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Cognitive Dissonance

Many people are coming in for therapy to help them overcome the feelings of Anxiety and Depression based on their unbalanced cognitions associated with what is happening across America and the world. They are having conflicting thoughts that resist the challenges of their beliefs, their families, and their livelihoods. Fear of the unknown is even causing an increase in suicides even while the push for medication management for Anxiety and Depression is on the increase. A psychological journal called defines Cognitive Dissonance as:

"Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.

This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes,

beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance."

There is a saying, "Tell the lie often enough, it becomes truth." Manipulation of our minds happens slowly over time without our awareness. There is a book called, "The body keeps the score," and it explains how our minds can be lied to, but our body knows the truth. When we hear a narrative repeatedly that is based on a change narrative, even if it goes against our personal beliefs, we will eventually give in, even to the point of promoting that false narrative to others. But our bodies try to tell us the truth through feelings of Anxiety and Depression. We see this happening across America and down to the basic core of our families. Lives are being changed and compliance is being demanded through fear, shame, and even to the point of physical harm and death. Our bodies want to fight or flee the untruth and so adrenalin pours into our bloodstream as it prepares to face the challenge. But we don't see what is attacking us because it is subliminal and "unseen." Covid-19 is that unseen challenge that has stolen our freedoms, our connections, and destroyed our independence. We are told by those who want to "keep us safe" that we need to isolate and stay home, and there are punishments in place if you are not in compliance of social distancing and wearing a mask. Every core belief is being challenged, every component of society is being altered, and all this rapid change is causing society to alter our attitudes (more anger, hate, and murder), our beliefs (churches are forced closed and we are only to believe what we are being told), and our behaviors (isolate, social distance, wear a mask). Of course we are going to feel discomfort. The restoring of balance comes when we return to our original state of being: one that allows us to gather, hug one another, and feel safe in our homes, work, and in public.

Alexander Hamilton is given credit for saying, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Greek philosopher, Aristotle (c.384 B.C. to 322 B.C.) wrote a book called, Rhetoric that said good or positive rhetoric could educate people and encourage them to consider both sides of a debate. One aspect of the book refers to ones feelings of anger based on prejudice and pity for a cause have nothing to do with the facts and is based singularly on the feelings of the one stating those feelings as truth. If I "feel" you are something you are not, my feeling quickly becomes my truth and that truth becomes fact. The more people I persuade to that perceived truth, the more it sounds like fact. In therapy I give an example of this form of manipulation:

Vicki: "If I said you had beautiful green skin what would you say?"

Client: "I'd think you were nuts."

Vicki: "Do you feel anxious saying that?"

Client: "No. I don't have green skin."

Vicki: "Excellent. You did not alter your beliefs and remained balanced in what you know to be true based on facts and that fact is you do not have green skin. Now, if I called you a (fill in the blank), what you say?"

Client: "I don't believe I am a (fill in the blank), but I'm not sure. (Fill in the blank) says I'm a (fill in the blank) and I'm questioning why (fill in the blank) would say that."

Vicki: Does that worry you that you might be a (fill in the blank)?"

Client: "Yes. I don't want (fill in the blank) to think I'm a (fill in the blank)."

Vicki: "This is called Cognitive Dissonance because you know yourself to not be a (fill in the blank), but the repeated accusations that you are a (fill in the blank) causes you to question your beliefs, even while you know the truth that you are not what you are being accused of."

The only way to find balance when the other's intent is to cause you unbalance is to counter the false accusation with truth based on the facts and not on feelings. Susan Forward, Phd wrote a book that explains how Emotional Blackmail is used by one (person, group, organization, political party, etc) against another. The book explains how blackmail takes two people in order to work; the one doing the blackmailing and the one being blackmailed. She talks about how fear plays into the manipulation of another,

" For some, these fears are rooted in a lengthy history of feeling anxious and inadequate.

For others, they may be a response to more recent uncertainties and

stresses that have undermined their sense of themselves as secure, competent people." (pg.7)

You can initiate change in order to restore balance in your life. You have the ability to face fear and challenge illogical concepts that are negatively impacting your life. Fear is the enemy and it is being manufactured in great supply today. Listen to your body. If you feel anxious or depressed challenge the reasons why you are feeling unbalanced. Seek the facts, challenge the feelings, and stand firm on the truth. Like the Bible says,

31 "To the Jews who had believed him,

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth,

and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32


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