Contradicting Thoughts – Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is the guilt, tension or discomfort we feel when our actions and behaviour do not align with our beliefs. Usually caused by holding two opposing or contradicting beliefs.
We like to see and think of ourselves as good, moral people but that model is challenged when we do something we believe to be morally wrong or against our beliefs.
How do we resolve this tension? We can spend countless hours overthinking, beat ourselves up and identify as a bad person, which isn’t entirely true as you know you do a lot of good. We can rationalise by comparing our actions to others who have done worse or we can choose not to care at all, either way, we have to resolve this tension and discomfort.
How this relates to mental health
Holding contradicting beliefs can cause confusion, frustration or disappointment leading to stress and anxiety. Especially when our moral and ethical beliefs do not line up with our actions, behaviour and desires
Wanting or believing two conflicting thoughts at the same time is similar to pushing and pulling at the same time, you not only waste energy but ultimately go nowhere.
Why you are stuck
Cognitive dissonance can cause oscillation, we make progress, take two steps forward then two steps back. Our minds thrive when we direct our focus and energy in one direction. Remember what you focus on grows and good old cause and effect? We get back what we sow!! Yet, we are unconsciously double-minded, wanting one thing but fearing its polar opposite which gets us nowhere or averages at best. It’s like planting seeds and weeds at the same time. We know and share positive quotes but how often do we follow through on what we know we should do? Our behaviour is a result of our paradigm (collection of habits) and Cognitive dissonance plays a huge part in the inconsistency between our thoughts and results.
Appostle paul said in Romans 7:15 (NIV)
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
We have to resolve these contradicting thoughts and beliefs, rather than rationalise and talk your way out of it, you have a choice to stop the cycle.
Ways to Resolve the Tension
The first step in resolving any problem is becoming aware of the problem. Write down all your contradicting thoughts in all areas such as relationships, finance, career, friendship, health etc.
I want to eat healthily but secretly eat unhealthy snack
I want more money but money is evil
I want to follow my dreams but fear the risk, change, judgement..
2. Decide on the method
Go through your list and cross out the ones you wish to drop entirely, select those you wish to keep but give a different meaning and those you wish to not care about. In some cases it’s clear cut, you can easily drop one, but be true to yourself. Balance your poles, don’t be hard jammed to one side or the other. We are all hypocrites and naturally have a self-serving bias, we judge others for the same things we do. Resolving dissonance and avoiding judgment gets you open-minded and open to change which helps learn new things, get along with others and yourself.
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