Cognitive Dissonance, the Pathway and Barrier To Awareness

Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Awake and Aware with 4 Comments
Naracoorte South Australia

Cave Entrance (a metaphor)

(By Benjamin Buehne)

The theory of Cognitive Dissonance is one of the more proven theories showing a truly human phenomenon. At it’s simplest it can be explained as such: The brain does not like contradictory information which causes dissonance and adjusts competing facts to relieve dissonance so as to strive for a singular world view. This phenomenon works alongside a complimentary phenomenon known as the confirmation bias. The confirmation bias is the tendency to remember information which confirms your beliefs and ignore information which contradicts your beliefs.

Let me provide an example.
A racist sees a black man commit a robbery. He’s more likely to remember this information as opposed to remembering the fact that the officer who later found and arrested this robber was black. Now to take it a step further… he’s shot during this robbery and the doctor that saves his life is African American… information that is very difficult to ignore and forget. He must explain this away through any number of justifications or he must change his racist beliefs and he will experience dissonance until he does.

Through years of experiencing life, forming beliefs, and tweaking to maintain a singular world view we can form a complex labyrinth of views and supporting information that supports other views and supporting information. The more we have riding on a specific belief the more overwhelming evidence must be to get us to change this belief. A strong example here would be abuse victims who form a belief system around believing their abuser is a good person. They make excuses, form tangential beliefs, and build a complex spider-web protecting this belief until the abuse becomes so overwhelming that this belief must change which causes many of their long held and strongly defended arguments which supported this to come crashing down. These must too change causing them to experience so much dissonance at once that it can make them dizzy and cause them to forget who they were (as they altered who they were to support this one strong belief).

Many who read this website are more aware than the general population with different levels of awareness ranging from being able to think species wide or globally to thinking cosmically or spiritually. You had experiences and received information which set you on the path to support and strengthen many beliefs you have had… and, as in the classic example, you have gone outside the cave and are trying to explain to others who only know the cave what it is like out there. It’s frustrating as you provide evidence and build your case yet it is ignored. Just as these phenomenon brought you to your conclusion, they also hold others away.

There are a few commonly held beliefs due to a bias of the self that almost everyone has. They believe they are smart (even if they got bad grades and have low IQ scores). They believe they are good and moral. They believe they rarely make mistakes. They believe they are important. Some may not hold these due to self esteem issues but regardless of the evidence most will hold these near and dear to their heart.

Enlightenment and heightened awareness can cause a dizzying effect and change several core beliefs. Afterwards, a person is changed and generally seeks out more information to hold these beliefs and they change their beliefs to support and protect what they had experienced. In a sense… this can make them sound a bit crazier than they previously would have. They believe this to be important and they think this should be shared.

Some will go out and they will call people that have yet to have this experience sheeple. They scream as they try to explain and they offer evidence and get frustrated that this has no effect failing to remember how they would have previously perceived themselves. It proves to be more effective in turning people away than bringing people in… the only people it would bring in were already on this path. People are told that they are ignorant, uncaring, flawed, and not unique (sheep being part of a herd)… all contrary to the core beliefs most every person has. Confirmation bias almost ensures your message will not be heard and it grows a belief system that people carrying this message are kooks.

The point here is that we need to take it easy on those who are not quite ready to hear the message you have to offer. At a point in time you were not ready to hear it either and when the time was right did you not seek it out and become drawn to it as opposed to having it shoved down your throat?

The more effective method is to prime people towards seeking these answers. Be respectful while challenging beliefs and find common ground on which to build a new belief structure. Chink at the armor instead of denting it. Offer information and try to get them not to ignore it through a simple discussion instead of forcing it upon them… or better yet have discussions unrelated and offer this information at relevant points in the discussion. Befriend people and offer activities so they can spend their time away from the mainstream media. Keep your information and sources strong and relevant (going with mainstream if possible) and choose common complaints to build a belief system.

If you are trying to convince people of what it looks like outside the cave, start by pointing them to the light at the cave entrance.

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