What is cognitive dissonance
, and how do you learn to deal with it?Cognitive dissonance
is the internal state of conflict (disturbance) that arises when two opposing paradigms or beliefs collide in your consciousness.Example of cognitive dissonance: Religion versus Science
You've been brought up in a particular religion and hold the notion of a personal God. You've become a 'seeker' and have explored other spiritual traditions, philosophies and ideas. You've broadened your concept of God but still retain some sense of God focused into a loving source that gives you personal comfort and hope.
But you are a seeker, you want 'the Truth', you want the real. So you are always exploring. And that exploration includes examining science and in doing so, you recognise that the majority of scientists are atheists, and that they have very different explanations and ideas about the creation of the Universe than your religion does.
In all honesty, you have to agree with the evidence of the scientists. You start to see how people habitually fill in the gaps in their knowledge with fable and fantasy. The ancients who wrote the various bibles of the world religions, knew nothing about electricity, about how weather is really created, and all the vast knowledge that we have today. They were so ignorant.
And so you start to examine your idea of God. You can see and sense how your 'need' for God is largely based on fear. You are frightened of being alone, frightened of meaninglessness, frightened of the apparent sterility of a world with no 'Godness' in it.Now you have cognitive dissonance.
On the one hand, you have the need for God in your life and the comfort you derive from it, the sense of unfailing love and sweetness. On the other hand, you perceive the reality of facts -- and the genuine illumination of knowledge. Your desire for sweetness and comfort fights with your desire for the Truth and what is real. The two paradigms slug it out, fighting for dominance in your consciousness. It's a meme battle. And you are disturbed.
How do you cope with cognitive dissonance without retreating from it? The temptation is always to disgard the new knowledge, the new paradigm, and retreat to the familliarity of the old paradigm. But that is not progressive -- and sickens you at some level of your soul. The real never needs to be entrenched. It reveals itself for what it is.
There is no denying the level of inner discomfort that you get from cognitive dissonance. My personal formula for dealing with it is: time + awareness + persistence.
The longer you dwell with it the more used to it you become.
The more awareness you bring to it, the more you can see it for what it is... programs fighting to use the hardware of your brain.
The longer you stick in there, the more you will learn about yourself and your reality.
For increasing awareness, I recommend you sit down for ten minutes in the morning, and just become aware. Breathe in and out, and think... 'I am breathing in and I am breathing out.' Observe and note what you are observing and doing. 'I am aware that I am thinking about breakfast'...'I am aware of the sound of the hot water pipes' ... 'I am aware of the tension in my jaw'... and so on.
You can adapt this and continue it at odd moments through the day. As you do or notice something, just think to yourself... 'I am picking up the cup'...'I am writing on the paper'...'I see the bird flying across the sky' and so on.
You can apply this to your cognitive dissonance too: 'I am aware that I am feeling afraid right now' ... 'I am aware of the pull to retreat back to the comfortable old belief' ... 'I am aware that its normal for someone with this belief to feel challenged by this new knowledge'.
Leonardo da Vinci advised people who want to be more creative to embrace paradox
(see Da Vinci Brain Bomb Number 4
). Paradox occurs when you find yourself straddling two or more paradigms. Paradox is the old fashioned name for the confusion that we now label cognitive dissonance.
Labels: awareness, paradigms, self-help