Tuesday, August 14, 2012

learn it again, and again ...

“Whenever something negative happens to you, 
there is a deep lesson concealed within it.” 
~Eckhart Tolle

This quote by Eckhart Tolle is something to keep in mind... especially while reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson*. It's a book about cognitive dissonance, self-deception, and how slight differences can polarize us.

Tavris and Aronson explain:
"Self-justification has costs and benefits. By itself it's not necessarily a bad thing. It lets us sleep at night. Without it we would prolong the awful pangs of embarrassment. We would torture ourselves with regret over the road not taken or over how badly we navigated the road we did take. We would agonize in the aftermath of almost every decision... Yet mindless self-justification, like quicksand, can draw us deeper into disaster. It blocks our ability to even see our errors, let alone correct them. It distorts reality, keeping us from getting all the information we need and assessing issues clearly."

Elliot Aronson explains Cognitive Dissonance as the uncomfortable-at-best feeling you get when things you do, or things that happen, contradict your beliefs - about yourself or the world (two conflicting beliefs - I'm smart / I made a mistake). The book addresses the unconscious justifications, rationalizations, and other defense mechanisms we use to keep that dissonance at bay. It's about the ways that these rationalizations perpetuate and entrench themselves... become habit.

In fact, the book sums up the mechanics of self-justification in one quote by British politician, Lord Molson: "I will look at any additional evidence to confirm the opinion to which I have already come."

Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever blamed it on someone... your boss, your spouse, your dog, your in-laws, your neighbor, the receptionist, the government, etc...?

If we are here to learn lessons, then mistakes will happen. Once the lesson is learned we can move on to the next lesson or (heavy sigh) if we fail to learn a lesson, we will find opportunities to learn it again, and again, and... you get the idea.

It's a well written book with tremendous insight into how our brain reacts to dissonance. Perhaps when reading it alongside The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, it can even become an enlightening experience.

*I found this book on Brene Brown's 'favorites' list: books that changed my life

Remember, the Ego celebrates being right. The Spirit celebrates being kind.

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