Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Self-Justification's Role in Cognitive Dissonance

Whether we consider memory, our personal history, or a decision we made today, without our notice, our trait of consistency likely rules us. If anything was truly an innate trait that we humans suffer because of the Fall of Man, surely it is the illusion that we are independent, self-sufficient creatures. Self-justification rests the heart of our struggle to comfort our egos and acts as comfort's right hand. We strive to be enough on our own, free from a Creator, and our very own brains write the narrative to convince us that it is so.

Knowledge of how our minds work and why they work the way that they do can mature us. We can learn to slow down the knee-jerk self-justification process to give us more time to respond to life instead of just reacting to it. Whether we seek to minimize our own culpability for an error or craft a history that softens our regret, if we are aware of this very human quality, we stand a better chance of circumventing its pitfalls. We will never break free of bias, but we can learn to be better stewards of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. 

What might this look like? Affording ourselves enough time to make the best decisions will help thwart our automatic responses. Manipulators hate to wait because it shifts a bit of the power in a situation away from them, placing a bit more of it in the hands of their target. We need not automatically respond to everything that comes our way. Journaling can help elucidate our personal patterns of behavior, and we might even build a practice of waiting into our decision-making routine. Journaling also helps to increase and expand our skill of self-reflection.

We all share the innate sense of the accuracy of our perceptions and the realistic nature of our beliefs, and we can project that trait on to others. We anticipate what others believe or what they will do, but this can only be based only upon what we think and would do in their place. Understanding history can be helpful, but this is also a closed system that functions in isolation. 

In all truth, we really don't know what others think or believe, nor do we know whether they will show a logical, reasonable response about a matter at hand. Self-justification will always lead us down a comfortable, primrose path to a destination that we will find favorable (with minimal work). If we understand that this trait of our minds seeks to serve us by tickling our ears and our egos, it can help us anticipate more realistic outcomes which will drop our stress and raise our chances of success. 

Our prejudice for our own best interests only serves to reinforce our blindness. If permitted to exist with no challenges by others around us, we unwittingly build a flat view of the world around us and the people in it. Our drive for comfort with minimal work leads us into a type of reckless behavior and thought. We become our own measure of truth – we believe truth is what we think it should be. 

If we can resist compulsively justifying ourselves, we end up with extra energy to tolerate others when they fall below our standards or expectations that we set for them. We learn patience with others and compassion for others when we push our own needs to the side, just far enough to be wise. That helps us relate to others n healthier ways, and we become instrumental agents of positive change. 

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