Dissonance is felt when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one’s belief, the dissonance can result in attempting to restore consonance through misperception, rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others.
How did we develop our present ideas and opinions about ourselves and others? We know that we didn’t teach ourselves to think so our responses and reactions to situations that occur in our lives must have been implanted there at an earlier time. We all know people who can become very critical of themselves because of mistakes they have made, perceived poor physical appearance or because they simply were not paying attention to the task at hand. What we don’t often pay attention to are the unconscious thought processes which lead us here. At Shift we know certain limiting beliefs will stunt the potential for an individual’s positive action and betterment. These cognitions effect the emotions and behaviors of the individual and are not adaptive for our daily functioning. They do not arise from the individual however, they are residue from our early child development and family of origin. Children are born with certain genetic predispositions one of which is said to be temperament. We also know that there is a huge environmental aspect to how we think, feel and behave and how the personality structure develops. In our early days, if we are not raised in a nurturing environment or if we have nurturing environment that has a couple blips and flaws in it then we will internalize some concepts that are not so adaptive. We call these non-adaptive concepts “limiting beliefs”. We also internalize a lot of wonderful things from our childhood. Thinking back to the baby ducks following the mom and making every movement she makes while following along. If the activities that the parents are projecting are not like the prescribed actions of the mother leading her baby ducks, and instead of the dysfunctional variety such as; growing up with a depressed mother or a verbally abusive father then the individual will internalize limiting beliefs as a reaction or coping mechanism to their parents actions.
An example of a limiting belief which most of us will have come into contact with at some point is, “I’m not good enough”. We carry it into adulthood and because of the psychological concept of cognitive dissonance then we will constantly attempt to minimize any evidence that doesn’t support the limiting belief. Another form of cognitive dissonance would just be information seeking where we look around to actively find the evidence ourselves and create situations in which the limiting belief will prove to be correct. As we progress gaining evidence, the limiting belief will become stronger and stronger because we continue to gain support for the cognition as we move through daily life.
This process eventually becomes too painful and the individual will subconsciously create a dysfunctional need as a customized pain aversion technique. In this sense the dysfunctional need will be used as a buffer between the painful limiting cognition. There are certain consequences to using this pain resistance technique. So if we’re still working with the, “I’m not good enough” cognition, one of the common dysfunctional needs is, “I need to be perfect” or “I need to be exceptional”. So the individual will often put massive amounts of pressure on themselves to be flawless in every situation. This can manifest in other ways as well like being non-confrontational, not voicing your opinion or creating opt-out behaviors like procrastination or binge eating etc… That is how we get into these cycles of maladaptive behavior. The individual often attempts to override these behaviors cognitively but will not be effective for any extended period of time because they were generated for the very specific function of pain avoidance.