5 Steps to Cognitively Distance in the Age of Cognitive Dissonance

How to continue loving loved ones whose beliefs and decisions offend you.

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Photo: Charles Etoroma, Unsplash.com

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” — Charles Darwin, the Descent of Man

2. Suspend intellection. At least momentarily. I strive to learn and emerge with new insights and understandings through reading, research and conversations. However, you can assume that this person is committed to living in an information pod that does not intersect or interact with yours. Most likely, these people have been stricken by the Kruger Dunning effect, where they speak authoritatively about a topic even though they lack the skills needed to recognize their lack of knowledge or ability to assess the accuracy of that topic. Charles Darwin neatly captured this phenomenon: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” There are ways to overcome this meta-cognitive deficit, but I am not a psychologist. These people require more than presenting evidence, so all I can do is suspend my desire to bring them into an intellectual space that is worthy of my energy.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman

3. Recognize the contradictions of being human. We are complex beings that constantly live with contradictions, so you can live and be friends with someone who contradicts your belief system, if you want to. We have the ability to fluidly hold disparate beliefs, even when they are directly challenged. That contradiction may help you crystallize your own ideas and reaffirm why something is important to you. Contradiction can also be a sign that our creative mind is well and alive and making sense of how we exist within this complex world. The next time you find yourself being offended by your loved one’s cognitive dissonance, appreciate that humans contain “multitudes,” as noted by Walt Whitman; so embrace these contradictions that bring your life clarity and texture.

Insomniac, knowledge thrill-seeker, leisure and cathartic writer

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