Cognitive Dissonance

Can we talk about cognitive dissonance for a sec? Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two opposing cognitions (beliefs, perceptions, opinions, etc.) at the same time and so we make excuses so we don’t have to live in that uncomfortable space.

Here’s an example that I’m pretty sure we all know:

A Lifelong Smoker: I know that smoking is bad for me, but we are all gonna die one day, amIright?! Plus, if I quit I will gain weight and that is just as bad!

It is not.

That’s classic cognitive dissonance.

The smoker knows they should quit, knows it is unhealthy and will lead to an untimely death, but they like to smoke and they are addicted and stopping is hella hard. We all do this at some point in our lives. (Not the smoking, though I certainly did when I was younger and thought it was cool!) I mean we all struggle with cognitive dissonance.

I am addicted to food. Always have been. It’s my go-to comfort and it’s why I have liver problems and it’s why I have high cholesterol and it’s why I am at risk for heart disease. Genetics play a small role, but much smaller than you’d think.

Over the last year Jerimiah and I have changed our eating habits and we are constantly side-eyeing each other’s cognitive dissonance. Like when my doc asked me to cut out red meat this Midwestern girl was all, “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE?!” I absolutely said to Jerimiah, “It will make me sad and that’s just as bad as heart disease!”

It is not.

Jesus, I’m dramatic. And also full of cognitive dissonance. As if I need certain foods, drinks, or things to lead a happy, fulfilled life. Bleh.

Jerimiah is guilty of cognitive dissonance in work-related ways. Corporate America has done a number on him and he truly believes that if he is not available for certain people the world will come crashing down. He says shit like, “I have to reply to emails while on vacation or they will back up and it will be more work for me when I’m home.”

One day we discussed him telling people that when he is on vacation he will not be accepting emails and when he is back, if they still need to talk to him, they can just send another email. He thought that was ABSURD, at first. Then, not so absurd.

He knows that he needs to relinquish work to enjoy his time off, he is even quite aware that his company relies on him to never be “off work,” even when he is “off work,” but he also knows that he deserves time off fucking work! He has to have it to function properly. He hates that uncomfrotable knowledge so he says shit like, “Well the work will just pile up.” Not if you don’t let it.

Some of you are like where’s the new, interesting stuff, Missy? Because you are working on your shit. You see a therapist regularly, you read Brene Brown, you have open and honest conversations with your loved one.

But there are some of you who will be learning what cognitive dissonance is for the first time on this bleh Tuesday morning and all I’m asking is that you consider if for a bit. Because what’s worse than just run-of-the-mill cognitive dissonance is ethical or moral dissonance, and I think many of us struggle with that more often than not these days.

I’m including a short video that I found helpful in wading through all this, I hope it sparks something for you today.

As for me, I’m going to go have a whole wheat bagel with avocado instead of cream cheese because it is heart-healthy and the world is not going to implode and I am not going to live a sad sack of a life with no purpose just because I am cutting back on dairy. Yes, there was a time I thought cheese was the be all, end all to my world, but it is not.

That’s ice cream.

Have a happy, healthy day, however you do it!

M.

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