Cognitive dissonance

someone's brain ripped openI haven’t been dumped in quite a while. Usually my relationships just fade away until a decision is made. Besides putting Gloria Gaynor and malt liquor into higher rotation, I’ve been doing a little bit of introspection about the topic.

Getting dumped is a classic case of cognitive dissonance, a theory first proposed by Leon Festinger in the 50s. He observed that people make decisions and actions to minimize the amount of contradictory beliefs they have in their head. When a person is forced to believe two things that don’t match up, they experience extreme emotional discomfort until they can fix their belief system.

So basically I have this thought in my head that’s tied to all kinds of memories and beliefs: she is my girlfriend. Then I introduce this new idea, she is not my girlfriend and the sum of these two obviously contradictory beliefs turns me into a raving lunatic. The more embedded the first belief is, the harder it is to accept the latter, and the longer you pour Old English on your corn flakes instead of milk. F. Scott Fitzgerald put it nicely:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

Obviously I’m not operating at first-rate levels currently. But writing dry, bland weblog posts about something that is obviously extremely emotional certainly helps to bring it back.

9 thoughts on “Cognitive dissonance

  1. Actually, the Old English on the corn flakes is a good response… I’ve been using that and several other recipes involving alcohol for quite a while now with many good results. 🙂 Anyway, sorry to hear about the “cognitive dissonance”…

  2. Yeah, this type of cognitive dissonance is good for nobody. Just remember to eat well and get outside for excercise and sunshine any time the rain lets up.

  3. Metamucil-laced buttermilk burritos will ground your mind, body and spirit. Re-group from the bowel-up, grasshopper.

    Nestled somewhere between “She is” and “She ain’t,” toss out cognitive dissonance theory as a cruel marketing technique employed by your inferior lobe to offset you hemispheres. Then again, there’s always psilocybin and Consumed.

  4. Thanks for giving me a new term for this particular malady. I hope you won’t mind my using it. Granted, I may take some liberties with it… “My apologies for causing you some degree of cognitive dissonance in the near future, Jeremiah; however, I can no longer bear your bizarre eating habits.”

    I’m sure you’ll be resonating again soon.

  5. you’re always talking like a psychologist, cameron, and lately i’ve been talking like a computer… guy. maybe we can swap masters’ degrees; i don’t need mine, and you won’t need yours in a month or so.

    good luck with everything. i sent your survey link to a few of my bloggy friends.

  6. Hrm. I am having a problem with the two-ideas thing too. I met a guy who was really awesome in some ways and really…a conceited ass in others. And right now my brain is going, “He’s amazing!” and, “He’d make me miserable!” and the two thoughts are not living happily in my psyche…

    p.s. I took your survey-thing. Hurrah!

  7. This reminds me of Aristotle. He said something to the effect that the mark of a true philosopher is being able to entertain an idea without holding it.

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