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Explore The Effects Of Cognitive Dissonance In Your Daily Life

Written by: Bethany Perry, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

“The clearest sign of intellectual chemistry isn’t agreeing with someone. It’s enjoying disagreeing with them. Harmony is the enjoyment of different tones, voices or instruments, not the combination of identical sounds. Creative tension makes beautiful music”

Adam Grant


Lately, it seems everywhere I look I see intense disagreement and profound disregard for difference. I wonder, have we forgotten what makes music beautiful? What harmony can be with our differences?

As an American, these questions trouble me deeply. Our great country was founded on the importance of respectful and enthusiastic debate and discussion. Freedom of expression comes with a built-in responsibility to respect and even love our intellectual opponents. Ideas may separate us, but what keeps us together is much more meaningful – love in its highest form. This expresses itself to our fellow countryman, our neighbors, and our familial relationships. If we didn’t love each other, we wouldn’t care so deeply about our shared direction. And yet, it seems we are becoming more divided and indignant with one another as time (and this pandemic) goes on.


Anyone else experiencing this?

It appears to me that we are less tolerant of opposing thoughts and ideas. While this speaks directly to the existential trauma in the world (https://bit.ly/32VcBzeBrainz article) it also indicates that we are in the “Hulk” brain and our prefrontal cortex is confused at best. When we fail to see through eyes of love – we fail ourselves as much as we do the world around us. One of my favorite quotes is:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Think of darkness as only one note!

How do we reconcile this? How can we reach our hand out to someone we don’t agree with? How do we offer them love? Has the answer to relational disagreements been to stop loving, end friendships, close off communication? Start screaming, arguing, pointing fingers, and slamming ‘social media’ doors? While that might be an initial reaction, loving one another and growing because of our differences is vital to higher thinking, learning and harmony while we are here on earth. This takes mindfulness and cognitive flexibility and an understanding that it is never possible to think completely alike – why not have a party around differences? Make music so to speak!


I believe an underlying cause of the dissonance we are experiencing today is fear. So many of us now are operating from this place – albeit with good reasons. While each person’s relationship with fear is individual and unique, this pandemic and political climate changes how we relate to ourselves and others.

Let’s be honest Covid-19 has created an environment where most of us are living with some kind of fear. Whether it’s the uncertain future we are all facing, financial stressors, health concerns, or the day-to-day management of so many changes at once. Fear creeps in.


Shared experiences like a global pandemic, can provoke fear in many ways, and in many different people at once. It can feel like things are truly falling apart, in the world, in our country, our state, making its way to our homes.

It doesn’t really matter what we fear specifically, it’s our reaction to it that alters our behavior in fundamental ways. Our ability to function as we normally do is impaired. Our perceptions change. Our view of the world affects how we operate. Our instinct to self-protect goes into overdrive. It’s much harder to connect with ourselves and others. Self-protection is automatic for our brain and body. However, that doesn’t mean what we choose is always constructive.


Is it possible to love ourselves while respecting and loving others when in this state?

There are some important things to understand when we live in fear. First, our prefrontal cortex is not functioning at full capacity. This can lead us to make choices that may be harmful to others, creating rifts and an inability to see someone else’s perspective.

Humans are social beings. We are designed to connect and interact with one another – even when we don’t agree. Referring to the initial quote of this article, creative tension can be expected and beautiful in all of our relationships.

In my opinion ‘trauma’ can hold a different definition than what we commonly think. When we operate in fear our sympathetic nervous system moves into a state of agitation. This leads to a physiological stress response in our body which creates a domino effect with our thoughts, behaviors, and health. Over time, this can create trauma in our bodies that we don’t realize exists. This is much more commonplace than many people think.

Life can be distressing which most of us would like to deny or avoid, but the truth is we can’t.

An important way to bring change and healing is through cognitive flexibility. This is the ability to adapt your behavior and thinking in response to the environment. An important and relevant example is choosing to see another person’s perspective, consider it, imagine their viewpoint. We then decide whether or not to integrate the new information presented within ourselves.

As the world we experience becomes more and more extreme – it begins with me and it begins with you – someone has to cross the aisle first.

That takes effort, of course, which is hard to come by during stressful times. This extra effort has mental health benefits for us individually as well as our relationships collectively.

In contrast, if we choose to disregard a variety of perspectives, it indicates lower cognitive flexibility. This is associated with difficulties in emotion regulation, which is the inability to constructively manage one’s emotional reactions. I think we have all experienced this at some time or another.

When a person practices cognitive flexibility, they activate specific brain regions, one being the prefrontal cortex. This region activates critical thinking, decision making, emotional regulation, and many other positive brain activities. Strengthening your prefrontal cortex is also a benefit of practicing mindfulness. This allows for trust and compassion to develop even when there is discordant dissonance amongst us.

Were you aware that practicing both cognitive flexibility and mindfulness opens the doors to a deeper understanding of others’ perspectives as well as your own?

Positive change doesn’t come from surrounding ourselves with uniformity and ease. While this may be uncomfortable, let’s go back to the beginning. What would music be with only one note? Where would harmony be if we were all the same? Isn’t it beautiful that this is a choice?


If you desire to develop greater cognitive flexibility and mindfulness, in your life? I welcome you to a workshop where we integrate these concepts. Exploring how we, as unique individuals can expand our perspectives to think globally will bring love and healing to ourselves, our family and friends, and the world at large. See workshop info here: www.bethanyperry.com/CFMworkshop


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Bethany Perry, Executive Contributor Braiinz Magazine

As a gifted and intuitive Transformation Coach and Motivational Speaker, Bethany Perry has more than 30 years of experience in various healing modalities. She utilizes Neuroscience, Emotional Health, Nutrition, and Yoga to inspire clients to safely explore and overcome a variety of biopsychosocial challenges. These are the 4 pillars of Bethany Perry's Whole Life Healing method. By combining these pillars with the practice of meditation, Bethany’s compassionate approach gently and lovingly promotes healing, especially for clients who may not have had success with other methods.


She is a certified as: a Neuroscience Life & Health Coach; with the Daniel Amen Affiliated Education Center; Brainspotting Practitioner; Trauma & Resilience Coach through Arizona Trauma Institute; Transformational Coaching based on NLP methodology; Experienced Yoga Instructor; KRIPA Iyengar Yoga teacher for Addiction & Addiction related ailments including TBI, and more. Bethany is the owner and founder of Whole Life Healing Coach, and Whole Life Healing Centers, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive healing strategies for individuals and families impacted by emotional and physical trauma.

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