In my previous post you could have seen that how easy to cheat ourselves sometimes. We can say that self-justification is a kind of excuse or comfortable lie in a contradiction to uncomfortable truth. If people commit themselves to an attitude a communicator can cause dissonancy and to decrease this tense condition the best way is to distort proofs or refuse them. The more we are committed ourselves to an attitude all the more we are willing to refuse every counter-arguments. It can show that to decrease dissonancy also drives us to a distortion of objective world because generally people do not like to see or hear things which are contrast with their own core believes or wishes.
Dissonancy and rational behaviour
Very often dissonancy deduction behaviour is very irrational. Because often this means wrong adaptation and can prevent someone from cognizance of important facts or finding real solutions for a problem. In the other hand it has a rational function as well which is protection the self, the ego; through it we can maintain our positive self-image which is we are good, smart and man of merit. We can look at this self-defence mechanism as very useful but sometimes can cause fatal consequences. (Generally people especially nowadays are willing to choose a comfortable lie rather than the painful truth even if it is still a lie.) Several studies prove the illogicality of dissonancy deduction. (Jones, E. – Kohler, R. 1959). Well it is always comforting us if all of the wise people are on our side and all of the stupid are on the other (which is not real but that is how we want to see and believe it). We do not process information on an objective and impartial way. Quite the contrary, we distort them onto a way they fit into our previous conceptions. (Lord, C. – Ross, L. – Lepper, M. 1979) We all can point out in our behaviour that we can behave rationally and irrationally as well. There are people who are able to handle dissonancy better than others depending on circumstances.
Dissonancy like a consequence of decision
After making a decision nearly always people experience dissonancy – especially after a decision which required a lot of time, money or effort. It is because the chosen alternative hardly completely positive and the rejected is never completely negative. After a difficult decision people like to get enough calming about the rightness of their decision so they are looking for information which can confirm it. After a decision making people highlight the positive side of the chosen option and decrease negative ones of the refused and the opposite.
External and internal justification
Several times happen that people say the opposite of what they think or they believe. For instance; Christina and Maria are not too close friends but they are shopping together. Maria is trying a dress on and asking Christina’s opinion. Christina’s first thought is this dress looks awful but since she doesn’t want to hurt Maria’s feeling she says that; “This dress fits you well, you look so pretty!” Theoretically, Christina’s content of consciousness about herself is like she is an honest person is not compatible what she just said. To release the dissonancy she needs a new content of consciousness which can be that it is important not to hurt people’s feeling. “I lied not to hurt someone!” It’s an effective way of dissonancy deduction and it was determined by a situation. It’s called external justification. First we always look for external justifications and if we don’t find any we try to find internal ones which means changing our own attitudes which fit what we said. Like “That dress did not look as bad on her”.
Where from we get our core believes? Do we get them? Some part of it yes from our parents and from our closed environment and society by socialization and some part of it through our own experiences.
According to Charles Darwin, the key of survival depends on the ability of adaptation. What if someone is not open-minded and has strong core believes (incorrect or outmoded way of thinking) without flexibility? Well, there is only one thing constant in life which is the change. Our world is changing daily and we are forced to adapt those changes. If we are not opened for new information or ideologies and having lack of flexibility, we can experience cognitive dissonancy over and over again almost daily. So how we can avoid to face with frequent dissonancy? A common solution is isolation. Information and social isolation. Easier to put our head into sand as a denial than looking for dissonancy deduction solutions all the time. Inflexible people do it so often. They look for friends who are almost the same, same ideology same view, same culture, same classes of society, same education or religion and they avoid social interactions with other people which can create an opportunity for dissonancy to appear by talking about several topics with those who are different. Inflexible and closed-minded people are mainly who judge others, continuously defending themselves and their point of view and believe they are always right. Do you know a person like that? I am sure you do!
These kind of people actually live in a bubble which is their own prison.
Continuously defending ourselves and refusing new things, facts or others’ point of view take so much energy, make us unhappy and living in a world which can be far from the reality. Living like surrounded by great walls made by us (fears, misbelieves) not just defends us also prevents to develop and experience good things as well. We all have a strong ego defence system but we must see, understand and experience there is nothing wrong with us, if we are or have been wrong or have been thinking on a not correct way. From time to time people learn from their mistakes and able to improve and develop. In ideal case we are able to say that “Yes, I was wrong.” “What kind of lesson can be drawn from it?”
How can we reach that?
- Recognize, acknowledge and understand our own defence and dissonancy deduction tendencies.
- Realize even if we did something silly or unmoral thing that still doesn’t mean we are silly and unmoral people for good.
- We develop enough self-strength to take our own mistakes.
- We evolve that capacity to perceive that comprehension of our mistakes are useful and fruitful in terms of growth and learning.
I know it is easier to write down than work on it. If you had found some misbelieves which hinder you from being confident, happy and harmonious with yourself and with others you always can look for help to achieve them. As a therapist I can assure you it is possible to become open-minded and peaceful with yourself and with others just by improving your self-knowledge. If you want to be delivered from your wrong misbelieves, set free from your own prison; contact me and I can show you it is possible.
A very good friend of mine told me once: Living with refusal just you will be poor.
Aronson, E.: The Social Animal (1999)
Forgas, J.P.: Interpersonal Behaviour. The Psychology of Social Interactions (1985)