You are not an X

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I often think about how statistics impact our lives. The French sociologist Michel Foucault made a big deal of the scientific discourse, suggesting that power ultimately lies more there than with the individual politicians making the decisions. Though we are living in the midst of corona, right now it’s not corona my mind is thinking about, but individual human potential! When we look at the correlations science has revealed about our bodies, minds, and social lives, adding them all up you might feel like you only have a very narrow path of possibilities; limited capacities for your future. You belong to certain risk group for something and your age, gender, and diet allowes you a certain likelihood for something and so on. Life is full of limited possibilities, right?

I starkly contrast this thinking. While at the level of the whole society we can get very strong correlations and predictions of people and their life outcomes, at the level of any single person, there is equally MASSIVE individual freedom that counters it all. Think about it: any correlation revealed is revealed in a large group of people identifying, even in the most considerate analyzes, just a minimal portion of those variables that might be relevant to the phenomena under study. How do I know that? Because the number of possible variables are limitless and eventually everything is connected to everything in some way or another. Moreover, there is one variable that never yields to be tamed: your individual freedom of choice. You, can, make, choices. It is true that our habit energies are strong, and a mere decision to change often fails. Yet there are some decisions that give you huge opportunities.

A person struggling with addiction CAN leave their contact information to an addiction counselor, and at the millisecond of the press of the enter, they have migrated from the group “addicted” to the group “in recovery” and changed all the probabilities for their life outcomes. A person struggling alone with shame and fear around their sexual lives can write a message to a sexological counselor, and in a millisecond the probabilities for healthy and happy sexuality have drastically changed. A person in a violent relationship can call the women’s shelter; and a person without a meaning in their lives, though everything seems to be ok and normal, can join a group of spiritual seekers and walk into the forest alone to contemplate in silence. All these choices radically change the probabilities of any important life outcome and these choices CAN BE MADE. Remember your power! You are not the X of any statistical analysis.