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What Happen When We Are Torn Between Beliefs and Reality

What Happen When We Are Torn Between Beliefs and Reality

Have you ever felt torn between two strong ideals? For instance, let’s say that you’re doing well on your diet, sticking to your goals and staying on a routine. But you really want a cannoli. You deserve that cannoli. It doesn’t fit into your diet so you shouldn’t have it; but you’re going to enjoy it anyway.

That internal conflict is called Cognitive Dissonance, and it is the catalyst for self-justification.

When we have conflicts in our minds, we seek consistency in our beliefs.

Cognitive Dissonance is an internal conflict where two opposing attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors struggle for precedence. This conflict can cause tension and discomfort which can only be alleviated by the alteration of one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors in order to restore balance.

The Principal of Cognitive Consistency was theorized by Leon Festinger (1975) stating that people seek balance and consistency in our beliefs and attitudes, and will strain to find balance in any given situation where two conflicting cognitions are causing a rift.[1]

From this theory spawned a new theory that would come to be known as the Cognitive Dissonance Theory; the powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can produce irrational and maladaptive behavior within individuals.

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Festinger believed that we hold many strong beliefs or cognition’s about ourselves and the world. When these ideals clash, it causes turmoil and imbalance; a state known as cognitive dissonance. Because this sensation is unpleasant, we are inclined to alleviate or eliminate the conflict to once again achieve dissonance.

In the 1950’s, Leon developed this theory during his time spent infiltrating a cult that believed the world would end on December 21st. Their leader warned them that on this day, extraterrestrial invaders would reign down and wipe out any sign of human life. Her noble followers gave up all of their money and belongings as one last attempt to achieve salvation before the end. December 21st came and went and alas, the world had not ended. The lesser devoted followers realized that they’d been conned and dismissed all ties with the cult. But those who had sacrificed everything and fully devoted themselves to the cause celebrated; believing that their devotion is what saved the world.

The devoted followers used cognitive dissonance as a coping mechanism; believing their actions had saved them instead of coming to terms with the fact that they mindlessly gave away all of their possessions at the request of a mentally unstable cult leader.

Our dissonance fluctuates depending on the values that we attach to our beliefs.

Our innate nature calls for balance, and as humans we are sensitive to inconsistencies between beliefs and actions. Two factors affect the severity of the dissonance: the number of dissonant beliefs, and the importance that is attached to each of the beliefs. This will determine which of the beliefs will be altered in order to restore balance.

Dissonance tends to increase depending on the importance of the subject at hand, how strong of a conflict occurs between the two dissonant thoughts, and our inability to rationalize and resolve the conflict.

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If a particular action has occurred that cannot be reversed, then we experience what is known as after-the-fact dissonance. Our beliefs on the matter have now been altered, and when faced with a similar situation in the future, we will act differently based on our dissonance. A good example of this would be culture shock. When visiting a foreign country, you are surrounded by those with different customs than you. At first you may feel conflicted, but then you assimilate to their culture. You will take this alteration of behavior home with you, and practice it in your everyday life.

The general strength of the dissonance can be aroused by a number of variables. If the cognition’s are personal,[2] provoking conflict abo ut how you perceive yourself, the dissonance will be more intense. Basically, as a rule, the more importance that is giving to an ideal, the more conflict will be experienced when that ideal is challenged.

A highly controversial and famous case of cognitive dissonance is Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to transcend into woman-hood.[3] Formerly Bruce Jenner, the pinnacle of male fitness and status felt that they were denying themselves of their true nature by remaining a man. Her physical identity strongly conflicted with her emotional, mental, and psychological identity.

To avoid questioning our beliefs, we may develop bias’s about them.

Because we are so devoted to our ideals and so sensitive to imbalance, it can be difficult for us to digest when faced with the reality that we could actually be wrong. To avoid this conflict, we may reject opposing ideas and arguments that challenge our beliefs so that we do not have to alter our way of thinking. This is how bias is born. To avoid bias, we must find a way to process the new information and adapt it to our pre-existing beliefs.

Unfortunately, dissonance is what we are going to encounter and experience throughout our lives.

Since avoidance is not an option, there are a few techniques that can help to reduce the dissonance so that we can move on with our lives.[4]

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1. Spreading Apart the Alternatives

When you make a decision, you cut yourself off from the opportunity of enjoying the benefits of the unchosen alternative, while committing yourself to accept the advantages and disadvantages of the one that you chose. You can alleviate the dissonance generated by this conflict by increasing the appeal of the chosen alternative, while decreasing the appeal of the unchosen.

For instance: you really loved two tops but you only had the money for one. Now you’re experiencing shoppers remorse and feel a bit torn. Well, that other shirt was yellow. And let’s be honest, yellow isn’t really your color. You’re better off.

2. Put in Effort to Make the Outcome Worth It

We tend to value items that we’ve had to work for more highly than items that were just given to us. Even if the experience was negative, we tend to alter our perception of the experience as positive because we are happy with the outcome.

For example: during finals week, you slept for maybe 3 hours in total, ate maybe 2 meals, and completely lost your sanity along the way. But you scored highly on all of your tests, making all of that excruciating effort worth it.

3. Change the Attitude

In order to restore balance between the two conflicting ideals, you need to alter your attitude towards one of the beliefs, behaviors, or attitude. This can be extremely difficult since our beliefs are deeply ingrained in us, but it is mandatory to restore balance.

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For instance: You’re a firm law abiding citizen. But you’re also very late for work. You know you should wait for the traffic signal, but no cars are coming so you make that illegal right turn to cut back on time. You altered your strong belief in adhering to all traffic laws in order to make it to work on time.

4. Get More Information

Summer is just around the bend, and you want to be nice and tanned when it’s dress and shorts season. The quickest way to achieve this is by visiting a tanning salon, but you also don’t want to cause any long-term damage to your skin. Well, some new studies have come out indicating that perhaps the use of sunscreen is more highly carcinogenic than exposure to UV light. This new information makes you feel justified in visiting the tanning salon. By emphasizing the new information, you don’t feel guilty while fake & baking.

5. Reduce the Importance

Preparing for the future is absolutely important. But we also know that we can’t always count on it. Life isn’t guaranteed, and we need to enjoy it while we’re able. An individual who is struggling with these two conflicting ideals (goodness knows I do) may choose to indulge in life’s pleasures such as rich foods and naughty recreational activities rather than hold out to avoid complications later down the line. By relishing in the importance to live each day as your last, you are reducing the importance of preparing for the future.

Featured photo credit: STOCKSNAP via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, freelance writer, & plantbased food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

He asks you for your opinion, but only follows his own advice regardless of what you say.She loves to talk about herself, everything about her is just better than you.  When you try to share anything happy about yourself, she seriously doubts it.

If you know someone who acts like these examples, there’s a chance they might be a narcissist.

What is a narcissistic personality?

Narcissism is a spectrum personality disorder which most of us have.

In popular culture, narcissism is interpreted as a person who’s in love with themselves, more accurately, their idealized selves. Narcissists believe that they are too unique to be understood and that they are so good that they demand for admiration from others.

Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that,[1]

the narcissist is someone who has buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissistic personality as a personality disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from some narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder.[2]

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not very common, but the truth is, we all have some of the narcissistic traits.

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Traits of a narcissist:

  • They have a deep need for admiration and validation. They think they’re special and too unique to be understood.
  • They feel they are superior to other. They achieve more and know a lot more than you.
  • They do not show their vulnerabilities. They fear what others think of them and they want to remain superior in all situations.
  • They are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They want to be the centre of attention and believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.
  • They are skilled manipulators and are emotionally abusive. They know how to make use of their charm to take advantage of others to get what they want.

How are narcissists different from others?

Narcissism expert and the author of Narcissism in a Nutshell, Zari Ballard, tried to answer some common questions asked by non-narcissists about what a narcissist thinks and feels from a narcissist’s perspective.[3]

Do narcissists know they are narcissists and are they happy?

We could really care less about how others feel. We enjoy our so called cold existence. True narcissists don’t want to change. We feel in total control of our lives using this method.

Do narcissists know or understand right from wrong?

Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong because they understand cause and effect. There is no “guilty conscience” giving them a clue and they are displaying the symptom of being “indifferent to social norms” while most likely presenting as ‘cold-hearted.’

Narcissists have a very different thinking mechanism. They see things from a different perspective. Unlike non-narcissists and empaths, they don’t have much sympathy and are reluctant to show emotions to others.

Why do people become narcissists?

1. Narcissism is vulnerability taken to an extreme.

The root of a narcissistic personality is a strong resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone.[4]

Narcissists refuse to put themselves in a position where they feel vulnerable. They fear that others will take advantage of their weaknesses, so they learn to camouflage their weaknesses by acting strong and powerful. The think showing emotions to others is a sign of weakness, so they learn to hide their emotions and act cold-hearted most of the times.

Narcissists live in a state of anxiety because they are highly aware of their emotions and how others think of them.

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Vulnerability aversion, is the root of a narcissistic personality.

2. A narcissistic personality could be a result of a wounded past.

Narcissists are desperate to seek validation constantly because they either didn’t feel worthwhile and valued in the past, or were being paid too much attention as the most precious and unique one in the world.

Faulty or inadequate parenting, for example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both permissive and authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptoms.[5]

Both parents who fail to see the worth in a child, and parents who spoil and give excessive praise to the child promote narcissism as the child grows. While the former ones make the child feel inferior of others and want to get more attention, the latter ones encourage an idealized-self in the child.

How to deal with a narcissist?

1. If someone close to you is a narcissist, embrace the differences.

There’re different personality types and not everyone will think and act the same as you do. Instead of trying to change others, learn to accept the differences and strike a balance when you really have to communicate with them.

2. Don’t try to change them, focus on your own needs.

Try to understand that narcissists are resistant to change, it’s more important for you to see who they really are, instead of who you want them to be. Focus on how you feel, and what you want yourself to be.

Embrace the fact that there’re different types of personality and the only thing you can control is your attitude and your own actions.

3. Recognize what they do only comes from their insecurity.

Narcissists are quite vulnerable deep inside, they question others because that’s how they can make themselves feel better.

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When you learn that what a narcissist does to you is nothing personal, but something that comes from their insecurity, you know that sometimes they just need a certain amount of reassurance.

This is especially important if the narcissist is someone you have to closely work with, or if they’re your family member. The right amount of reassurance can calm them down and get the tasks on hand completed.

4. Ask them what would others think instead of what’d others feel.[6]

Narcissists don’t feel guilty, but they care about how others think of them deep in their heart.

Clinical psychologist Al Bernstein explains:

There are just things, like other people’s feelings, that narcissists rarely consider. If you have their ear, don’t tell them how people might react; instead, ask probing questions. Narcissists are much more likely to act on ideas that they think they thought up themselves.

If you have to work with a narcissist closely, focus on the facts and ideas, not the emotions.

5. Let go of the need of getting a narcissist’s approval.

You’re not who a narcissist says you are. Don’t let their blame game undermine your self-esteem, and don’t argue with them just to defend what you believe is right.

There is no point arguing with a narcissist just to prove them wrong because they will not give in proving themselves right. It’s more likely that you’ll get more upset when they disagree with you in an unpleasant way.

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Know your own worth and detach from a narcissist’s opinion on you.

6. If a narcissist is hurting you, stay away from them.

Remember, a healthy relationship is two-sided. It’s about mutual respect and it’s based on give and take. But any kind of relationship with a narcissist is likely to be the contrary, it’s about making the narcissist happy and constantly supporting them. A relationship like this will only weigh you down and is unhealthy for your growth.

7. Set a boundary and always keep it.

If you’re setting a boundary, you have to be willing to keep it. When a narcissist sees that you’re trying to take back control of your life, they will try to test your limits, it’s just their instinct to do it.

Be prepared that your boundary will be challenged. Make your boundary clear, have all the actions needed to be taken in your mind.

For example, if you have decided to stop communicating with them, they will likely to show up in front of you just to talk to you. Be brave enough to keep your boundary, don’t back down and get close to them again; or else they will not take your boundary seriously any more.

8. Learn when to walk away.

When a narcissist starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doubt about yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up and give yourself enough respect to just walk away from them.

If you’re in love with a narcissist, you should seriously think about ending the relationship and move on for a better life. If the narcissist is your family member, you don’t have to be cruel to them, but it’s better to keep distance from them.

Reference

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