I’ve been thinking a lot about cognitive dissonance lately.
I’m not a psychologist so I’m sure I am bastardizing the concept a bit, but basically cognitive dissonance is the discomfort involved in holding conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. A simple example would be the contrast between what you believe (stealing is wrong) and what you do (I steal my neighbour’s newspaper every day). This mismatch causes immense psychological distress, and psychologists theorize that human beings are driven to reconcile this sort of internal disharmony.
But, humans are also lazy. Thus, conflicts between belief and behaviour often occur because acting in opposition to your beliefs is often easier than acting in accordance with them. So, instead of getting dressed, going outside, walking to the corner store and paying for a copy of the Globe and Mail, you sneak next door and nab your neighbours before she wakes up. It’s easy, yes, but now you are stuck with two contradictory realities, one in which you believe stealing is wrong, and one in which you steal.