I stumbled upon some wikipedia entries about cognitive dissonance today. Some blogger mentioned a study that showed that if you seduce a person to write a short essay that is a lie, perhaps as a favor or with a $1 incentive, but not a $20 one so that they can see money as their motivation, in one month they will believe their lie. A commenter pointed out the theory of cognitive dissonance to explain this. Briefly, we can’t stand to hold two mutually exclusive views, and will prefer to maintain one, even when that means ignoring facts. Once you say that you believe something, you warp your reality around why it is that you believe it.
I’ve been saying that the vision-logic stage of identifying the self with the network of connections, rather than with the home-page, is an antidote to the fixations and bony brained corners that cognitive dissonence forces people into. Ken Wilber explains that a developmental stage not yet reached is like a color never seen, so it may sound like arrogance or metaphysical rantings to point out this major difference in thinking style. Sometimes we defend our feelings, sometimes we defend our ideas. And sometimes we have no feelings or ideas to defend – we instead defend the process – we talk about thinking clearly, feeling openly. We are how we think and act, not what we think and act.
A few decades ago, I was living in a tent in a young grove of maples, on the northern tip of Cape Breton. I was meditating and studying philosophy, and my mind radically altered how my perceptions were organized. A local woman, a fisherman’s husband, in her early forties, fell in love with me, and me with her. She was a radical feminist. It was scary to see her views harden the next year. She pondered a utopia without men, or with men used for harvesting semen. I doubt she fucked her husband much. He seemed a nice guy.
She wasn’t even gay. Dark thoughts of death started to cloud over her.
She let her views take her. Take her away. Away from this world, and to an unhappy place. She was not liberated or saved or empowered. She left us for a hallucination. Not even a fun one.
Some viewpoints can be like little prisons, keeping life away. Integrating ideas and the senses can be hard work.