Have you ever heard of something called “cognitive dissonance”?
It’s one of those things about human nature that makes us feel “smart” when we understand it, and even “smarter” when we identify it in other people.
People on various forums are always pointing out how “other people” are “suffering” from some kind of “cognitive dissonance” as a “defense mechanism.”
Well, guess what?
Everybody does it. You, me, and even that saintly woman you know.
Not just sometimes, all the time.
And yes, it is a defense mechanism. As important and useful as that defense mechanism that makes us recoil at loud noises or creepy crawlies or things that go bump in the night.
See, defense mechanisms are there for reason. Or at least they were. In the wild, snakes were dangerous, and potentially deadly, so we, as humans, developed a natural fear of them.
But since we’ve created cities and societies and science and stuff, we sort of know which snakes are poison, and which ones aren’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re still scary.
Back to cognitive dissonance. What is it, how does it work and how can your recognize and keep it from getting what you want?
What is it?
Whenever something happens that doesn’t come out the way you want, you’ve got two options. One is to blame yourself. Two is to blame somebody else. Our automatic response is to blame somebody else. If we blamed ourselves all the time, we’d sink into a depression that would be hard to escape from.
It would be a vicious cycle with no exit. In terms of evolution, those that habitually blamed themselves instead of others tended not to have too many kids. As a result, we tend to immediately blame others when things go wrong.
The problem with this is that we never look at our own shortcomings objectively. Now, when we were caveman, this wasn’t a problem. We really didn’t have a lot of options. Find food, make babies, and keep away from tigers. Always blaming the world kind of forced us to up our game.
But in a complicated world of multi-leveled communication and competing strategies, sometimes it’s helpful to look inward and see how we can improve ourselves.
If you’re a sales person, for example, you’re not going to improve your game by always blaming the customers for not buying. (Incidentally, this is a popular excuse for poor performing salespeople.)
So, how do you know when you’re falling victim to this less than helpful, evolutionary baggage?
It’s not real, it’s just a metaphor to help what’s going on. Try this out. Next time somebody “out there” pushes your buttons, consider that it’s only because they, and what they’re doing, reminds you of you.
And it’s that part of you that you desperately don’t want to confront, so you automatically “project” your frustrations “out there” on somebody else.
But instead of just leaving it at that, like most of us do most of the time, look inward. Ask yourself, “what is that person doing that reminds me of me?”
And then find examples within yourself that are similar to that “other guy” out there.
Then just simply accept them. You are who you are, right? Nobody’s perfect. Far from it. We’ve all got skeletons in the closet we hide even from ourselves.
You’ll find that simply acknowledging and accepting those skeletons, people “out there” will bother you less and less.
People will suddenly and “magically” become more friendly and easier to deal with.
Giving you more and more power to get what you want.