Monday, January 16, 2012

Being Better #3 - Say Hello to Your Inner Demons

Cognitive dissonance has negative power in our lives because of the lies we tell ourselves. 

For a moment think of life as a dinner date. Here we sit. Maybe we still have a half glass red wine dangling dangerously in one hand and one or two empty green bottles at our feet. We talk about about the ways in which the world has given us a raw deal and how things would be so much better if it wasn't for x,y and z holding us down. We may even expound on our own awesomeness and what a crime it is that the world is missing out on our personal greatness. 

What we don't want to talk about is
how our beliefs in our own awesomeness might be distorting our vision. Consider the alcoholic. It is an old saw for anyone with a dependency to say to themselves, and anyone that questions their behavior, that they can quit any time that they want. It's a lie of course. Everyone on the outside can see that, but the alcoholic can't because it conflicts with their belief that can control their behavior, and that's the key - belief.

If you want to meet your inner demons examine your beliefs. Now, I'm not talking about religious beliefs, though those can sometimes have a roll in bad behavior, but rather your beliefs about yourself, that you are kind, or moral or smart. In and of themselves such beliefs are not bad, but only so long as they are not absolute. If our vision of ourselves as a kind person, for example, allows for the occasional 'bite your head off' failure we are more likely to maintain a realistic and internally honest picture of ourselves. However say we imagine ourselves as smart, and perhaps we have an unhealthy habit like gambling (not to pick, there are plenty of others), and we believe you can only be 'smart' if you never make a mistake...DANGER DANGER DANGER. What's likely to follow your gambling is an avalanche of justification that allows your mind to handle the two obviously incompatible ideas by keeping one and quashing the other. Not only is this type of thinking the path to ruin, but in extreme forms it is narcissism

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. If we take this advice to heart we can begin to reduce the negative aspects of cognitive dissonance in our lives. That's why I have made a commitment to examine my thoughts, consider my beliefs and allow myself the freedom to fail. How about you?

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