Weekly Self-inflictions #5: Cognitive Dissonance (Transcript)

“The human mind is a delusion generator, not a window to truth. The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day” ~Scott Adams

We’re all delusional to some degree or another. But some people are more delusional than others. Those who are more delusional tend to get caught up in their delusions. They tend to codependently cling to them and become rigid and dogmatic.

But some people are less delusional than others. They are the ones who make a point of questioning their delusions. They’re strategically skeptical and openminded, using logic, reasoning, and the law of probability like scalpels on the often confused psychology of the human condition.

The difference between questioning rather than clinging to one’s delusions is vital. That’s where an awareness of cognitive dissonance comes in.

Cognitive dissonance is quite the psychological malady. It’s a counterintuitive glitch in the matrix, causing us to think that belief is black and white. It’s not. Belief is always relative to the observer. And when the “observer” is a fallible, imperfect, barely evolved naked ape prone to being mistaken about a great many things, belief can be downright blinding.

Cognitive dissonance is merely the discomfort experienced when two incongruent worldviews clash. It accounts for our fear of the unknown, our willful ignorance, and our tendency to cling to our comfort zone. It’s the psychosocial irony of ironies. Indeed. It reveals that we are the fly in the ointment.

The ugliness of becoming aware of our cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort, the weight of our ignorance, and the pain of being wrong. But the hidden beauty of becoming aware of our cognitive dissonance is that we gain clarity, clearness, curiosity, and the wherewithal to recalibrate. We free ourselves to correct our incorrections and reprogram outdated programming.

An overwhelming resonance with Socrates’ quip “The only thing I know is that I know nothing,” suddenly grips us—balls to bones, ovaries to marrow. And our mind opens so wide that the only thing that can fit is everything.

Free of our need to be right, we gain a sense of humor that gives us the ability to turn the tables on cognitive dissonance by lampooning it. We’re able to ridicule it, satirize it, and mock it with ruthless incredulity.

Once we break the spell, we realize that it was nothing more than a cultural abstraction. We’re able to distinguish between valid and indoctrinated opinion. We unveil the cornerstone only to realize that it’s a whetstone sharpening us into a Philosopher’s Stone.

Sometimes in order to get at what’s healthy we must break away from what’s comfortable. Sometimes revealing a deeper truth means discarding an outdated truth that we’ve held dear. Sometimes progressive evolution will feel like regressive evolution, and the only way we’ll know for sure is in hindsight.

But, as Soren Kierkegaard advised, “We must live forward and understand backwards.”