Cognitive Dissonance

Humans strive for a harmonious and peaceful life. But, it is not always practically easy. As an example, Tom believes that consuming meat is immoral (belief) but he finds it difficult to stop eating meat (attitude). There arises a natural internal conflict between his belief and his attitude that leads Tom with discomfort. In Social Psychology, this discomfort is termed as Cognitive Dissonance.

When we experience Cognitive Dissonance, we immediately try to alter our cognition (it could be the belief, the attitude, or the behavior) to reduce the intensity of such a discomfort. This kind of protective or defensive mechanism is called as Cognitive Dissonance Reduction. The “negative” emotions as we consciously feel act as a push to perform this reduction.

For the same example I mentioned before, Tom might use one of these possible statements to perform the Cognitive Dissonance Reduction

  1. “You know, I do eat meat once in a while. Very very rarely.” (Modification of original attitude)
  2. “You know what, I don’t think eating meat is not really immoral.” (Trivializing or suppressing the original belief)
  3. “Eating fishes is completely okay, though.” (Adding more cognition)
  4. “Animals are meant for food, they die anyway.” (Completely denying the original cognition)

There is a famous study from Yale University that showed evidences that Cognitive Dissonance Reduction may have originated both developmentally and evolutionarily. The study was conducted on both human preschoolers and monkeys using a simple free-choice methodology. Here is how it goes: The experimenter chooses your most equally favorite three kinds of objects (let’s say, chocolates) and name them A, B, and C. In phase 1 of the experiment, the experimenter will show you A and B, asking you to choose one among them. It is, certainly, a difficult choice to make since you like both of them. But, let’s say you choose B. Now, in phase 2 of the experiment, the experimenter presents you A (the rejected choice in phase 1) and C (the novel one) and asks you to choose one among them.

Guess what? You’re more likely to choose C than A. Because, you experience a cognitive dissonance when they present you the choice (you rejected previously but still it’s your favorite). To resolve this conflict, you’d prefer to reject the chocolate A once again (in order to maintain consistency in your decisions)!

A slightly modified version of the same experiment has been conducted on 6 Capuchins (Cebus Apella) and interestingly, the same Cognitive Dissonance Reduction was observed.

The researchers concluded that some of the mechanisms that drive Cognitive Dissonance Reduction processes in human adults may emerge as a result of developmentally and evolutionarily constrained systems that are consistent across
cultures, ages, and even species.

For further read on the study:

A Tale of Life and Death

Imagine yourself to be a space of emptiness or air.

You exist, everyone could feel you, but they don’t see you.

You are aware of yourself, and everybody else’s physical existence.

You’re now given a body and 5 senses. What would you do?

You’ll begin to experience your life differently.

Now you’re also given a mind to think, to reason out.

With this gift comes also a curse: You forget who you really are.

You think you’re this body, and these senses.

But you are given ‘like-minded’ friends to spend your time with.

You look around what others in your culture doing.

You follow the norms to be one among them.

You want to feel safe about your life. You add more and more material wealth to you.

Sometimes you involve in ‘wrong’ doings to achieve these goals.

But then, there comes a day, where you are asked to give back everything you were given.

You cry!

You cry because you think your gained knowledge, and wealth are taken away.

You perceived all these gifts to be ‘always’ yours, and these gifts are you yourself,

You cry harder because you now feel you lose yourself.

You cry yourself to ‘Death’.

You go back to your Origin.

You become aware of your Truth, once again.

You realize everything uptil your last cry is nothing but a ‘Dream’.

Someone comes to you and offers a handful of gifts again: The body, the mind, the senses, and people.

Now, you are aware that these gifts are not your possessions; nor they are you.

You choose to accept these gifts once again but you are more conscious of your Truth.

Now, the life becomes more interesting. You experience all the shades of life, the gift that was given to you.

Pleasure and Pain are alike to you.

And when the day arrives, you don’t cry anymore, unlike the last time.

You happily depart back to your Home.

Breathe! You’re alive!

It is not uncommon to think that our mind (which is a functional result of our brain) is different from our body. However, the mind-body connection is something real and I feel it is essential to explore this connection through our own experiences. This article is aimed at bringing you some facts on different patterns of our breathing and their direct relationship with our physical and emotional health.

Is breathing merely a physiological process? If you think so, I invite you to observe your breath when you’re angry, sad, anxious and joyful. You might observe a clear difference in the way you breath experiencing the fore-mentioned emotions. Each emotion creates a unique, significant pattern of sensations in the body. For example, if you’re angry, your breath is moderately deeper with a faster rate. Instead, if you’re anxious, your breath is shallow with a faster rate.

If you agree with what being said so far, the next question you might ask yourself if this mind-body relationship is uni-directional (i.e., mind -> body) or bi-directional (i.e., mind <-> body). In other words, can we alter our emotional state simply by regulating the way we breath? The short answer is, yes.

Everyone of us wants to be happy, joyful. However, we often do not find the ‘right’ ways to achieve that state of mind. If we learn to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply and maintain a regular breath with your ribcage quite relaxed, we are not far away from happiness.

Here are my 2 cents for the beginners:

  1. Whenever you find free time, take a pen and a paper and you may gently ask yourself: “How am I breathing now?”.  It is important you do not judge the breathing. Just be completely honest yourself and be willing to accept your breathing the way it is, in the very moment. Write a few words about it such as “shallow”, or “deep”, “heavy breathing”, or “irregular breathing”. I’m not asking you to be obsessed with your breathing but try to periodically check your breathing just the way you’re checking your dog or the notifications on your smartphone.
  2. In the beginning, you might feel unpleasant sensations. You might feel a lot of anxiety observing your breath. Your mind might send out a warning signal as if you’re in danger. But this is only temporary. As you stay diligent in your practice, your mind will get adjusted to this new practice.
  3. Whenever you feel intense emotions, go back to your breath and sit with it. “Sitting with it” implies observing your breath as it is without any judgments and if possible, with a lot of compassion and love for yourself.

Happy breathing!

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