Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Cognitive Dissonance

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:16 am

I’ve heard the Buddhist version: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering: in short the five categories affected by clinging are suffering. I’ve heard the Christian version: If you took your pain, formed it in a shape of a cross, placed it in a pile with the pain of all others, and were given the chance to choose any cross, you would choose your own. I’ve heard it so many times that you would think that I know it by now, but it’s still a concept that I cannot grasp.   Those whole girls
Hurl down words
Run in packs
With bloom to spare
            Suzanne Vega, Those Whole Girls, 1990

I see those whole girls and I want to trade. They are smiling and laughing. They have blonde hair and blonde children. They have tiny giggles and tiny asses. They seem perfect. Even though I know the truth, I still wish for a trade. I try to remember what they had to do to trade places in that Freaky Friday movie. I try to remember what magic they used in that Vice Versa movie with Judge Reinhold. What magic is it, because I could use some right now. I don’t care what Republican problems might be running in their pretty little heads, but whatever they are, they can’t compare. Whatever is troubling that perky nose can’t be as bad as what I’m going through sometimes.

I think they moved out to the suburbs
And now they’re blonde, bland, middle-class Republican wives.
            Everclear, Volvo Driving Soccer Mom, 2002

Cognitive Dissonance is the act of believing two conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time. I learned the concept when I was getting my teaching degree. For example, you could ask a child, “Do rocks float on water?” The child would probably say, “No.” Then you could show her a pumice stone and demonstrate that it can float. For a split second, the child will be in cognitive dissonance. She will believe both concepts: “rocks don’t float” and “I saw a rock that floated.” You can tell she is learning when you ask the question again and she answers, “Some rocks float and some don’t.”

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.             George Orwell, 1984, 1949

I’ve been in cognitive dissonance for an awfully long time now and it’s a painful place to be. I find myself thinking and believing contradictory things like “That bitch’s got it easy” and “She’s in pain. Just look at her.” Both concepts live eagerly in my mind. It doesn’t matter which one comes to mind first. They don’t cancel each other out. Intellectually, I know they should, but they don’t.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six — in all honesty I don’t know.’

‘Better,’ said O’Brien.
              George Orwell, 1984, 1949

The Buddhist philosophy tells me that I should follow the Eightfold Path to ease suffering. Instead of thinking of the ease or pain of others, I need to control my mind and acts in the proper way. An eightfold path is so complicated. I’m like a duck and I can only keep track of a limited number of ducklings. Eight is too many.

Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes
Even if it was for just one day.
And wouldn’t it be good if we could wish ourselves away.
            Nik Kershaw, Wouldn’t It Be Good

The Christian philosophy tells me to bear my cross and depend on God to help me carry it. Since I have absolutely no faith in a higher power, I end up just bearing my cross alone in this world. That blonde’s life looks better and better to me and I wonder what it would be like to taste her life for awhile. She’s probably hurting?


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