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Posts Tagged ‘mel gibson’

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable tension that arises when your brain tries to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time. This mental discomfort often leads people to warp their attitudes, beliefs, and actions in order to reconcile the conflicting ideas inside their own heads, effectively reducing the uncomfortable “dissonance.”

Basically, in order to justify something to your critical self — like continuing to smoke even though you know it could kill you — you will completely rewire your brain to believe silly excuses like “well, it also makes me lose weight and reduces my stress levels, which are both good for me — probably better than not smoking altogether.” This way, you can actually trick your mind into feeling good about doing something bad — halting that pesky cognitive dissonance in its tracks — until you actually believe it.

In addition to justification tactics such as in the smoking example above, dissonance can also be reduced through blame or outright denial.

Headcase in point: Jim Caviezel.

Jim Caviezel was cast by Mel Gibson to portray Jesus in his controversial and allegedly anti-semitic cinematic retelling of The Passion of the Christ. The actor and the director were steadfast in their righteousness. They were going to tell the story as they thought it needed to be told, and even intimated that the Holy Spirit itself was actually directing the film.

Then, while filming the Sermon on the Mount, Jim-as-Jesus was struck by lightning.

Most people would take this as a sign from God, and not a good one. No doubt that a certain thought must have crossed Jim’s dissonance-addled mind: “Holy Shit, God doesn’t approve. But wait, I thought the Holy Spirit was supposedly directing this film…”

So in order to silence a cognitive dissonance that must have been deafening, Jim decided that the lightning strike was not a warning from God himself but rather a miracle granted unto him, because what is more miraculous than surviving a lightning strike? See? God wanted him to make the movie after all!

Of course, the depth of denial at play is the real miracle here. Someone needs to show Jim the Bible, or more specifically, the passage in the Bible where God strikes Saul blind, which causes Saul to re-evaluate his pitiful life, converting him on the spot. Luckily, Jim’s brain was kind to him, allowing him to completely disregard this awkwardly relevant precedent.

The brain is an awesome thing. It just wants you to feel good. It will do anything it can to achieve this goal. It will even totally deceive itself, just to ease your wicked nerves, if you’re not careful.

That’s why cognitive dissonance is so awesome. It’s like an alarm bell in your brain, warning you that your ideals just aren’t jiving and you need to take a step back and re-evaluate objectively. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you might be wrong, but it’s also wiser than most people could ever hope to be. Even theatrical Jesus. Especially theatrical Jesus.

So take heed the next time you sense a tension up there in your noggin. It’s a sign that you’re about to resort to idiocy in order to trick yourself into feeling better. Don’t let yourself be fooled by your brain’s constant craven need to be right all the time. Sometimes your own brain can be your worst enemy.


Cognitive dissonance is effing awesome!


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