Dissonance for president

Aline Bales, Guest Column

Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts or beliefs relating to behavioral decisions and attitude changes — it’s challenging long-held learned beliefs and structures ingrained in oneself.
Have you ever wondered how many times a person changes their mind in a day? Does this make them open to suggestion or is it because they can be flexible on thought and opinion? How about a person who never changes their mind?
I suppose it would depend on what the subject is and how deeply a person believes in the subject of question. Deciding what to eat for lunch is more open to change with passing suggestion than perhaps how you feel about abortion or how you may view a religion.
Most of the people in the U.S. are brought up with the values, beliefs and structure by the parent. As a child, we might find ourselves in church every Sunday and going to Sunday school. We do not have a choice because that is our upbringing. How about a child who is brought up in a White Supremacist household? Are they to blame for the beliefs the have toward other people of different color? This is an extreme example but one that could best explain the importance of cognitive dissonance and the importance it has for growth in an individual.
For example, students learn about other cultures in school or through the media. With this education, If an individual with a white supremacist upbringing is learning about culture outside of their own, they may come to realize that they are viewed as a racist in American society because of their previously held beliefs. What if they conclude that what they have learned about other cultures is not true and find themselves not agreeing with what was taught at home?
This perspective puts them in a very big predicament. They experience cognitive dissonance and must take a hard look at the self and decide if they will continue with the belief structure already set in their mind from childhood or create a new set of standards due to the information and evidence they have been exposed to.
Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable and will cause tension, anxiety and could take a long time to come to terms with. When you hold conflicting beliefs inside trying to come to terms with them it is very hard but necessary.
People get disowned from families for going against one’s beliefs due to new information or provable facts being presented. You can imagine what kind of negative force an individual could face going home to talk with their mother and father to say they feel there is no difference between African Americans and Caucasian Americans. This way of thought would not be accepted in a White Supremacist home.
But having this sort of internal dialogue is a also a sign of growth. You must take a hard look at yourself and face things that you may love or hate about yourself. We must come to terms with the darkest parts of ourselves, discard what is not needed and embrace all the lessons learned. Through this dark and challenging time, we grow and become stronger with a better understanding of the self.
To move forward with a new understanding we must understand why we felt the way we did before the new information opened us up to a new perspective. The process of cognitive dissonance is never an easy one but it does get easier the more open you are to understanding different perspectives. It may not change your beliefs but it will help you understand why people feel and think the way they do which will make it easier to understand why you feel the way you do.
Cognitive dissonance can be an important tool for growth in an individual. It challenges the beliefs a person holds dear to their heart. When faced with this choice you gain a deeper knowledge of the self and the structure and premise of your core beliefs.