Friday, March 18, 2011

People Say that Buddha is the Greatest Psychologist

and I agree. There was this excerpt from my textbook that sounds like it entirely came from Buddha's mouth and I would like to share it with you guys.

But first, I have to explain some theories.

Cognitive Dissonance
We have a need to see ourselves as morally upright, ethical, reasonable and smart (To keep our inflated ego floating). When we are confronted with information that makes us realise that we are not as wonderful as we think we are, we experience a state of discomfort. Process is known as cognitive dissonance.

Justifying our Actions
When we perform an action that is not in line with our self-image, we experience cognitive dissonance. To reduce this discomfort, we try to find excuses for ourselves- self-justification.

Scenario One
Imagine that you are a health freak. However, one day, you decided to give in to your fish and chips craving. Your action has just contradicted your belief, hence you experience a state of discomfort. What will you do?

Some people will swear that they will never eat fried food again.

Some will tell themselves: It's okay, it's just once a month, it's not that bad.

Some will look around and say: Healthy eating might not be so important after all. Look at people who eat salad daily. They are still diagnosed with heart problems. It's all in the genes.

Scenario Two
Another situation is that you believe you are a punctual person. One day, you missed your alarm and was late to meet your friends.

Will you tell them: I'm sorry, I am late because I went out too late last night and was too tired.

Or will you tell them: Something went wrong with my phone, I couldn't hear the alarm at all. It goes crazy sometimes.

Most people will choose the latter-- blaming the situation instead of themselves.

Now for the Point that Struck Me, quoted from my textbook
"The fist thing we must do is become more aware of the human tendency toward self-justification. But, as we have seen, the process of self-justification is an unconscious one. Nevertheless, once we know that we are prone to justify our actions, we can begin to monitor our thinking and, in effect, "catch ourselves in the act". We can then begin to examine our behavior critically and dispassionately. We then stand a chance of breaking out of the cycle of action followed by self-justification followed by more intense action.

For example, suppose that Mary, a college student, has acted unkindly toward her roommate, Sandra. Mary's usual course of action would be to convince herself that Sandra deserved it. To learn from that experience, Mary must be able to resist the need to derogate her victim. Ideally, it would be effective if she were able to stay with the dissonance long enough to say, "OK, I blew it; I did a cruel and stupid thing. But that doesn't necessarily make me a cruel or stupid person. Let me think about why I did that, how I can make amends, an dhow I can learn from the experience so that I don't make a similar mistake again." (Social Psychology, 7th Edition, Elliot Aronson, Timothy D. Wilson, Robin M. Akert)

See the uncanny similarity? =D

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