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I met the mother of cognitive dissonance…

December 20, 2010

but first, meet her spawn…

From wikipedia:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.

So, Cognitive Dissonance, or CD for short, is the process by which our minds are split. A split mind, just so you know, is not a desirable state. Of two minds reduces your efficiency by half. Have you ever been in three minds? I have. It’s not a good or happy place to be.

But the most easily understood  instance of CD comes on the good old shopping trip. Buy something, walk out of the store and you are bound to see something, within the hour or the day or the instant, which makes you regret your buy. Something cheaper, something of better quality at a marginally greater cost, something prettier, more useful. You get the drift. It works that way in most areas of our lives.

Getting married is such a moment for many. Suddenly someone else, someone else’s partner or the carefree single life seems to be infinitely more pleasing than what you are signing up for.

In fact, social marketers and psycho-ologists will tall you that CD will set in the minute you “decide” on something.

Wow! Why wow? Because in this world we inhabit, we are constantly faced by decisions. What, where, when, why, how much, why not, if, then, else, or, either, I wish, what if, ,ummmmm, brown, rye, white, tight, loose, far, near, save, spend……. endless list.

So there you have it, I met the mother of Cognitive Dissonance and her name is CHOICE.

Choice splits us apart. Cognitive Dissonance, keep us (inside) dissociated.

Any wistful reflection of a past choice and the endless re-runs on how you might have done it differently, said something, bought that other thing, spent a little more, complained a little less….. all echoes of CD that refuse to die. Still influencing you, consciously, every day.

And then I met the clan. Choice has many Sisters and they all go by the name of Variety.

And variety we have known, endlessly, is verily the spice of life.

And what would life be with a little spice eh?

This is the ultimate divide and rule game that we play victims to. I say play because you can choose to walk away anytime. Just like that.

First task is to write down your wants and needs on two separate pieces of paper.

Big enlightenment if you can be honest with yourself. Real wants, real needs only.

Choice is a cruel master. Next time you wish you had more choice, think about what you are inviting in. Split inducing, de-stabilizing Cognitive Dissonance.

Here sisters are even prettier. More distracting. And like in a hall of mirrors, they are an endless family.

Smash that mirror, literal and figurative.

See choice for what it is.

You will be more peaceful, guaranteed.

Now, will that be black or white?


5 Comments leave one →
  1. D a r i n a permalink
    December 20, 2010 10:53 am


    Point well made. Choosing Simplicity helps tremendously in this decision demanding world.
    In a related subject there is a book that I recommend that offered me many surprising insights earlier this year well named: “Refuse to choose!” by Barbara Sher

    What Sher has discovered is that some individuals simply cannot, and should not, decide on a single path; they are genetically wired to pursue many areas. Sher calls them “Scanners”–people whose unique type of mind does not zero in on a single interest but rather scans the horizon, eager to explore everything they see. Guess what type of scanner I may be and may be you may be too? 🙂

    Enjoy harnessing your cognitive surplus while choosing or not…
    D 🙂

  2. John Russell permalink
    December 25, 2010 1:28 pm

    There is a book on the market called, Eat, Sleep, Pray. I propose, some clever wag should write a book titled; Eat, Sleep and Excrete, a guide to simplifying your life to the true essentials!

    (You have a great Blog, I enjoy your insights, one word of caution; don’t take things too seriously, Mankind (we) are on the path from the Cave to the Grave, instinct rules all life, ergo, instinct rules us, we cannot escape instinct, or our essential nature, therefore we are right where our instincts have placed us, if instinct mandates self destruction we shall self destruct, relax, if you can, and enjoy the show!)

    • December 25, 2010 1:45 pm

      Appreciate the appreciation John. And I’m sure I come across as angry sometimes. All the time? I hope not. 🙂 It’s frustration. Keyboard hammering.
      I’ve heard that from people in my life too, worth pondering. Thanks.

  3. Nadall permalink
    July 29, 2011 8:13 pm

    I’m catching up on older posts Vivek. Don’t know if you’ll see this or not, but you don’t come across that way on anything I’ve read (or, now, seen … love the videos) at all. What I get from you is very centered and clear. Angry when and where appropriate. Very open to experience and at the same time, knowing what just ain’t right and having the ability to shut down/stomp out the wrongness within your own area (such as this blog when someone gets really out of line after fair warning.) Basically what I perceive from you is intelligence, talent, awareness, kindness, strength, compassion/caring, and of course, fallibility, about which you are very honest …. so, integrity. Having said that, (I should probably shut up now, but of course, I won’t) I also think it’s easy to present our best selves via blogs or videos (backspace keys and editing) so the people who surround you are probably better barometers. In addition, I think it’s extremely difficult to be someone who is exceptional and NOT be angry/frustrated. Particularly if you care. Mellow seems to come from detachment and it’s hard to detach with love. Nigh impossible for ME so far. Working on it. First gift helps a lot but is short-lived. (Now, how DID I make that Smiley?) 🙂

    • July 31, 2011 5:41 am

      Nadall, I do get to se it all, so am really happy when someone digs deep and back and comments. The blog was never meant to be temporal.

      And yes, you are correct re. confirmation bias. I hope what is forthcoming will give a clear picture in. It is important, in ways I hope becomes clear as we go down this path. Really appreciate your participation here.

      And by the way, practiced enough, the first exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. 🙂

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