Don is my friend. When I first met Don, my life was very simple. Everything was black or white. Gray did not exist. Everyone fit into a particular compartment in my head. I did not encourage close relationships and as long as I maintained distance I could easily compartmentalize everyone. In my brain [mind, thought processes] everyone had a slot. And there was no leakage between compartments. They were sealed tight.
Some of my compartments for men were:
• the villain [the bad guys that your Mom warns you to avoid, criminals, mean people, people with handle-bar mustaches], The villain was closely related to. . .
• the authority figure [fathers, doctors, principals, bosses, police, God]These shared their ability to pass judgment on you and to punish you.. Sometimes it was a difficult call as to which of those two categories a person fit in. Next. . .
• the hero [the knight in shining armor, the rescuer, the spare tire changer], then
• the good old boy [guy that drove a truck, loved guns and hunting, drank beer and hung out with other good old boys. Next
• the lover, [Casanova, Don Juan, boyfriends, fiancées] and finally
• the suit [professionals, pastors, funeral directors, deacons/elders, and counselors/psychologists]
At first Don presented no problem. He was a “suit”. He easily fit into my “suit” compartment. I hoped he was as comfortable being there as I was. There were others there. They always dressed in professional attire and maintained a demeanor of compassion, caring, and understanding. Everything was fine, my world continued to function without suffering any “cognitive dissonance”. There was no need for any “paradigm shift” to occur in my thinking. He was simply a “suit”. End of conversation.
Then one day I made a shocking discovery! I learned that Don [the suit] was a deer hunter.
“Deer hunter! You mean he KILLS DEER?!”
Suddenly Cognitive Dissonance pounced. I lay mentally prostrate, trying to figure out how Don [the suit] could be a hunter. I had a compartment for hunters. They were in the “good old boy” category. How could this be?
I probed farther and learned he drove a pick-up truck!
Oh, no! How could this be! He was showing all the classic signs of being a “good old boy”. But “we” had already decided he was a “suit”. How could I have missed these other things. Was he a “suit” pretending to be a good old boy or a “good old boy” pretending to be a suit?
What was I to do? No one occupied more than one compartment in my head. But if I switched him to the “good old boy” compartment then he would cease to be a “suit”. Everybody knows “suits” don’t hunt animals in the woods. They also don’t drive pick up trucks. The image in my head of Don driving a pick up truck to work while wearing a suit made me dizzy. Next thing, I’m thinking to myself, I suppose, I’ll find out he drinks beer. If “suits” imbibe they drink sherry, a glass of wine or a shot of scotch.
Cognitive Dissonance had me by the throat. A voice in my head kept shouting, CHOOSE! I can’t! I won’t! I refuse! A battle was occurring in my head.
“Then you know what this means, don’t you?”
“No! Not that!”
“Yes, you MUST put a doorway between the “good old boys” and the “suits” compartments.”
“I can’t! If I let Don travel freely between two compartments then soon others will demand that they be allowed to do so. And then they might not be satisfied with two compartments. They might want 3 or even more! Don’t you see, this could lead to chaos! My compartments will suffer seepage and I’ll lose control.
Don’t you understand? If I mix my black and white compartments then I’ll get . . . I’ll get GRAY!!!!!!”
Between Cognitive Dissonance messing with my head and a Paradigm Shift shaking my foundational beliefs I had to find a way to bring my world back to order. And then I realized what had happened. It’s was so obvious I should have known. I chuckled to myself. All this panic for nothing. Of course, Don has a multiple personality! Now I can put each personality into his own compartment and my world is back to normal.
How silly of me, to become so upset, when all the time there was a logical explanation.
I wonder if he knows?
Cognitive dissonance occurs when a “fact” arrives that does not fit with previously accepted “facts”. One must either reject the “fact” or find a way to incorporate this new information into a cohesive whole.
Paradigm shift occurs when the cognitive dissonance has been resolved by shifting one’s understand or world view to incorporate the new information.
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