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Can you smell the cognitive dissonance?

February 3, 2010

For a while now, I’ve been somewhat blind and deaf to the entire concept of “cognitive dissonance.” I have understood the basic concept, but I guess it has been time in the ex-mormon community that has deafened me to its nuance. Cogdis this. Cogdis that. TSCC. These seem more like buzz words.

There was a guest speaker in my accounting ethics class this morning (err…it’s past midnight, so…yesterday) who focused on the concept (and its role in rationalization). I couldn’t begin to grasp the richness of his message for the past twelve hours because I was still stuck in the specific ex-Mormon connotation of the term.

But as I’ve been thinking, I realized that yes, the term reaches farther out. I can look at my own last post here for evidence.

I think I covered a few of the issues I personally need to work on there, but, I don’t know if it’s clear to you, but it’s clear to me that most of that article was my trying so hard (and nearly succeeding) at missing the main issue.

Whenever I lose my temper, I have focused primarily on one thing in the aftermath: the utter lack of discipline that comes with exploding at someone, at having such an outburst. Looking at the situation, I have realized that I can’t undo what has happened. And so, since I can’t turn back the time, I’ve argued internally that since I’ve already “failed” the “test”, all I can do is wait for next time and see if I can control better. I try to flee the scene. Avoid contact. Stay low.

I’ve missed, though, that this isn’t just one test. This is at least two. While it’s true that after an outburst, I have failed the test of controlling anger, I only fail a second test much later, and after much rationalization and cognitive dissonance. I don’t know if you can smell it, but I allude to it in my first article:

Do I…do I apologize? Or do I pretend nothing happened and hope everyone else also pretends?

It is one line. And that is all it needs to be.

Oh, can’t you see how the rest of that entire argument is my trying to convince you me that it’s totally acceptable if we all just forgot that I ever blew up? Can’t you see how the rest of the post is my trying to convince you me that this is the best solution for the long-run?

But you I can tell that I’m not convinced. I’m conflicted. I Believe That It’s Best To Just Pretend Nothing Happened. And yet I go through a painstaking process where I agonize over how extremely unlikely I think it is that we can just “pretend that nothing happened.”

Oh, but I can still try to salvage pride. I can point out that I Will Forget And Forgive, Even If No One Else Will.

In fact, I’m not worried about the idea that people will see that I had an outburst. I’m worried about something worse. That I’ll be known as the person who never apologizes and owns up for when he makes a mistake.

I know there is only one solution. I have to bite the bullet and take a hit to ego.

…this is an inauthenticity crisis at its best…I can recognize this lie to myself, and it bites at me. So, the authentic me bores at my tooth…gnawing around. But it won’t be satisfied with a tooth, or even all of my teeth. It requires me to humble myself and apologize. But I try to ignore it and drown it out in Life. After all, with enough of Real Life, who will have room for apologies or for remembering. We’ll be paddling down Life instead.

I’ve been “successful” at this non-solution in the short run, but in the long run, I obviously haven’t, since I continue to have these internal crises every time a situation like this comes up.

The thing I fear more is that I’ll do it again. Because even though I’ve talked the talk, the thing I haven’t done is engage in real life. Knowing myself, I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll find a way never to mention this again to the relevant parties. *gulp* wish me luck in defeating myself.

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5 Comments
  1. Bravo, and good luck.

  2. Argh. I hope that last comment didn’t come across as flip… I read this post before I read your last post about anger.

    I have huge respect for anyone who can be attentive to what’s going on inside, reevaluate, and publicly admit the need to ask forgiveness. It’s a virtue that is, let us say, much lacking in this culture.

  3. didn’t come off badly at all. I’ve been kinda disconnected and cryptic for the past two entries.

    Today will bring new tests…

  4. I was taken aback by how much this post applies to me pretty much every moment of the day. Cognitive dissonance has been a really powerful struggle for me over the last several years. I tend to bottle up my conflicts and never just let them be. My rationalizations have always been so automatic, so unconscious. Just becoming aware of the rationalization is a major step for me and then remain guarded that I don’t rationalize that awareness away.

  5. TGD:

    That’s the thing that really got to me too. When the speaker spoke to my ethics class, the thing he pointed out is that rationalizations are so dangerous because if we have enough time, we believe them. So, for me, it’s a different (and almost more pernicious thing) than what I like to call “inauthenticity.” Inauthenticity for me is when I am lying to myself, but my deepest core realizes fully that I am lying. As a result, But RATIONALIZATION can be automatic and unconscious!

    It was only when I was reviewing my last article that I saw how I was struggling to rationalize things…and then it hit me…I’ve been doing the best I can with my “window of awareness”…

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