"Cognitive dissonance" is a term used to describe the effect on a person's mind when something they have always taken for granted to be true is challenged. It's the mind's version of an orchestra tuning up: an unpleasant confusion of non-harmonic notes.
Ben and I have spent a lot of time talking about cognitive dissonance over the past few years, about what it means and how to address it. For me, this dissonance is almost physically painful. The easiest (most arrogant) thing to do when my assumptions are challenged is to dismiss the contrary idea as foolish and not worth thinking about. It's actually very difficult to go beyond that point, accept the challenge and use research and reason to either conclude that my original assumption is correct or realize it's incorrect.
Many of us when faced with cognitive dissonance find it so painful we do not even try to address it. The only reason I'm learning to is because Ben so fully had to embrace it in order to change from the way he used to think to how he thinks today. He is much quicker to embrace cognitive dissonance and search for an answer to resolve it than I am.
But leaving cognitive dissonance unresolved means caring for our own idea of what is true rather than loving what really IS.
One of the things I've been noticing in the current political race (and I apologize for two political blogs in a row, but it's been a riveting primary season and I've been doing a lot of research...more on that in a minute) is many peoples' eminent refusal to actually search out and find the truth for themselves about candidates they like and accusations against them. If anyone says anything about a candidate we happen to have pinned all our "like" on, it's easy to dismiss the accusation as sour grapes or a biased perspective or an outright lie, etc., etc.
It's not easy to start rooting around and find out the answers for ourselves.
For instance, I've liked Ted Cruz for a number of years now, especially since the Obamacare debates in Congress. However, when he first declared his intention to run for president, Mike Farris of HSLDA - someone I have a lot of respect for after taking a class from him and reading his articles and opinions over a good portion of my life - said he would never choose Cruz as a primary candidate because "he backed the Iran deal". That was a stunning accusation to me since I was familiar with Cruz's speeches AGAINST the Iran deal and there didn't seem to be any wiggle room for backing it. If, after that kind of posture, he had actually voted for the deal in some way...that was a deal killer for me too.
It took me two weeks of research to chase down why Mike Farris said what he did. I had to read too many very dry articles about Congressional procedure and had to go through Ted Cruz's voting record, looking up each bill and amendment he voted on to get a summary of what it was and what it did in order to find anything related to the Iran deal. I finally figured out what Mike Farris was talking about: Ted Cruz voted "yes" to move the Iran Nuclear Review Act forward in Congress, which ultimately ended up allowing the President to lift sanctions on Iran without the deal being properly reviewed and approved by the representatives of the people. He also explained why: because he had hope the Iran Nuclear Review Act would at least slow things down and keep the debate going to allow for further amendments that would ultimately stop the deal completely.
That hope failed. But I don't think he was backing the deal. He was trying to find someway, somehow to stop it.
Now, Mr. Farris may still be correct. I could be misreading things. I'm not an expert in chasing down all the possible angles of votes like these. But at least I know what I think based on what happened instead of what various people wrote opinions about.
(And speaking of dry facts, some of the other ones I've chased down recently have involved reading the last quarter of financial reports from the different campaigns. Turns out Donald Trump isn't exactly funding his own campaign - donors are, just as with everyone else's campaigns. The only difference is that Donald is apparently gambling on winning and has loaned his campaign about a quarter of the funds that've been used. Loaned. As in "expects to get paid back"...although its unclear whom he expects to pay him back. Donors? Probably. I know...fascinating...but after all, he's made a huge foundation of his candidacy being that he's so rich he's not dependent on anyone and he's self-funding his own campaign just to prove he can't be bought. And that's...not exactly true. I also do see why he gets audited so often - if he really hires "the best of the best" to do everything, he needs to hire someone else to do his campaign financials because they're pretty sloppy compared to everyone else. Perhaps his income taxes are just as squirrelly.)
The point here is that I encountered cognitive dissonance: someone I respected had something pretty serious to accuse someone else I respected about. I could've just ignored Mike Farris. Or I could've just bounced on to a different candidate to support and forgotten about Cruz altogether. It takes a lot of effort and thought to reach back through other peoples' analysis and find the information to form a thought myself. It takes so much effort that I don't relish it and wish I could just trust other people to write nice neat articles affirming or refuting these kinds of accusations.
But that's not how good decisions are made.
The same holds true in all facets of life. Learning to ask ourselves questions, to face the process of chasing down the answers and not accept careless assumptions in the process, to keep probing our own minds to make sure we aren't just taking in what someone else has said as our own belief...it's the toughest challenge to face, I think. Looking objectively at my own mind and singling out things I've taken for granted that may or may not be true is seriously tough. Questions are disturbing. Change hurts.
If there's one thing about an earnest desire for truth, though, it's that you have to be willing to look at the one-star reviews on an Amazon listing instead of just accepting the five-star ones because you'd like the cool product. You have to be able to look at questions you don't want to ask and not be content with surface explanations. You have to be willing to look at yourself and say, "I know I thought this...but I was wrong."
And then change direction and love truth more so that next time it won't be quite as painful.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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