Ignorance is disregard of information. The word “ignorant” is sometimes used only to describe a person who is not aware of something, and without any implication of active rejection. Nonetheless, ignorance as “the active rejection of information” is described below.
Ignorance is commonly thought of as a bad thing by its association with the excess confidence which arrogant people display, and in many cases this is true, yet it’s also a good and healthy thing to use appropriately – by reducing anxieties and increasing confidence.
As with bad behaviours, guilt is highly associated with ignorance. People consciously and unconsciously try to avoid feeling guilt regarding behaviours that benefit them – behaviours that have an awkward side-effect of being detrimental to others. This conscious process, which pushes out of awareness the uncomfortable emotions or thoughts people do not want to own, is referred to as ignorance or cognitive-avoidance and is part of broader experiential avoidance.
The perception of one’s ability to cope with experiences of life is central to ignorance, and, especially, perception of one’s ability to cope with both uncertainty and intensely arousing events.1 If people fear uncertain outcomes, they are more likely to ignore information and situations that they believe will lead to uncertainty. If people fear loss of behavioural control by becoming too aroused, they are more likely to ignore information and situations they believe will lead them to become highly aroused.
The ability to ignore thoughts and feelings can be a good thing. When thoughts and feelings would lead people to become over aroused, and then to uncontrollable behaviour that leads them to uncertain outcomes (e.g. seduced by images of sex or drugs), the ability to ignore thoughts and feelings can be a good thing. Ignorance gives people a degree of control.
Nevertheless, an issue exists when ignoring material constantly. If people have ignored information around a feared event, they will be less anxious than those who thought about the feared event, yet if a feared event comes true, the ignorant will become more physiologically stressed than those who had thought about it.2 As long as a situation does not occur where people encounter their ignored fear, ignorance can provide them with less conscious anxiety. If people do encounter an ignored fear, they will be less prepared for the contingencies, and they will be prone to enter a state of crisis, so they will be less able to cope with the consequences.
This helplessness can create serious problems. When people are negatively affected, their attention narrows to focus on the problem whilst reducing their attention to other cues.3 Furthermore, as emotions reach higher intensities, they progressively assume control of people’s behaviour by instinctively orientating their disposition to attend to the intense event.4 Unfortunately, in this case, that means reinforcing focus onto the feared and ignored content which further stresses their systems. People are then effectively locked into focusing on the very thing that is causing them psychological, neurological and physiological distress. Thus the word “crisis” is a very apt word to describe the experience when people encounter feared material they have consistently ignored.
These issues are evidence that ignorance is not always good or bad, but it can be either. Ignorance always shows an attempt to cope with reality though.
Ignorance that stems from a subconscious source is classified as a defence-mechanism called denial. A defence-mechanism’s aim is to reduce conscious anxiety. The person can then continue with behaviour without consciously spending energy (psychological and neuro-biological) on vigilant behaviours involved in anxiously fearing consequences associated with the behaviour. Guilt can be avoided this way. People who behave in ways that are detrimental to others are frequent employers of ignorance. Continuous use of such ignorance can significantly reduce people’s anxiety if they are not faced with the avoided material, but they can be left feeling under-par without knowing why. This is because the reasons associated with the feelings are not shown in conscious view.
An internal separation between behaviour and feeling is created. A barrier to self-knowledge is constructed. Denial is probably the most frequently used defence-mechanism.
It is important to note that when emotions are pushed out of awareness, either consciously or unconsciously, those emotions continue to motivate behaviours. This is called acting-out. The problem with acting-out is that people cannot see motivational aspects of their behaviours. They feel compelled to behave in ways they don’t understand.
If people are told information that would seriously compromise the makeup of their personality, it can lead to serious mental disarray or breakdown. At these points in time, it’s healthy to ignore such information until a time when the information can be managed and integrated with less traumatic consequences. This is especially true when people are told information that is spiteful or malicious in nature. If the material is meant to damage people’s mental outlook and cause them a state of mental anguish, then it’s best to ignore its validity as its aim is destructive.
Defence-mechanisms are created by the subconscious, and they prompt people to avoid accepting feelings and thoughts that would adversely affect the way people view themselves. Defence-mechanisms can distract people’s attention, rationalise information into a less harmful interpretation, or completely deny material. For the most part they are at work without people realising it. They are part of a healthy psychological architecture. If people are self-aware, they may be able to see their defence-mechanisms at work on the edge of their awareness, so the process is not completely out of conscious control.
People can learn to ignore the same harmful things consciously. They can also learn the process of ignoring information that makes them seriously uncomfortable whilst being aware they intend to process the information at a later time. They can create a sort of conscious buffer-zone where they do not fully recognise the credentials of something. Rather they think about it in a “what if” light until it can fit in with the makeup of their personality without causing as much shock. This is not a cop-out, but a serious appreciation of a psychological consequence.
Again, the conscious filtering process just described is virtually identical to the subconscious one called a defence-mechanism. People’s consciousness has been evolving for hundreds of thousands of years and the emergence of an ability to emulate the subconscious processes consciously is an extraordinary evolutionary step. Consciously understanding their motivations provides people with greater adaptability, and broad agreement exists that these are the reasons that humans have developed consciousness of their emotions.5
All people have architectural thoughts, with their related neural patterns, in their brains that constitute mental and emotional integrity. People’s mental architecture of learned meanings and responses can be modified, but they need to be aware that their mental structures may need time to integrate new information. Especially if it conflicts with their existing structure.
Experience has shown that overuse of defence-mechanisms has unfortunate side-effects for personalities. Problems are raised when people ignore more information than is healthy. People progressively have an underdeveloped view on life with very brittle, less adaptive, personalities which exhibit strict defining points. If people continue down such a path, it can leave them in a vulnerable position where their internal frame of reference is overly sheltered from reality. Such a psychological outlook more easily enters a state of crisis if exposed to conventional thoughts and ideals. Ironically, something people use to protect them from conscious anxiety can potentially lead to mental breakdown. The severity of the potential breakdown will be directly relevant to how ignorant they’ve been.
Ignorance is bliss lived in a fragile glass tower.
The more people ignore the consequences, the greater their crisis will be if and when those consequences come true.
Pride in one’s social status is a main employer of ignorance when people wish to maintain an ego-trip. They see their self (ego) in terms of their current social status, so information that is perceived to decrease their social status is ignored or deemed invalid. This is how people subjectively keep their ego-trip alive. As a person could be suggesting that people are prideful, self-delusive, and only interested in the feelings that stem from their unrealistic subjective image of self, people dislike it when someone calls them ignorant. There’s an implicit suggestion they’re irresponsible people who cannot accept reality. There’s an accusation of being selfish to an extent that denies reality.
As it’s a main way humans have evolved to filter data – whether they realise it or not – all people subconsciously deny things through defence-mechanisms. This ultimately helps protect them against malicious, or otherwise harmful, information and keeps them from being in a hyper-vigilant state of arousal – distracted all the time. Ignorance is a deep and far reaching issue that concerns complex personalities that are made and structured in considerably different ways. The unconscious can sort through personal issues in a healthy fashion, and gradually filter them into the edge of people’s awareness for conscious processing. One of the most important aspects of this process is that the priority given to issues is relevant to the individual’s psychological makeup. These issues are ordered according to personal hopes and environmental conditions, and not someone else’s agenda.
Thus people should not feel free to ignore everything continually as this will make them prone to psycho-neuro-biological crisis when reality breaches the wall. Ignorance is specifically useful and healthy when dealing with malicious information, yet because they’re afraid of being the clichéd IGNORANT person who lives in a crisis-stricken self-delusive world, people can wrongfully feel guilty about ignoring spiteful or malicious comments. The intricate balancing act of allowing, denying, and putting information on hold is not easy. Ignorance is good or bad depending on its application. Even though it may be frustrating for everybody else, ignorance is mostly used subconsciously for health reasons.
Latin. Ignorare = not to know, to be ignorant of, mistake, misunderstand, disregard.
1. Not to know, to be ignorant of something.
2. Said of a Grand Jury: to return (a bill) with the endorsement of ‘not a true bill’, ‘not found’, ‘no bill’ – to reject as unfounded or having insufficient evidence; to refuse acceptance of something.
3. To refuse to take notice of; not to recognise; to disregard intentionally, leave out of account or consideration, ‘shut one’s eyes to’.