From the moment we're born, we immediately began to learn. We slowly formed our individual personalities and learned behaviors and truths about the world around us. As we got older, our personal experiences and the people around us shaped our own moral codes and ethical standards. Every development in our lives helped us decide what to believe in, what to stand for, and what we thought to be without a doubt true in our minds. But how often do we stop and ask ourselves just how "true" and right are our values and beliefs really are? When opposition strikes and we're forced to question our realities and behavior, we are presented with the inner turmoil called: cognitive dissonance.
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Before you start to over think your whole life, allow me to break it down for you. The word cognitive means the act of thinking or understanding through experiences and senses, while dissonance means a clash or tension from lack of agreement or inconsistency. In simpler terms, cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable mental stress we feel when we're confronted with opposing beliefs that conflict with our own. When we encounter a contradiction, we begin to questions ourselves, and that really doesn't feel good at all.
Any psychologist could go on for days about the hundreds of types and levels of cognitive dissonance, but I think this specific example is more than relatable to the world we live in right now. If you've ever wondered how our country became so divided and conflicted, this is a good way to start on the never-ending explanation of why. It's human nature for people to have a need for consistency and balance, so when we hear opposing sides or opinions or pretty much anything that doesn't go along with the things we've so strongly clung onto, it's almost a reflex for us to reject it or ignore it. But instead of feeling bad about shutting off like this, we justify ourselves and make excuses to feel better and consistent and right again.
The fact is we don't wanna be wrong, so we live in denial. And that right there is where stubbornness, ignorance, and close-mindedness meet to form a shit storm of unresolved issues and tensions between people with different views. What we don't realize is just how powerful our motives are to maintain mental consistency with the things we've stood for most our lives, and that motivation has led many of us to hatred and intolerance. Our minds actually don't wanna see things in any other way besides our own. Instead, we put down, we fight, we ignore, and we destroy for the sake of our own mental balance. Don't get me wrong- having strong beliefs you're willing to fight for is a beautiful thing, but if we're constantly changing and growing as life goes on who's to say our beliefs can't change and grow with us? In the unconscious fight against cognitive dissonance, or the uneasy feeling of being told our values are messed up, we've forgotten what's most important.
What this country was built on were mistakes that led to great change. We f*cked up so we could later get it right some day, so our kids and future generations would have a better life with more than we could've imagined for ourselves. The more we resist different opinions, the more we resist opening our minds to different schools of thought and codes of ethics and eye-opening evidence that we're humans and we get things wrong a lot, the more we hurt ourselves and derail the future of our country. When I learned about cognitive dissonance I learned about myself and the people around me, but most of all I learned how to actually let myself learn and be taught- over and over again. And that's a lesson we could all gain from if we would just put our weapons and guards down and simply allow ourselves to.