Cognitive dissonance. It can lead to anxiety, frustration, confusion, denial, heart ache and ultimately, be detrimental to one's personal growth/health. But what is cognitive dissonance and how can we remedy it?
SimplyPyschology.com defines cognitive dissonance as the following-
Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.
One example of cognitive dissonance (or CD for short) is when a person eats junk food habitually, knowing that it is detrimental for their health. Their thoughts and behaviors do not align which causes tension within the person. To relieve this tension the person either has to a.) give up junk food to align themselves with their current beliefs or b.) change/minimize their beliefs in order to keep eating junk food.
We are more likely to change our mind than to change our behavior. Understandably, a habit is difficult to change due to its nature as being ingrained and done without effort/consciousness. Changing our behavior is holding ourselves accountable while changing our mind requires less effort since we can rationalize the behavior.
Have you ever gotten a second plate of food on Thanksgiving even though you were full? I know I have. But you tell yourself, "It's only one day of year that I get to eat this delicious food!" So, you help yourself to another serving of tart cherry pie, creamy mashed potatoes and honey glazed ham. Instead of stopping yourself you lessen the gravy-ty of the situation (buh-dum-tss!).
Now not every CD is detrimental to your health, but the greater number of CD's one has compounds. Another way to have high levels of tension is by having a major incongruence in yourself, such as being pro-life but then having an abortion. Both of these examples negatively impact one's mental (and even physical) health.
In order to repair our integrity, we need to work on dealing with our CD's. Firstly, we must recognize when we come across it. VeryWellMind.com states the following key indicators: feelings of embarrassment, discomfort, shame and/or guilt and the "feeling of missing out" (FOMO). Simply put, your actions just doesn't sit right with you. Another way to recognize CD in our lives is to be critically honest with ourselves. When committing an unsavory action, we must ask the tough question, Would the person I strive to be act this way?
Most people have heard of the phrase "action speaks louder than words" and that surely applies to CD. What other people see is how you act towards or around them, not what you say (or how you think you are for that matter). If you say you are a caring person but are not willing to listen to other people vent, than are you truly a caring person?
Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves and focus on doing better next time. When the moment passes, we can only look forward. I believe Jesus can helps us to not only forgive others but forgive ourselves. In Romans 8:1 it says-
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
We as Christians are justified (that is saved) the moment we accept Christ, but we are not yet done being molded into a godly person. This takes time, prayer, practice, wisdom, etc. We are not alone. Have you ever felt or heard an inner voice telling you the right thing to do? I believe that is a nudge from the Holy Spirit. Be cautious, however. The Holy Spirit will NEVER tell you to do something that goes against the Bible. One reason why we read the bible is to help us discern the righteous path.
Remedying our CD's is important to our mental, physical and even spiritual health. A person cannot function (at least not as well) if they are not consistent within themselves, and more importantly, Jesus Christ.
If you are in severe mental distress, I highly advise counseling. You can also find some relief by texting HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor (you can visit their website www.crisistextline.org for more information).
You can read more about CD through Simple Psychology's article or this article on VeryWellMind.com, both of which I have used for researching this blog post.
Thank you for reading and remember to stay vivacious!