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Cognitive Dissonance: The Mental Conflict You Don't Know You Have


Do you ever feel like you're not quite sure who you are or what you want in life? You're not alone. Many people go through life feeling confused and conflicted. This is because of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental conflict that arises when a person's behavior is not in line with their beliefs or desires. This can be a very uncomfortable experience, and it can lead to a lot of inner turmoil. In this blog post, we will discuss cognitive dissonance and the effects it can have on your life!

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our actions or thoughts contradict our beliefs or values. For example, let's say you believe that smoking is harmful to your health. But you also enjoy smoking cigarettes. This creates a state of cognitive dissonance because your behavior (smoking) is not in line with your belief (that smoking is harmful). This can lead to a lot of inner conflict and discomfort.


Cognitive dissonance can also occur when our thoughts and beliefs contradict each other. For example, let's say you believe that you are a good person. But you also think that you are not good enough. This creates a state of cognitive dissonance because your thoughts are not in line with each other.


The disharmony of belief and your desires for your actions can lead to a mental conflict that feels a lot like anxiety. It can be very confusing and frustrating. You may feel like you're not sure who you are or what you want in life.


Types of cognitive dissonance

There are four theoretic paradigms of cognitive dissonance. Belief Disconfirmation, Induced Compliance, Free Choice, and Effort Justification.


Belief Discrimination is when an individual experiences cognitive dissonance after being confronted with information that contradicts their beliefs. For example, imagine you have always believed that the earth is round, then you're given proof that the earth is, in fact, flat. This would create a state of cognitive dissonance because your belief has been disconfirmed.


Induced Compliance occurs when an individual changes their behavior in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. For example, you strongly believe that smoking is harmful to your health, however, you watched a movie that convinced you that smoking is just a way to release stress and is actually very helpful rather than binge eating. You may find yourself smoking cigarettes even though you cognitively know it is harmful to your health in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.


Free Choice occurs when an individual has the opportunity to choose between two options, and one of the options creates more cognitive dissonance than the other. For example, imagine you are offered a job that pays very well but requires you to move to a city that you don't like. Alternatively, you are offered a job that pays less but is in a city you love. In this situation, you would cognitively dissonance if you chose the job that paid more money because it would require you to live in a place you don't like.


Effort Justification occurs when an individual cognitively dissonance after they have put a lot of effort into something. For example, you may have cognitive dissonance if you study for a test and then do poorly on the test. You may feel that all of your efforts were for nothing.


How to identify cognitive dissonance

There are three main ways to identify cognitive dissonance: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive.


Behavioral signs of cognitive dissonance may include procrastination, avoidance, or compulsions. For example, if you are cognitive dissonant about whether or not to study for a test, you may procrastinate studying because you don't want to face the cognitive dissonance. Or, if you are cognitive dissonant about whether or not to quit your job, you may avoid thinking about it by watching television instead.


Emotional signs of cognitive dissonance may include anxiety, confusion, or feeling overwhelmed. Cognitive signs of cognitive dissonance may include black and white thinking, all-or-nothing thinking, or rigidity.


It is important to remember that cognitive dissonance is normal and we all experience it from time to time. The key is to be aware of it when it happens so that we can deal with it in a healthy way.


The effects of the cognitive dissonance on our mental health


Cognitive dissonance can have a negative effect on our mental health. It can cause anxiety, depression, and stress. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as avoidance, procrastination, and compulsions. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.


Cognitive dissonance can also have a positive effect on our mental health. It can motivate us to change our behavior or beliefs in order to reduce cognitive dissonance. For example, if you believe that smoking is harmful to your health but you find yourself smoking cigarettes, the cognitive dissonance may motivate you to quit smoking.


How to deal with cognitive dissonance in our lives

The first step is to become aware of cognitive dissonance when it happens. Once you are aware of it, you can then start to question your beliefs and behaviors. Ask yourself why you believe what you believe and why you are behaving the way you are behaving.


If you find that your beliefs or behaviors are causing cognitive dissonance, try to change them. If you are behaving in a way that is not in line with your beliefs, try to change your behavior.

Cognitive dissonance is a normal and unavoidable phenomenon that everyone encounters from time to time. The goal is to be aware of it when it occurs in order to deal with it in an appropriate way.


In conclusion, cognitive dissonance is so powerful that it can have negative effects on our mental health if left unaddressed. However, by being aware of the signs and symptoms of cognitive dissonance and taking steps to address it head-on, we can minimize its impact on our lives. If you feel like you are struggling with cognitive dissonance and could use some help, reach out to us. We would be happy to provide support and guidance as you work through this challenging but ultimately rewarding process.