What is this mental condition, and how could it, or does it affect your ability to reason?
Reconciling Opposing Points of View
Religious ideologies are the primary source of conflict in our modern world. If you hold biased opinions, the mind battles to reconcile differing ideas. This conflict causes mental dysfunctions and physical pain. It also hampers our ability to use reason and common sense. The mind reacts to protect its “sacred ground” of beliefs, regardless of validity or accuracy.
To resolve a conflict of ideas, we must be clear-headed and open-minded. Some people experience physical distress when attempting to resolve differing points of view. Cognitive Dissonance theory is the name given by mental health researchers to this condition.
When someone encounters opposing points of view, they must make a choice. To reconcile the new information, you must either reject the new data or change your existing worldview to align with the additional information.
When someone experiences this condition, it can be terrifying. It shakes the foundation of your reality. When something doesn’t fit into the existing worldview, it can cause various mental and physical symptoms.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
This theory explains the effects of attempting to reconcile opposing ideas. It also helps us understand how someone can remain in continual emotional stress for long periods. If they don’t connect their symptoms and the dilemma, it can last years.
This condition results from constant exposure to self-hypnosis and group hypnosis manipulation techniques. It makes people reject new ideas and ignore facts that conflict with their beliefs. This way, they escape the discomfort of considering anything that contradicts their current worldview.
Cognitive dissonance can spread through populations. We see it happen during times of war, famine, riots, or any significant social discord. It’s your mind telling you that your belief system isn’t working for you or your society anymore. Maintaining resistance to facts that expose the fallacies of beliefs causes intense discomfort. This conflict is harmful to your health and wellness. Ignoring scientific facts and logic that contradict your beliefs has consequences. It affects your ability to apply logical reasoning in other areas of your life.
The Healthy Response to New Data
People in a healthy mental state can reconcile opposing views rather quickly and with much less distress. An open-minded person will not automatically reject new data. Instead, they validate the facts. They use common sense to analyze the opposing viewpoints.
They test whether to accept or reject the new data by applying critical thinking. An open-minded person will change their opinions about reality as they encounter further valid information. It’s a valuable skill set to have in a rapidly changing world. Changing your mind when you confront new data is critical to your overall health and wellness.
An Unhealthy Response to New Data
An unhealthy worldview has common characteristics. It contains harmful bias and prejudice, which is also rigid and inflexible. A person with a narrow worldview will suffer from long periods of this condition because the world is changing so rapidly. There is a lot of information available. So, they are constantly running into data the conflicts with their narrow worldview.
Cognitive dissonance theory explains why people reject new data. They learn to ignore any data that conflicts with their worldview. Since they do not reconcile opposing views, they try to avoid conflict symptoms. People who use this strategy come from a highly religious background.
People with rigid religious beliefs place mythology above science. They accept the opinions of those who parrot their views as if what they say is factual or valid. It’s dangerous for them and anyone in their social circle.
We see this play out when people think their freedom is infringed upon when asked to wear masks during the pandemic. They confuse public health with their rights. Placing others in jeopardy because of ignorance and negligence is not selfish; it is a public health risk. Yet if you ask these same people if they wear a seatbelt in their car or use the toilet instead of defecating on the sidewalk, they will say, of course, I wouldn’t do that.
Avoiding opposing viewpoints is a learned strategy of confusing choice with prejudice, enabling them to cloak bias and prejudice. But now, you can see through this sham. After all, a religious experience is not a measure of truth. Nor should it be the basis to violate proven health and safety measures.
Flexible Religious Paradigms
Not all religions are inflexible. Some do not have strict boundaries on thinking. For example, Taoism and Paganism have very few constraints, if any. With these systems, you are free to explore and develop your path.
People with these or Atheistic backgrounds are least likely to suffer from cognitive dissonance. They are more likely to change their minds when they confront opposing viewpoints. It doesn’t mean they all agree on the same things.
Inflexible Religious Paradigms
Religions that rely on mythology and superstition as a basis for their systems are inflexible by their nature. So, their members will often have this mental condition because they will frequently encounter facts opposing their worldview. We see this to be the case with those who follow the Abrahamic religions (1). These are the Western organized religions of Semitic origin, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
These religions are rigid and inconsistent and have fought against almost every scientific advancement. They killed and imprisoned early scientists for suggesting it was the sun and not the earth was not the “center of the galaxy.” And, this fight continues today against human rights and medical treatments such as vaccines. They promote negative and regressive social practices, including genocide, discrimination, ethnic and gender bias.
Unfortunately, this thinking is part of many religious-based cultural systems. People use self-hypnosis and group hypnosis to indoctrinate and maintain strict beliefs. Parents and trusted spiritual authorities pass down lifestyle, religious, political, and personal opinions. In turn, these become deeply ingrained in the way we perceive life and conduct ourselves in it. These institutions influence many cultures, even if you are not a follower.
People with deeply held religious views live in this stressful mental condition. They become used to friction and conflict. Thus, they are more likely to act with violence to protect their beliefs. It doesn’t matter if the new information is accurate. What matters is that they maintain their boundaries. Otherwise, it causes headaches and other physical pain. It’s why this mental condition is called a religious headache.
Cognitive Dissonance and the Narcissist
On the surface, these two things don’t sound similar. A Narcissist is a person with an unhealthy and admiration of themselves and their abilities. They are self-absorbed and often abuse their relationships with others to bolster their importance.
People living for lengthy periods under the strain of this mental disorder will find ways to substantiate their views. It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is against their beliefs. The need to believe and belong to a particular group will cause a disintegration of their personality to unhealthy coping strategies. So, it’s not surprising that cognitive dissonance and the Narcissist are hand-in-hand. If you find one, you are likely to find the other.
Our mental health also runs on a continuum. It runs from healthy to unhealthy. It makes sense that people absent the indicators of a mental disorder are on the healthy side of the continuum. Healthy people exhibit healthy traits like kindness and compassion. They share and care for others.
On the other end of the continuum are those that show one or more abnormal psychologies. The most unhealthy exhibit several indicators, and narcissists are one of those on the unhealthy side. Narcissism is one of the ten primary personality disorders in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3).” Narcissism is a slippery slope that leads to more and more unhealthy behavior.
Overcoming Cognitive Dissonance
When you find yourself in this situation, it forces us to choose between the ideas causing the conflict. It enables us to shed outdated belief systems that separate us and cause conflict. It causes us to reject any new idea in favor of the existing paradigm’s beliefs.
Unfortunately, people will defend their current belief system even if it is rampant with error and inconsistencies. They do this because belief systems trigger the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. It creates an underlying current of anxiety. In this state, it becomes easy to engage these primitive emotional responses.
“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more, but I want nothing more.” ― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
So, people with cognitive dissonance find themselves in a constant state of emotional turmoil. Living in this state makes one susceptible to groupthink manipulation and propaganda. As a result, some unscrupulous leaders use this to maintain their control over their members. Here’s how to fight your way to the facts.
First, take a breath. Engage in proper self-care. Prepare yourself emotionally and physically.
1) Enhance Your Critical Thinking Ability
The quality of our thinking results in our ability to discern “facts from fiction.” Beliefs are preconceived points of view based on arguments. An argument is a selling tool. It acts as a filter to justify our beliefs. It doesn’t matter if what we believe is accurate or correct. As long as it aligns with our worldview, we must be right.
Everyone uses arguments that have something which supports their conclusions and their worldview. If the foundation of your worldview is facts, then your decisions will be based on facts. If mythology and superstition are the basis of your premises, then they will determine your conclusions.
“Because of propaganda induced cognitive dissonance, most people hate themselves and don’t even know it.” ― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
So, it’s vital to learn about the essential tools to increase your critical thinking abilities. Here are some links to the basics of logical reasoning and two other companion tools, spotting logical fallacies and the truth-seekers axioms. Study and apply the principles in your research.
2) Conducting Independent Research
Don’t give in and ignore the new data. Find the courage to face the fact that what you may believe is incorrect. Then conduct your research. Use sources from outside the paradigm you are researching. In some cultures, this is hard to do. So, use the internet and get outside of the cultural narrative. Learn to question cultural folklore.
Use the comparative analysis process to investigate the concepts of your own beliefs. Comparative analysis is a structured form of comparative religious studies. A structured methodology ensures more accurate data.
3) Eliminate and Minimize Negative Programming
It’s imperative to reduce or remove all programming sources that project and reinforce inaccurate and harmful programming. The primary source for this kind of programming is religious indoctrination. It uses many forms of media, including masquerading as news programming; Fox News is an example of programming many countries label as propaganda.
Cognitive dissonance theory tells us that a negative emotional or physical response is a wake-up call. Anger and frustration are one way our mind tells us that there is conflict. This conflict can force us to make changes to align with the new truth, or it can cause us to resort to other less healthy coping strategies.
For those open-minded, it is an opportunity to learn and move the boundaries of their beliefs. It can be a scary and painful experience for deeply religious people. Overcoming cognitive dissonance is possible.
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(1) Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
(3) DSM, www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
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