They do this by observing what a person is doing. They watch the person and write down what they are seeing.
From their observations, they give the person a label, typically a disorder, which is a made-up name for specific criteria that meet defined expectations. If a person is struggling within those parameters, they may read the DSM description and see themselves in a mirror. They are easily persuaded by what they learned and jump to the DSM’s solution without reservations.
For example, I can describe a husband as angry, selfish, and stubborn. The wife hears my description and says, “Wow, that describes my husband perfectly. He is angry, selfish, and stubborn. You understand. Finally!! Amazing.”
Then I say he has “A.S.S. Disorder” (angry, selfish, stubborn) and needs such and such medication. She buys her husband some “A.S.S. meds.” Why does she accept the false continuum? Because I described his behavior correctly, and nobody will challenge or discredit me from prescribing a solution regardless of how contrary that solution may be to the Bible.
This situation happens in the Christian world too. A person who is so desperate to be understood by someone reads a book that describes what she is experiencing. Their desire to be known is more significant than any suspicions about a wrong solution. It’s logical: “They know me; therefore, I will buy whatever they are selling.”
Call to Action
If you have gone through a particularly hard time or if you’ve been fighting a long and lonely battle, you could be tempted to fall for the false continuum. Here are five things I’d like you to consider before you jump from appreciating how someone understands you to accepting whatever solution they offer.
Fundamental Idea – Being understood does not always mean the answer presented is the best path for you.
- Does the Bible support the solution offered? Are you able to filter the solution through the grid of Scripture to know if it is a right course of action for you?
- Do other people affirm the solution? It would be wise and humble to seek the opinion of other trusted, Christian sources?
- Is your conscience in harmony with what they are telling you to do? Is your “inner voice” setting off any alarms?
- How does personal desperation or urgency factor into you accepting the solution?
- Sometimes being understood can be so strong, the battle has been so long, and you’re so lonely in the fight that biblical discernment takes a back seat. How do you know you’re guarding your heart against the false continuum?
Also published on Medium.