love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

Living with cognitive dissonance

Living with cognitive dissonance….

When I was young, I found  cognitive dissonance to be an excellent survival tool.  I spoke in an earlier blog about “magical thinking” and mastery of certain fears or ocd problems by forcing myself to look at crooked pictures, or a crumpled piece of paper thrown in the center of the room to “deal” with the way it made me feel.  I also had a real problem eating animals.  It disturbed me greatly the day I was told where the meat I was eating came from.  Made me sick.  Growing up we had the “must eat everything on your plate or you cannot leave the table” rule because of course “there are children starving in Ethiopia. ”  I learned to “believe” that the meat was just meat that came from the store.  Not really from live animals.  This was a method of survival I believe.  What I did not realize was I was seriously honing a skill that allowed me to live in reality while believing something that was not true.  And that the more I did this, the easier it became.  (Something fellow blogger John Zande might be interested in 😉  ) I have had to employ this ability on more than one occasion when driving a car and an eight legged fiend dropped down, from above, disappearing from the line of visibility and I had the choice to believe that there was not a spider in the car and arrive safely at my destination, or…..

(well one can only imagine)
I also found it an extremely useful skill in maintaining my religious belief for a very long time.

And so I discovered this interesting skill has its down sides as well.  (of course…doesn’t everything? )

The ability to exist, accept, live with…..things that aren’t necessary.

I have found that I can slip into accepting things with which do not need to be accepted, in life, and in that moment losing out

on my quality of life.  It is nice to be able to let go of great expectations, (things like expecting perfection) but it is not a nice thing

to accept just anything.

Need I settle for less? accept the status quo, live without living? How often am I doing this? Something that needs changing….

Ah to find the perfect balance in anything…and never take anything to the extreme….

wishful thinking? or perhaps more to the point…life continues to be a learning experience…

one step, one day at a time.









  1. I liked this post. We do seem to have a remarkable ability to blot out reality when necessary. It’s a good survival tool, but if exercised too much it becomes destructive.

  2. I’m right there with ya. I jump to the extremes, but fortunately it rarely sticks. Or unfortunately, as I think I may have difficulty creating lasting connections — A Zen Buddhist would find that worth striving for, anyway.

    I don’t think we are each, individually going to be able to achieve cognitive consonance as long as our brain function is being influenced by dissonant relationships with other human beings … and, I don’t just mean the extreme, mutually self-destructive types of connections … but even those superficially benign ones can be insidious.

    Is this what this post is about? I forgot already. SEE???

    • Yes, often times when i have a point…it deteriorates before i even begin, as I seem to leap from one to another without being able to clarify to others those…erm…rational steps in the thinking process that i took to get from one point to the other…forgetting continually that others cannot read my mind… so…that was certainly a point in the intention of the post…;)

      • Wow, like, we are so alike, girl 🙂
        Do you ever feel like you are living the “can’t trace the origin of thoughts before you move on to the next” version of that movie Memento, where he couldn’t make new memories??

      • lol….i knew you were a kindred spirit from first sight… 😀
        erm..I haven’t watched Memento yet…but i get the gist…and yes…tis so very frustrating. I wanted so much to be a writer growing up, but my English teacher (the year i was NOT home-schooled) said…this was my numero uno problem. Jumping from one point to the next assuming others were reading and making the leaps between the dots where only i could see the connections….
        humbling…and I still find it a large struggle because sometimes I struggle finding my own way back from how i got to point Q. from point…A. It would be fun if we started a dialogue and got to the same point without talking… 😀

  3. I think that in america at this time there is perhaps and epidemic of cognitive dissonance. Much of it has been artificially induced.

    Millions of people are seeing one thing with their own eyes and yet believing something completely contrary to that reality.

    • indeed. no one wants to open up the email that mentions how modern-day slavery is still a problem (and especially how some of the things you may buy may support it…) ….and the little things like that….

  4. Very interesting post! Cognitive dissonance as a habit that leads you to accept things you might also change. Often, cognitive dissonance is a survival tactic, exactly as you describe it. In that sense it’s useful. But it’s the response of somebody who feels trapped. It’s narrowing your vision. It’s an escape that doesn’t give you freedom, I think. 🙂

    • Listen to Social Distortion cover “Ring of Fire” & your lobes will be humming in perfect harmony with your environment.

      (misleading suggestion. not a punk guy.)

    • I am also (or was moreso before I honed my skills ) a bit of a germaphobic. I wonder how many saw the 20/20 story on cleanliness testing of hotel rooms…and the horrors found within…And how many think about whether or not the chef, and everyone else that touches their food along the way…before it makes it to your table in the restaurant have washed their hands, picked their nose, coughed, sneezed, scratched their ….anything…etc. 😉
      Without cognitive dissonance to some extent (at least the over-analyzers/worries/ocd victims ect) would be home bound for life. 😀
      Oh yeah, and that one time in science where they mentioned that there are teeny tiny spiders that crawl on our skin and in and out of our noses and mouth that are too tiny to see….::headdesk:: ::wipes memory once again before continuing::
      some things are necessary in life to employ cognitive dissonance (and as stated for some more than others)
      Those phrases we allow like coated spider webbing to cocoon us…
      “that’s not my job” “everybody else does it” “no big deal” ” it’s better than it could be…”
      “It is the status quo”
      “maybe tomorrow…I can make it one more day..(infinity/unlimited/extended excuses)

      allow us to also overlook and forget things that should not be overlooked, forgotten, or accepted….

      • Argus

        Disquieting it may be … but we gotta have our bugs. Especially the young, especially in this gladly-wrapped super sanitised washed brushed swept deodorised hygienised germ-proofed world that we cognitive dissonantly choose to believe our kids can achieve adulthood in without catching anything but a natural immunity … doesn’t happen.
        Kids gotta be kids; girls gotta make mud pies and boys gotta eat ’em (complete with wriggly things) (yuk). The alternative is sterile ‘Government Issue’ upbringings with all the vaccinations inoculations and other artificial cra— stuff you can think of. Maybe some things are a little too organic sometimes … hey! I drink RAW milk! Boom boom! And I make my own yogurt. And pickles, and you can’t beat my beet kvass. My kraut is nothing to get sauer about either (Spouse whimpers sometimes).

        • Argus

          (My replies don’t always go where intended, I’ve learnt to address them sometimes)

          The history and story of vaccinations in fascinating, and the literature against them compelling. For me, at any rate. The mere fact that they are government mandated is telling in itself. The ‘argument’ is specious— “How can we let your unvaccinated kid into our (compulsory) schools?”
          I fail to see the problem—the vaccinated kids are bulletproof, and the unvaccinated kid is at no risk because the vaccinated kids are sterile—?
          I’ve looked at charts that indicate strongly that the vaccinated diseases were on their way out before vaccination started, and the pushers caught the wave and rode it. Simply: it should be a matter of choice—properly informed choice.

      • I wholeheartedly support your approach towards muddy kids, Argus, but I do feel compelled to point out that vaccinations have saved many, many lives, and the anti-vaxers are having unfortunate consequences, allowing dangerous diseases to fight back from the brink of extinction. Their main arguments, those connected with autism etc., have no evidence to back them up. So yes, let ’em get mucky, let ’em eat maggots, all good stuff, but vaccinations are one of the great achievements of modern time, they totally rock!

      • Good points Argus. (and I must let you know that i immensely enjoy your writings)
        I believe that allowing oneself (or rather myself) to exist in cognitive dissonance….or…believing a lie…(there are no bugs!) (that person did wash their hands and never picks their nose or other stuff before touching the plate/food they are about to serve…) is much less healthy than learning to live with the bugs. And realize that we cannot exist germ free. And that what doesn’t kill us….(will come back and try again) …lol. Facing our fears, examining them, realizing when they need to be dealt with and that we can learn to say…”it’s all good” …or…I can learn to live with this…is healthier. At least it is stronger. Learning to live with lies can leave one wide open to a nervous breakdown…..

  5. “Comfortably numb”

    • Ding! Ding! I so should have thought of that one~

      • Eh, But then, you’d be quoting Floyd and people would think “too easy”.

  6. lol!

  7. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate this post. It adds something to my understanding of indoctrination and propaganda. Mostly what they do is selectively manufacture cognitive dissonance. I never thought of it in exactly that way but it certainly makes sense.

  8. I have a feeling that cognative dissonance is a natural state, an inbuilt coping mechanism we all share to deal with the complexity of our environment. Taking a rational, skeptical approach to the big questions in life, which usually involves the suppression of cognative dissonance, is perhaps not the easiest approach, but is becoming increasingly more practical due to our newfound online hivemind. I suspect our default approach is a reliance upon superstition and tradition which would inevitably throw up contradictions, so perhaps this cognative dissonance business is pretty handy after all.

    • I think it may have been “handy” in some cases at earlier stages of human evolution. However, it seems to me that it’s being turned against the general population as a weapon of indoctrination and mind control.

    • I think that is quite possible adaminberlinio. I think cognitive dissonance is, and can be a survival tool, but I don’t think it is the best…..
      I do believe it is necessary at times. Consider the soldier…seeing friends butchered before his eyes. He is then required to turn that memory/emotion/feeling/understanding off, and carry on and do his job. Or this could be for anyone in a crisis situation. one can succumb to the grief and realness of what happened, OR…one can use the tool of cognitive dissonance to separate from it, and do what must be done at that time. Then, when jobs are done, people are safe, etc……the reality comes.

      • I wonder if it’s even possible/desirable to eradicate cognitive dissonance.

      • Argus

        If we didn’t have CogDis we’d possibly go mad. CD is a tool invoked against us every minute of every day (whups! Who’s paranoid now?) and the simple defence against it is the Law of Contradiction:

        Contradictions cannot exist. They don’t exist. Wherever you find an apparent contradiction, look to the premises, one at least is false. (As in wrong. A lie. Big fib. The tool of a manipulator …)

  9. Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I see how it hinders progress and scientific understanding, and I could also develop an argument that some of the belief systems out there can only be bought into with al little cog-dis on the side, but a weapon of indoctrination and mind control? You’ll have to back that one up a little before you get me following on, pitchfork in hand.

    • I’m not a missionary adam.

      I’m simply offering my opinion. Do with it what you will.

      As I said above, “Millions of people are seeing one thing with their own eyes and yet believing something completely contrary to that reality.”

      • Oh I wasn’t telling you off or anything Richard, I was just sort of joining in, also simply offering my opinion.
        I was wondering, are you among these millions, or have you somehow inoculated yourself from cognitive dissonance?

        • Well, I don’t know adam.

          If I had surrendered myself to CD then I probably wouldn’t even know it. I’d “believe” unconditionally in the false reality I’d generated.

          Or maybe I’ve just been seduced by an alternative source of propaganda.

          Or maybe I’ve spent most of my 66 years trying to figure out what’s goin’ on and have tried to come to the conclusions I hold as independently as possible.

          Maybe I’ve done this by studying a wide variety of subjects, looking at them from several different viewpoints and trying to form my own opinions as logically and pragmatically as possible based upon the available evidence.

          Or maybe I’ve just been drinking a different flavour of koolaid.

      • Brilliant answer Richard, thank you.
        I know I have moments of cog-dis because I catch myself at it. Whether I catch myself every time or not, that’s hard to tell, but I sort of doubt it.

  10. Argus

    Cognitive dissonance is simply a way of keeping the rut comfortable for as long as possible. Not good.
    You can ignore (say) a ravenous great purple crocodile for as long as you want ‘cos they’re impossible but sooner or later it will bite your butt …

    • hee….i deny that purple crocodile, and raise you an orange one….
      I do think it is a tool that has its benefits, but if left untamed….can drown us in an unrealistic world….

  11. It just occurred to me that one type of cognitive dissonance, the type where you feel like you’ve got a better handle on reality than most other people, even though there are no outward displays of this inner wisdom, no measurable indication that your understanding is actually any more meaningful than the average Josephine, this is the type that we all fall into from time to time, even when discussing the scourge of cognitive dissonance. 😉
    Just a thought.

    • Perhaps CD is the default state of the human mind and we are all engaged in it 100% of the time.

      • What would that mean, 100% cog-dis? If that was true then nothing would be provable and the post-modernists would be right!
        Even if that is the case, we may as well work with what we’ve got, and I think applying critical thinking, rationalism, logic and empirical evidence seems to work pretty well, even if it’s a post-modernist, relativist illusion.
        (I *really* don’t like post-modernism).

        • All fantasy all the time! What could possibly go wrong? After all, reality is for people who lack imagination! 😉

      • Argus

        Bingo … without it we’d likely all go mad.

        (The ‘default state’ — bummer, I wish I’d thought of that!)

Your respectful comments are appreciated

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: