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cognitive dissonance

February 3, 2011

Dissonance, despite its sexy sibilance and nigh universal applicability, is a beautiful word burdened with negative connotations (probably because it means discord or incongruity).  I believe that dissonance is as necessary as it is inevitable.  As much as I love Ebony and Ivory imagining a world of perfect harmony bores the shit outta me.

The best thing about the word dissonance is that it is often prefaced by some base component of the human condition (e.g. spiritual, emotional or my favourite, cognitive dissonance).

Cognitive dissonance–according to our good friends at Wikipedia–is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.   The below exercise should get you there briefly:

This happens to me all the time (I referred to it as ‘the peril of an open mind’ in a recent semi-epiphanic convo).  Warring concepts will drop in and for a while it’s very hard to decide which to adhere to, which to ignore or whether to just dispel them altogether.  At the end of the day, I find the temporary discomfort of not knowing is worth the perspective gained upon finally making this decision. 

Frederick Douglass began his West India Emancipation speech with, “Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle.” 

Oversimplified: no pain, no gain (who knew your personal trainer was so insightful?) or, if you prefer a little more context, cognitive dissonance and personal reform can be bedfellows…if you let them. 

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