Defeating the Dissonance, or A Preamble To A Mental Overhaul
Cognitive dissonance is, as defined by Wikipedia, is “an uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously.” All humans have enter this state of mind at least a few times a day, and most are unaware, if not of the term, of the grip it has on our decision-making. I’ve been making my way through a few different books, and this inner-mental dissonance seems to be a pivotal point for many ‘mental lock-down’, if you will, strategies. If you can acknowledge cognitive dissonance as it occurs, you can generally find also the shift in your paradigm that is required to understand other choices and why others would choose them.
Cognitive dissonance, up until recently, has been thought of as a strictly human thought process. In April of this year however, a study has actually concluded that cognitive dissonance can be found within the minds of monkeys as well. They would be given two different color M&M’s (TM) to choose from, and the unselected color would be presented again, with a new color. “If the monkey chose, say, red over blue, it was next given a choice between blue and green. Nearly two-thirds of the time it rejected blue in favor of green, which seemed to jibe with the theory of choice rationalization: Once we reject something, we tell ourselves we never liked it anyway (and thereby spare ourselves the painfully dissonant thought that we made the wrong choice).” – John Tierney, NYTimes.com. One easy example of this would be, for myself, Apple products. While they certainly work for their user base, and they may even have some revolutionary designers working for them, I still would not consider purchasing one now because I have never before, and I wouldn’t want to reject prior impressions that they are merely easier to use and more idiot-proofed than, say a Windows PC, which quite frankly, I don’t need.
Image courtesy of the
Chinese National Chi Kung Institute
I like to think that my body is the medium in which my mind transforms thought into reality, and purely that. Medium both in the sense of a creative output, and in the sense of bridging the divide between what’s in my head and what’s just outside of it. Some say that it is the personal responsibility of each and every man (and woman) to meditate regularly, so as to calm and place one’s self in a world of chaos and deceit. Meditation allows a person to explore inside their own head, to find the roots of one’s own pitfalls, rather than the results of them. It allows a person to understand past mistakes, to correct what caused them, and to come to terms with the fact that the past is out of current control. Yesterday is gone, but tomorrow starts today. While we can not choose the result of our actions, we can choose our reactions to the result.
“It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happens to us in the first place. I admit this is very hard to accept emotionally, especially if we have had years and years of explaining our misery in the name of circumstance or someone else’s behavior. But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.'” – Steven R. Covey
If you let something outside of your head affect what’s inside your head, you’ve effectively empowered that external force.
In his highly acclaimed book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, Stephen Covey explains what he considers a ‘natural maturation’ that begins at birth. This maturation is from dependence, to independence, to interdependence. As an infant, we are dependent on our parents to provide us with everything we need to survive. As we age, we gain independent personalities, finances, and eventually come to a point where we can fully support ourselves. Many people reach this stage and plateau, either having personal talents or specific abilities that can provide for themselves and possibly even others, without the aid of external forces. Independent people may sometimes feel that interdependence is a step backward, however, as Covey explains, this is not the case. “Dependence is the paradigm of you — you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn’t come through; I blame you for the results. Independence is the paradigm of I — I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. Interdependence is the paradigm of we — we can do it: we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.” Those at the top of their fields are consistently combining heads with others in similar positions so that they, together, can create something better than what any single one could have done alone.
Think of any problem that you’re currently dealing with and think of how you’ve approached it so far. Now think of how your reaction to the situation has affected the situation. If the reaction has caused more harm than the initial problem, then the issue lies within your own head, not as some uncontrollable outside force. Be part of the solution, not the problem.