Stories From Our Youth That We Still Believe

I am fascinated in recent years by the stories I absorbed in my youthful and more formative years. I feel like my 20s were spent figuring out who I was, and my 30s were spent figuring out the world, and I guess here in my 40s I thought it would all be a cake walk, but now I feel like my 40s were about unwinding all the shit I was programmed with before I turned 20. For me, it isn’t just the realization that a significant number of the stories I was exposed with growing up were bullshit, it was also that so much of it is woven in with white male supremacy, and more concerning, what other stories are out there that influence how I see myself and the world.

Learning about the stories I was programmed with while still so young and moldable is fascinating, but it is the quest to find other more deep seated beliefs that I was programmed with in my early is what keeps me up at night. It is easy to explore the surface of this with laughable ones like waiting 30 minutes before I go swimming after eating, or being worried I’d go blind for masturbating, but it is more concerning to think about what else shapes how I see the world that I am completely unaware of. I’d say this is the most disturbing realization I’ve had in my 40s, that so much of my reality is shaped by stories I heard growing up in a predominantly white reality, programmed by movies, television, and the stories I heard from my elders around the dinner table.

The more I learn, the more concerned I get about these realities. There are two existing “effect” theories I learned about in recent years that provide me with a kind of Venn diagram to think about the effect of storytelling on me in my youth, giving me possible strategies for thinking my way through this:

  • Dunning-Kruger Effect - Dunning-Kruger effect, in psychology, a cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers or of people in general.
  • Murray Gelman Amnesia Effect - The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is when experts forget how badly their own subject is treated in media and believe that subjects they don’t know much about are treated more competently by the same media.

What would we call the effect of not just realizing stories that shaped you from your youth aren’t false, but that there are so many of these out there than you haven’t discovered yet, and worse, that they might be racist in their roots, or have some other problematic aspects. This is the primary effect I am looking to understand. Not just how I believed in “old wives tales”, but how the stories I believe are so woven into white male supremacy—including that statement. I am fascinated what a slippery slope this type of programming can be. I can go from silly to disturbing pretty quickly, and opening up some pretty scary closet doors from the 1970s and 1980s.

In the world of APIs we have the notion of domain-driven design, where you define a specific set of bounded contexts and you define the vocabulary and other constructs that exist within this domain, and the ones that do not—-you do this to shape and control behavior of your development teams. However, as I shift into the weekends, I can’t help but think about how our worlds are shaped through the stories we are exposed to in our youth. I can’t even imagine what this looks like in an Internet age. I am disturbed enough at what it looks like growing up in the pre-Internet age. Regardless, it is an effect that is keeping me thinking, learning, and knocking on various doors in my head, chasing down the root of why I think and believe certain things, and I am sure will spawn more writing in the near future.