Cognitive Dissonance

Recently, I was posed with a huge mental dilemma. A supposed friend induced a kind of cognitive dissonance in my mind. I’ll call him Instigator. In essence, he questioned the entire existence of my relationship with my boyfriend, a thought that just wouldn’t have come to my mind on its own, a thought I argued relentlessly upon. In addition he so stubbornly and righteously wanted to imprint the idea in my mind, it put me in a situation I would never want to get back into, ever again. Why did I even pay heed to his actions?

This was the very person who wanted to be friends with me. Apparently I have a likable personality. He on the other hand, does not. From an act of kindness, I though he deserved my friendship and that I should help him come out of his social anxiety. Altruistic tendencies. The Ben Franklin effect further suggested, that because I decided to help him in the first place, I would keep helping him, and keep being friendly, solely based on the thought that I would only have helped him if I had liked him in the first place. Kind of a way to resolve cognitive dissonance.

This Instigator tried to nudge me towards another guy who had developed affectionate feelings for me. I’ll call him the Other Guy. Oh, he also nudged Other Guy towards me. The whole situation turned into a complicated mess, which could have been avoided, had the Instigator not tried to interfere.

So here I was, in a situation, where I was made to question my relationship, even though I was happy with the sweet equilibrium that it was at. I would have continued to, if external agents hadn’t caused me to think otherwise. It caused immense emotional disturbance to me, and I admit I did not resolve the situation in the best way possible. Nevertheless, I’m trying to make amends. Apparently there were 4 ways in which I could have resolved this conflict:

  1. Change behavior or cognition (Avoiding the Instigator and Other Guy)
  2. Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition (Assuming it’s possible and okay to like two guys at once)
  3. Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions (Maintaining interest in Other Guy, and compensating by putting extra effort into my relationship with my boyfriend)
  4. Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs (Simply ignoring the whole conflict)

I think unknowingly, I tried 4,3,2 in various stages of my confusion.  However, ultimately, I went with 1. Pretty sure it’s the right decision to stick with.

I stopped talking to Instigator and Other Guy, which makes sense theoretically, as humans tend to avoid situations that cause or increase dissonance. However, Instigator, I’m sure, assumes I’m doing him wrong, when he was only trying to ‘help’ (read: control) my life for my better. He does not yet understand why I am ignoring him.

The very fact that he doesn’t realize it, makes it simple enough for me to make the decision.

Fortunately, I’m out of the Forbidden Forest now, happily making Harry Potter references, thanks to my boyfriend who saved and picked me up in a flying Ford Anglia. He works with the Aurors, by the way, so he is the coolest. I hope he’ll take Ben Franklin’s advice and continue being cool to me.

That’s perhaps all the thought that I can devote to something so absurd and inexplicable.


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