Are you Confused and Frustrated? This Might Help (Part 1)

you need to know this about yourself Sheza Firoz  |   5 mins read July 11, 2022 | 205 eye icon

Looks like you are/have experienced some conflict in your heart or maybe mind and landed here with hope of some resolution. One thing which this write-up will definitely not be is - Magical resolution. We will help you understand the situation better, sometimes being able to look a situation objectively itself begets the solution.

What you might be experiencing is, what psycho people would call  - Cognitive Dissonance. Let's learn more about this.

Cognitive Dissonance, We will untangle it with a (you guessed it) simple example. We trust that by now you are familiar with the Bakery (if you are not, click here to catch our first post on self-awareness.) We have Philip (the self-aware, diligent boss), Mary (the reformed employee) and Jane (the pastry chef with newfound confidence and work-life balance). The Bakery has been flourishing, perhaps owing to the workforce’s psychological growth or Jane’s delicious pies (I say it’s the pies but who knows, really?) and Philip urgently needs a new cashier. After much searching, Philip found James, a spirited young college student in dire need of money for his college fees. 

James is a very vocal Vegan. He organises rallies at his college and attends marches for vegan initiatives. He avoids family dinners where animal products like poultry, meat and eggs are used (a point of contention between him and his family). For those unfamiliar with the term, Veganism is staunchly opposed to the use of animals/animal-based products for human consumption. Followers of Veganism, called Vegans, believe that animals do not exist for human use and deserve respect in their own right. 

James is immensely grateful for the job at the Bakery, a kind boss and a sizeable paycheck. He can finally pay off his college fees and get his degree in Zoology. One day, he stumbled into the kitchen and found cartons of cow’s milk and trays of eggs. He asked Jane about the animal products, who explained that they use milk and egg alternatives for vegan and allergic customers but keep meat products on hand for those who prefer it. 

James goes about his day feeling very uncomfortable. He spent so much time protesting against animal product use, but he now works for a bakery that uses it too. In a way, he helps them abuse poor innocent animals by working there. How is he any different from a meat-eater? He is unable to sleep all night. The thought of hurting innocent animals makes him feel terrible, but he needs the job to pay for his college education. 

The next day, James steps into the kitchen again and was alarmed when he saw the package of the milk and eggs. They belong to a brand notorious for animal rights abuse, so much so that James himself has participated in a passionate protest outside their company headquarters and campaigned online for their boycott. 

James leaves the kitchen feeling sick to his stomach. Throughout the day, he feels uncomfortable no matter what he does. He tried everything - taking a walk, drinking ethically sourced peppermint tea (of course) and even meditating - the discomfort was real and unavoidable.  

The feeling that James is experiencing is called Cognitive dissonance. It refers to the disconcertment that a person feels when he or she holds conflicting beliefs. For James, he is a staunch Vegan who now works at a non-Vegan establishment. He cannot leave his job because he is in dire need of money, and that is one of the well-paying jobs near his accommodation. The guilt and anxiety James feels are the results of the mismatch between his core beliefs and his actions. Cognitive dissonance, though the name may be new, is a common feeling in our daily lives. From eating meat while decrying the research community’s animal abuse to smoking despite knowing its health hazards, everyone has experienced their turn with the phenomenon. 

It is important to note and address your conflicting beliefs. For one, it can make you realise the source of the discomfort and the behaviour that causes it. It can make you know yourself better, or in other terms, increase your self-awareness. Last, but certainly not least, you can understand the behaviour of people around you a little better. It can make you kinder, more understanding and more empathetic. The world could use some empathy right about now, anyway. 

It’s your turn to do the excercise now

Take a sheet of paper and a pen, or a phone (avoid Facebook and Instagram for now, please! I assure you, Mark Zuckerberg will not hold it against you). Write down your experience with cognitive dissonance.

What was the first belief/action? 

                            For James, this is veganism.

What was the second belief/action? 

                           James works at a Bakery to earn money for his college fees.

What is the conflict? 
                           The Bakery is non-Vegan and uses animal products.

Now that you have written down your experience and lost Zuckerberg a few thousand dollars, it is time to dissect your Cognitive Dissonance. Catch our next post to find out how you, and James, cope with Cognitive Dissonance.




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