"Cognitive Dissonance" and The World Around Us!

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Cognitive Dissonance is loosely defined as: "the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values."  Today, Cognitive Dissonance is affecting more and more people, resulting in fear, panic attacks, poorer sleep habits, erratic behaviors and even addictions (drug and alcohol abuse).  

As a society, we have been functioning quite normally.  But, when our leadership, economy and society begins to break down on several levels, we begin to feel the effects.  Whether it comes from your job (or lack thereof), problems with income, family issues, problems with your kids, or even health problems that were unexpected, we can quickly feel the frustration and anxiety that becomes "Cognitive Dissonance".  

As a Mental Health and Marriage and Family Counselor for a number of years, I saw many people who were on the verge of greater conflict, but they had not yet realized it.  Their body was panicking, but their brain was in denial.  Sometimes it was reversed, it was the mind that was panicking, and the body was in denial.  I grew up hearing these episodes called "Having a Meltdown" or a "Nervous Breakdown".

Before we titled it as "Cognitive Dissonance", there was little formal terminology for the mental implications of the mind "reacting to a different reality".  Psychiatric Wards and Mental Hospitals only dealt with the after-affects of these Mental Health Breakdowns.  And, there was no cure. There were only futile medications to "numb" the senses, often creating forgetfulness as well as killing the affect of an individual.  

Recently, in a store, I overheard a woman say to a cashier as she was leaving, "I do not have time to have a Nervous Breakdown!!", she implied emphatically, and with a big smile on her face.  She was leaving a store with 3 young children in tow, two of which were screaming and crying.  In truth, she is partially correct.  Most of us stave off our "reality" by becoming overwhelmed by our circumstances.  And, when we are not "overwhelmed enough", we can create or invite chaos in our lives to distract from our true feelings and emotions.  This has almost become the "American Way" of dealing with stress and chaos.  We simply invite more of it, as it consumes us to the point we have no time to dissect it or to analyze it properly.  

As someone well-trained and educated in Mental Health, I had to not only identify these problems, I had to also facilitate and apply the solutions for each individual. This is harder than you might think, as everyone has created their own world and reality in which they exist.  Discussing the "reality" of each individual is often easy, as most people have constructed it and rehearsed it and conformed it to comply with this world and those around them, as well as encompassing their own beliefs, constructs and ideologies.  That is the easy part.

The difficult part was getting people in touch with their actual reality.  And, once there, came the very precarious role of not leaving the patient worse off than they were coming in.  Helping people "over the edge" is very precarious and difficult.  Behind them and surrounding them, they often feel is the "impending forces of doom", yet they can either "jump" to their "Freedom" or "jump to their death", so to speak.

I had to work with many people "on the edge", helping to "jump to their freedom" and not their "death".  I found, we could never get to that point, or go beyond it, without some level of "Cognitive Dissonance".  Some of you reading this, already know what I am talking about.

You see, our brains / minds are being hardwired since our birth.  We tend to learn and accept things that fit into our world of understanding.  When evidence and information we stumble upon does not coincide with our "reality", we quickly reject it in order to salvage the "reality" that we have created.  But, when our life begins to funnel into a quicker reality, and circumstances go beyond our control, we begin to breakdown, mentally (and physically).  Our minds do a "Fight or Flight" as our body's would normally resort to.  

When these episodes occur, it can be self-destructive to ourselves (and even others around us).  We can often also resort to MORE chaos, as I described above, in order to distract us from the reality we are now having to deal with.  These are poor "Coping Skills" and rarely resolve in a healthy fashion.  

The first step in dealing with this "Mental Overflow" is to stop trying to fight it so much.  We must learn to take "bite-size" portions to digest.  We must learn also, to deal with stress and anxiety in healthier ways, and not be self-destructive as too many resort to.

Dealing with and managing your stress, anxiety and depression are some of the best steps to take control of your life and circumstances, before they get the best of you.  You can develop these skills and best practices, by utilizing products made for daily use.  

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