We’re writers, right? Well… Writers look at stuff. Think about stuff. Write. Edit. Revise. Write more. Edit. Revise.
Socrates says, in no uncertain terms: The unexamined life is not worth living. I can’t say I feel an overwhelming urge to disagree.
Occasionally something occurs which leads one to experience cognitive dissonance. I’m familiar with cognitive dissonance.
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that arises when one simultaneously experiences two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions.
Okay, it’s like this. Hmmmm. Here’s a somewhat painful example of cognitive dissonance from my own life–
There was this one time when I was faced with two competing notions and it took me a surprisingly long time to choose the correct notion.
My dad always said Jewish men don’t beat their wives. This concept was so deeply ingrained in me that when my first husband beat me I kept telling myself I must be mistaken because Jewish men don’t beat their wives. (My first husband was all for maintaining that particular cognitive dissonance.)
And then one day I admitted the truth to myself and my world changed overnight.
Now, you might wonder– How on earth could a woman as seemingly intelligent as Julia actually believe she wasn’t being beaten???
Good question. Cognitive dissonance. To a greater or lesser extent we go through life believing what we want to believe, dismissing any episode that makes us question those beliefs.
This is why con men and cults can so effectively take advantage of us. I’d like to toss politicians in there with ‘em but somebody might get pissed at me.
Well, hold on a minute. Let me ask this question – Why aren’t politicians allowed to change their mind, to experience cognitive dissonance? It seems to me the ability to assess a situation, to adapt, change and grow should be considered a positive quality in a politician. Life never stops changing. Even the Pope tweets. Why should politicians be expected to run in place?
Oh well. Anyway, cognitive dissonance. From great discomfort can come great change.