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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Ignorance is Bliss


*The Matrix (1999) spoilers contained herein


I recently had a conversation with someone who has chosen to pursue a path in life down which most people don’t care to tread. As I’ve chosen a similar path through the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I found our dialogue to be quite stimulating.


The individual with whom I spoke compared her path to that of fictional character Neo from the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix – one of the most meaningful movies of my lifetime. For context, one source summarizes the film thusly:


Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you couldn’t awaken? How would you know the difference between dream and reality? When a beautiful stranger (Carrie-Anne Moss) leads computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) to a forbidden underworld, he discovers the shocking truth—the life he knows is the elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence. Neo joins legendary and dangerous rebel warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in the battle to destroy the illusion enslaving humanity.


Through the lens of REBT, Neo’s irrational beliefs are challenged when continually disputed by Morpheus. Thus, Neo is faced with a dilemma – continue down the enlightening and uncomfortable path of awakening or choose the comfortably blissful ignorance of slumberous servitude.


One scene in which this predicament is illustrated unfolds as Neo has a discussion with Cypher, a character who has chosen to follow the path of irrationality by joining with his cyber-intelligence overlords rather than pushing through discomfort in the pursuit of rationality toward unconditional acceptance of truth and reality.


Explaining his fateful decision, Cypher takes a bite of Matrix-coded steak, which exists nowhere else but in his imagination, while stating:


You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? [Takes a bite of steak] Ignorance is bliss.


The scene reminds me of biblical teaching I received in my youth. In particular, Matthew 7:13-14:


Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


Although I was taught to try and save as many souls as possible, I was advised to understand that the path that leads to salvation is narrow – upon which not many people will dare to tread. So, too, was the case for Neo in The Matrix.


Noteworthy, Cypher’s steak was a blissfully ignorant outcome of an easy path. After all, it wasn’t joyous or pleasurable to practice temperance while favoring what simply is versus what one believes ought to be.


Likewise, choosing to dispute one’s own self-disturbing beliefs isn’t necessarily blissful or enjoyable. It’s difficult to face what merely is when desiring the allure of what one believes ought to be.


Even this realization reminds me of a religious lesson taught to me when I was in high school. A youth minister asked our youth group how we envisioned a depiction of Satan. Some teens described a horned head and others expressed belief in a mangled face.


However, the minister invited the group to consider that our self-described depictions wouldn’t likely result in an alluring figure that could cause us to stray from the straight and narrow path. Imagine a monstrous character attempting to convince you to follow in its prescribed direction.


Thus, the group was encouraged to consider the tool of temptation used by Satan as that which is sensual and inviting. This consideration is what Cypher described when eating the steak. It also illustrates how temptation of the Matrix ensnared countless other people.


In the same way, this understanding denotes what was stated by the individual with whom I recently spoke in regard to her chosen path of discomfort. Nevertheless, this person comprehends that a straight and narrow path leads to an outcome in alignment with her interests and goals.


Similarly, I use REBT in my personal and professional life as a means of leading an existence based in rationality rather than blissful ignorance. As such, I’m reminded of the final scene in The Matrix, in which Neo speaks to the cyber-intelligence overlords by stating:


I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you – a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.


I’m not here to tell people how they should, must, or ought to live their lives. Those decisions are left unto themselves. And while it may be scary or discomforting to challenge irrational beliefs, I’m prepared to help people dispute unhelpful assumptions nevertheless.


What they choose to do once no longer being held captive by unproductive assumptions is their business. I leave that choice to them. In any case, I offer challenge, discomfort, and success toward preferred outcomes rather than the bliss of ignorance along a broadened path.


Understandably, the easy route is more alluring. Temptation to self-disturb doesn’t come in a hideously monstrous form. All the same, a better life is possible, though it’ll take work. Would you like to begin taking steps toward such a life? If so, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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