The presidential race is getting to me. I’m experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs when a person simultaneously holds two cognitions, thoughts or beliefs that are psychologically inconsistent with a person’s behavior. I find myself in a “state of tension” as a result of the inner conflict of my thoughts and actions in face of the issues surrounding the presidential election. I’ve been trying to be a peaceful warrior in ways that come easily to me: I’ve consciously tried to look strangers in the eye and say hello, I’ve listened more compassionately and spoken up about my beliefs in conversations rather than staying silent. I’ve tried to educate myself about current issues so I can speak from a place of knowledge rather than reactive emotion. But it’s not enough.
Here’s the hitch: along with reading the news, facebook posts and comments that align with my beliefs; I’m also reading those that don’t. It’s a double whammy: I get punched in the gut with the nastiness of my fellow humans and with the realiztion that by allowing the media to “walk through my mind with their dirty feet” I am a participant.
According to cognitive dissonce theory, developed by the social psychologist Leon Festinger (Festinger, 1957), dissonance will be resolved in one of three basic ways:
- Change beliefs
- Change actions
- Change perception of action.
From my deepest heart I know that the hatred, racism, sexism, divisiveness and just plain meanness pervading the news and our culture is wrong. I’ve taught my children to treat others with respect and kindness- the good old Golden Rule. I believe with equal conviction that it’s not enough to just think it, you have to live it. Changing my beliefs is not going to happen, nor can I rationalize compromising my values by remaining silent. I am compelled to change my actions.
The dilemma becomes, “How does one take action yet not participate in the vitriolic arguing?” I don’t know the answer but I have to try. I believe that there is value in sincere effort to change and am hopeful that if everyone tries to do better, even in small ways, it will have a collective positive effect on our society.