Cognitive Dissonance and How to Handle Controversial Information Online

I provide a couple reasons as to why we become emotionally unstable when we hear information that competes with the information we were brought up to believe about the world. 

Nothing should ever be controversial to talk about. Everything should be up for grabs. Any topic. So, why can’t we have an emotionally-detached conversation without getting upset? Certain topics are only controversial because we are so steeped in our programming (liberal dogma, conservative dogma, political-correctness dogma, group dogma, dietary dogma, parenting dogma, cultural dogma, scientism dogma, fashion dogma, truther dogma, religious dogma, secular dogma, spiritual dogma, etc) that anything that contradicts it is perceived as a threat to our personal safety and security. This perceived threat activates the reptilian part of our brains (animal instincts) necessary for personal safety and territory protection. When activated, higher brain function such as reason, wonder, curiosity, compassion, and logic are inhibited. People who have had traumatic unhealed pasts might be in this state often. When we hear information that challenges our deeply held beliefs (our foundations upon which we live), we can become hostile, defensive, insecure, combative, and emotionally unstable — and for some, this could lead to psychic shock. Psychologists call this phenomenon “Cognitive Dissonance”. We go into a fight or flight state and our physiology is that of an animal being stalked or chased by a saber tooth tiger. The state of our bodies is the same state we’re in when we’re running for our lives and it’s all happening unconsciously. All we know is that we need to protect and defend what is OURS, our beliefs, our attachment, rather, to those beliefs.

Should you ever see people becoming emotionally unstable when they hear arguments that challenge convention, try not to take it too personally since they are really suffering. Many of us have dramatic attachments to our beliefs because if we were to find out that what we have been conditioned to believe about the world was a lie, we would not be strong enough to survive it. We might all be aware that we were lied to on a deeper level, however, we need those lies as they give us just enough comfort to make it through each day in this difficult challenging world. They make us feel safe.

Another reason why so many of us cannot handle opinions that contradict our own might be because it makes us feel powerless and even stupid. When we were kids, our own opinions might not have mattered. Our opinions were always wrong. Our opinions, feelings and thoughts may have even been belittled, laughed at or were why we were yelled at or spanked. At a young age, we learned that we weren’t smart enough to share our input. The child will believe she is stupid and might hold on to that belief until death. As adults, when we hear a different view other than our own, we might feel that sense of inadequacy again. We might even feel we’ve lost our personal power inadvertently remembering how powerless we were as children. When we get triggered by contrary opinions as adults, we might be unconsciously experiencing flashbacks that bring all those feelings of how little, powerless and stupid we used to feel on the inside right back up to the surface.

For these possible reasons above, so many grown-ups cannot have a proper, civil, adult conversation without becoming emotional or violent since our innate abilities to listen and be curious  completely shut down due to being in fight or flight. It’s the animalistic part of human nature. However, as we evolve, we become strong enough to handle what might be perceived as “controversial” later on.

We all know Cognitive Dissonance happens to all of us. The solution to this condition is to realize what’s happening. Sit with it. Be present with all the emotions coming up. Journal them and keep note of what triggers which emotions and why you think you might be triggered. Eventually we all have to learn to get comfortable with the idea that we are all on different levels of consciousness and depending the frequency we are on will also dictate how much strength and compassion we can express or not.  We also need to get used to the idea that the world is much more complex than what we have been programmed to believe.

Do we let the media shape our lens or do we trust our personal experience and inner wisdom? Do we repeat what we hear? Or do we question it, investigate it and eventually draw our own tentative conclusions?

There might be some significant hidden truths (both benign and malignant).  Some people we look up to may have lied to us. The establishment may not be our protectors as we once think thought they were? Maybe there is nobody coming to save us after all? Maybe there is no one in authority we can trust but ourselves? And the most powerful people in the world? Perhaps, they are not out for our best interests as we once thought? For those who have Stockholm Syndrome from childhood and unconsciously protect and defend the very people who abused them might have the hardest time facing the hidden truths of the world and will become even more emotionally unstable with “controversial topics”. Healing our pasts, embracing humility and being brutally honest with ourselves can help with the pain Cognitive Dissonance.

For those who want to cultivate the strength and compassion needed to have intelligent conversations, it is very important we face our past. We need to make peace with those who betrayed us  under the veil of love and protection. The more we heal, the less offended we will be when information that contradicts the mainstream narrative comes barreling down the road. The Truth is no longer a Threat as when we face the Truth of our own violators, we can handle ALL TRUTH, the truth of The Establishment (the other parents). Facing our own parents helps us face our other “parents”. This can pull us from the disempowered state of victimhood into a state of freedom, sovereignty and empowerment. The more experience we have in the human body on this physical realm, the stronger we become so that when foreign views are presented, we don’t lose ground.

Image credits to Mark Evans

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