December 17, 2017

Survival Psychology: Cognitive Dissonance

“Cognitive dissonance” is a term coined by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954, which is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation, often these are two opposing views

People who are “asleep” when it comes to current events and to things like how fragile our electrical and water systems are or how quickly groceries would run out of food if the trucks stopped running only hold one view.  Christians who say “I don’t need to prepare, God will provide” or something similar, fall into the same group.


An example:

The Flood

A man was trapped in his house during a flood. He began praying to God to rescue him. He had a vision in his head of God’s hand reaching down from heaven and lifting him to safety.

The water started to rise in his house. His neighbor urged him to leave and offered him a ride to safety. The man yelled back, “I am waiting for God to save me”. The neighbor drove off in his pick-up truck.

The man continued to pray and hold on to his vision. As the water began rising in his house, he had to climb up to the roof.

A boat came by with some people heading for safe ground. They yelled at the man to grab a rope they were ready to throw and take him to safety. He told them that he was waiting for God to save him. They shook their heads and moved on.

The man continued to pray, believing with all his heart that he would be saved by God. The flood waters continued to rise. A helicopter flew by and a voice came over a loudspeaker offering to lower a ladder and take him off the roof. The man waved the helicopter away, shouting back that he was waiting for God to save him. The helicopter left.

The flooding water came over the roof and caught him up and swept him away. He drowned.

When he reached heaven and asked, “God, Why did you not save me? I believed in you with all my heart. Why did you let me drown?”

God replied, “I sent you a pick-up truck, a boat and a helicopter and you refused it all. What else could I possibly do for you?!”

In this example, the man clung to one thought and dismissed the possibility that God was rescuing him.


If you can use logic and facts, not emotion, to introduce a competing thought, they will be forced to make a decision.  For example, if you know someone who doesn’t see the need to prepare, you might ask them what they would do if the power went out and the power company couldn’t get it back on for a few days.  How would they keep their food cold in the warmer months, or keep themselves warm in the colder months?  Is most of their food in the refrigerator, or do they have a week or more worth of food in a pantry?  If the electricity is out where they live, it might be out at the grocery as well.  What would they do for food then?  Once faced with the conflicting thoughts that they do not need to prepare at all and that they only have a few days’ worth of food that doesn’t need to be in the refrigerator, they now must make a choice.

Likewise if you know a Christian who doesn’t see the need to prepare because God will provide, you might ask them “does God provides for them now?”  If the answer is no, I would ask why they think He will provide in an emergency.  If they say yes, then ask how the food they eat made its way to the house.  Explain that God gave us the ability to prepare now for future needs, but that He is still the one who provided.  This brings me to one of my favorite quotes:

“If God gives you a watch, are you honoring Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch?” A.W. Tozer


Sticking with Logic and Facts

The reason it’s important to use logic and facts is that emotion from one person is not equivalent to emotion in the next.   A fact is a fact no matter how you or I feel about it.  I’ll use our Our Endangered Electrical Infrastructure as an example.   It is a fact that hackers in multiple other countries have hacked our electric grid and in some cases, left malicious software thought to be a back door, that was found later.  It is a fact that there have been blackouts caused by falling trees that left an estimated 55 million without power. Also a blackout caused by changing a failing part that left an estimated 7 million without power.  It is also a fact that I cover this in more details in EMP’s, Solar Flares and CME’s that the United States doesn’t produce many of the large transformers used and in a medium to large solar storm, we would have to look to other countries to help replace them.  It could take ten years to fully recover.

It is emotion that says that in an EMP or solar flare situation, we’re in the stone ages and we’ll be killing each other within days.  While this could be partly or even mostly true, people who have not been paying attention and are hearing this information for the first time don’t know what to do with an EMP and the idea of us killing each other within days isn’t understandable.  If you show provable facts that they can understand, such as the occasional black out and hackers breaking into our grid, they can understand and might enter into cognitive dissonance.


What Happens Next?

Some people might be open for further discussion or even have some questions on the subject.   Most likely you have just planted seeds and will not see the fruit right away.  There will be those who decide that their previously held belief is the correct one and will disregard your logic and facts.  These people are unreachable, much like the man in the example.  Shake the dust from your sandals and continue your walk.


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