Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance

Today a friend of mine told me about a psychological term known as “cognitive dissonance”. In simple layman’s language, it is described as “the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.” This is what I understood about it:
I guess we can at times describe it as the conflict between the head and the heart. Your head believes in something that is right, defining how things should be and what is the right way to go. Whereas your heart, the impulsive, non-thinking decision maker, just does what it wants to. And if the head is not able to control the heart at the right time, you will end up in the situation which will result in a conflict in your mind.
This is all well and good. It explains why people at times say something and do something else. Why at times we see people going against their “principles” and end up doing what their heart desires. I guess when it comes to this; there is a dissonance in my mind too. What should we do in such situations? What is the right way to go?

On one hand, I feel that one must always stand true to his/her principles. If you believe stealing is bad, then you have no right to steal and then say the circumstances were difficult and I had to do it. I hate it when people will go around looking down on someone because of certain qualities that person might have and they themselves cannot follow their own principles.
On the other hand, I feel why should one be bound by the rules of the head all the time? What is wrong in listening to your heart and going with the flow once in a while? You cannot live your life as a rule book; you cannot just define how you would behave in a particular situation. You may think a certain thing about yourself, but when you yourself land in a certain situation, the circumstances might induce you to behave in another way.

I guess this is why my mind is forever in a conflicting state. What is someone did something like this and ended up hurting you? Would you be able to forgive that person? Would you be able to forgive yourself? Even if you forgive, would you ever be able to forget? Would the wounds ever heal? You would be able to move on yes, but would that person ever get your trust again? What is done is done, there is nothing you can do to change it, but do you really want to go on thinking about it? Or is it better to just forget about everything and vow never to make the same mistake again?
Life teaches us lessons with every experience we have. We must never let the learning opportunity slip by us. But at the same time, is it really that easy to forget the pain and the hurt?

Hmm I think I am digressing, I guess looking at everything in a broader picture, I would say that one must follow the heart yes, but there are times when you have to consider another person. In that case one must always take a step back and see if in following their heart, would they hurt the other person. If yes, then just let it go, stop listening to the heart. Listen to your mind.
But then, would it mean that this will drown this voice of your heart? Damn this conflict is never ending!! sigh!!

Note: My friend pointed me to this verse in todays paper which is coincidentally related to what I mentioned above:
The Battlefield at the Kurukshetra is the human mind. It is always in conflict, faced with the freedom to choose without wisdom. The owner of the chariot is the ego or jivatma. The body is the chariot, a vehicle by means of which a life of dharma or ethical living may be achieved. The intellect is the charioteer (Krishna), and with such a person steering the course, success in any endeavour is assured. The five horses are the five sense organs. The road ahead is littered with the sense objects the mind runs after. The mind is the reins, and when it is calm and collected, it can control the sense organs from running wild and taking the wrong paths.


Adisha said...

It's a vicious circle with outstanding arguments given by both the heart and head ... Meanwhile who wins ?? The one that is More persistently stubborn :D which is why some times we find people behaving out of character ...

Parvez said...

Very very true....!!!
Are u a cancerian?

dreamy said...

@adisha: yeah i guess...
@parveez: thanks! and no i am not a a sagi..and proud to be one :)

Tech Mentro at Noida,India said...

I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting. Great ... Keep it up!
Tech Mentro