I had a bout with cognitive dissonance for who knows how long. I was sitting in a giant circle of quick sand that held all of the things I thought I believed and chose to remain stuck, ignoring the giant neon signs that dotted the landscape around me, lit up and constantly blinking evidence and facts to the contrary of my beliefs. I closed my eyes to these warning signs, choosing to ignore the facts and held on tight to the beliefs I had regarding my marriage, oblivious that choosing to trust these beliefs would soon lead to me being pulled so far down that I'd barely be able to escape.
Those that have gone through cognitive dissonance and have made it through seem to develop a sensitivity to spotting others with it. While I have crossed paths with some that are clearly going through some deep psychological stress from cognitive dissonance, I've become fascinated by the overwhelming amount of healthy, normal humans that mimic what cognitive dissonance looks like. These are your neighbors, family members, friends and confidants that stick to their beliefs, regardless if they are wrong or right, over the cold hard facts presented to them that would prove their beliefs are leading them astray. What gives? Why do psychologically healthy humans do this? Are we all walking around with some form of cognitive dissonance?
Well, to put it simply, we are complex creatures and our minds are the most stubborn thing about us. It's no wonder we have a tendency to be biased towards our beliefs over facts. The human mind does not like to go down the yellow brick road with inconvenient truths lining the path. As humans, we will think too little of facts that go against what we believe and think too highly of facts that align with what we think to be true. Because of this we might subconsciously ignore the facts and rebuttals from those things that are trying to counter us and our beliefs become even more solidified into our patterns of thinking which can really wreck havoc on interpersonal relationships.
The power of confirmation bias comes into play with these preconcieved beliefs and this can further damage things. You will seek out the answer you believe to be true instead of getting a larger, more objective perspective on something. When you put confirmation bias before having an open mind to things that counter your preconcieved beliefs, you are essentially assuming you know better.
Acknowledging mistakes is one of the hardest things to do. It brings a feeling of great shame when we have to admit we were wrong, that we maybe shouldn't have put our own beliefs before the truths presented to us, and we have a tendency to run circles in figure eights hoping to avoid having to admit to these mistakes. We'll even go so far as to tricking our own mind so that we don't have to take full responsibility for turning a blind eye to the truth and instead choosing to make decisions based on prior beliefs. We tell ourselves that our beliefs are still right but since the facts have changed we must change these beliefs and this keeps us from accepting the reality that our beliefs might not always be right. Another thing we do is demean those that counter our beliefs with the facts they have. We ostracize them and make them question their own sanity (gaslighting) which actually has an opposite effect because it ignites the other person's defense system and they hold firm on their position.
The biggest issue with putting your belief system before facts is that when your beliefs become interlaced with your identity you are setting yourself up to have to change your entire identity if your beliefs change. These are the people that seem to float from group to group based on what belief they identify with that month. They are the ones that cause those secure in who they are and that can hold a nuanced opinion on things, to put their guards up and question their genuineness.
So, what does one do when they find themselves unable to have an open mind, to consider choosing truth over their own prior beliefs about something or someone? They disconnect in a healthy way from who they are at the core and the products of their thoughts; Their beliefs become separate and viewed with objectivity. They understand that a disagreement doesn't mean someone has to therefore be wrong and the other person right. They make it a priority to become friends with others who do not share the same opinions as them because this will help get them out of a perpetual echo chamber and they allow themselves to be challenged.
A courageous man will acknowledge truth and not fall victim to the convenience of only listening to their own beliefs.