Confirmation Bias

There is something called confirmation bias. That’s what Google is great for! You can word your search so that you get all kinds of advice that makes you feel supported, right, spot-on. I received notice that I had been exposed to COVID at a recent wellness event. I assumed my source was one of our nurse colleagues who was ill and sent home. I’m in that situation quite often, without notice, since I work in the COVID outreach unit of our local public health department. Fully vaccinated, I have avoided getting the virus. However, a few nights after the exposure, I woke to intense chills and a very unhappy intestine. The coincidence was stunning! At 4:00 a.m., I was on Google looking up chills and stomach distress; the results included anxiety, IBS, a stomach virus—and COVID. It had finally got me!

Convinced I had the virus, I took endless at-home tests, each one with negative results. I stayed home for days, waiting for the next round of symptoms. I went back online to discover (according to one source on Google) that more symptoms could take a few days to manifest. I waited, took more at-home tests, and finally went to get a PCR test. PCR means polymerase chain reaction. The test detects the presence of a virus if you have it at the time of the test. The test can also detect fragments of the virus, even after you are no longer infected. Negative.

While Goggle provided me the evidence to convince myself I had the COVID virus, it also gave me just the ammunition I needed to reduce my anxiety and especially my guilt over an ongoing family drama.

Reassuring words like, “We are all flawed. We should have that at the forefront of our minds when deciding whom to keep in or out of our lives—and how to respond to those who no longer want us in theirs.” And “You can make choices that are right for you, regardless of other people’s opinions (especially other people who have no idea what you’re going through). Giving up on someone doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad person. In many cases, it’s the only rational thing to do.”

I especially like what Tina Gilbertson, a psychotherapist who specializes in family estrangement quoted on Google, said about this. She said, “When your child gave up connection, he willingly gave up everything connection entails, including mutual celebrations like birthdays and Christmas. It is not up to you to protect him from his decision to cut you off.” (emphasis mine)

I blithely ignored Google responses about forgiveness, reconnection, and other actions that only create more guilt and anxiety, and I only read those that confirmed my decision to move on and leave the drama behind.

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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