My husband I have been using the phrase cognitive dissonance a lot lately. Simply put, cognitive dissonance means that our beliefs and our behaviour do not match up.
Scott came across the phrase recently in relation to taking guitar lessons. The guitar teacher, in his blog, said that he was the one at fault if he couldn’t get you through the ‘cognitive dissonant’ phase of learning to play. So it meant that when you reach the point in your practice where you feel defeated, like it is all just too hard, you are likely to give up. That is the moment everything hinges on. Your belief (and value set) is that you want to learn to play the guitar, but it takes a radical change in behaviour to achieve it. You have to push past the frustrations and disappointments that you are not immediately the next Eric Clapton (sorry babe….you are not there yet 🙁 ). It also means you have to sacrifice time to practice. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. You want it, but you have to change yourself and your behaviour in order to get it.
It is a phenomenon that is also particular to spiritual work. I think it is something that you experience when you begin along the path of spiritual transformation. (Sometimes it is just when you start to grow up, as well ) First, you have to question your belief systems, which is not something people are inclined to do without some kind of catalyst. Often the onset of a spiritual change is sparked by trauma or tragedy. Perhaps the reason for that is because it takes something significant to shift us out of our comfort zone. Our beliefs keep us safe and comfortable. It is only when something happens that makes us question those beliefs that we take them out and have a good hard look at them. And this can be the moment we enter the shadow world.
Welcome to spiritual transformation. Spiritual transformation is the journey into the deep dark world of the human psyche. Cognitive dissonance is like the herald call in bones that signals we are on the path to change. It may beckon the much written about ‘dark night of the soul’. We are about to withdraw into our soul and meet loneliness head on. As the structure of our beliefs begin to crumble, we feel a sense of disconnect from the world around us. We feel isolated, misunderstood and often in this time, unable to express exactly what it is that is stirring within our hearts and minds.
When this kind of experience arrives on our lives we are being offered a choice. I believe we are being given the opportunity for spiritual growth. It can look very much like depression, this place. I call this place spiritual depression*.
Now I am going to say to you that this is about love. But what is love really. Love brings the notion of romantic love. Kisses and hugs and walks on the beach. Sex even. But self love, spiritual love, divine love is something else. It is all of those things too…love of a partner, love of a child, love of a pet. But it is also that feeling you get when you breathe the fresh cool air at the bottom of a waterfall, or the sensation you get when you stand on a mountaintop or you look up at the stars in the sky and wonder in awe. It is the laugh that bursts from you in a moment of pure joy and amusement. That is love. It is an essence of life.
Free flowing and stillness, both.
This is your soul. Your soul is questing always to connect to you, but it strives to find a way to emerge through your humanly ego. There is such a depth of complexity around being a human being.
There are layers. Things we know and things we sense. Things that are conscious and so many that aren’t. Cognitive dissonance is your soul disrupting your ego and trying to move it toward a better expression and understanding of itself.
Spiritual depression is when we are so lost in confusion around how we cannot understand the world around us and how very wrong what we are experiencing as life, differs from the purity that our soul knows to be truth. The soul yearns for freedom from deeply held social niceties, cultural anomalies and moral degradation. Spiritual depression itself takes us deeply into the psyche of the human ego and gives us a dwelling time. A time of sorting through the files of our lives; a reordering of things. We are on a quest for purpose and meaning. Working out our own personal truth, and re-emerging in a new way of being.
I have experience it many times in my life. I have experienced and been diagnosed with Clinical Depression also (and PTSD and BPD and panic attacks, like I said, life is complex). But I find that as I undertook to live more aligned with spiritual truths, committed to meditation practices, energy clearing and positive expression, like writing, I was better able to manage these episodes. I also fully accept that the shadow is a major part of the whole picture. As I accept this part and look to it for its own meanings and lessons, life becomes more of like the cycle of the phoenix. My physical being rising from the embers of the fire of destruction, changed through to the depths of my cells and DNA, yet reborn its own image with my soul bigger brighter and stronger.
An ongoing cycle of life in evolution.
Megan Freeland XOM
You can read more about my thoughts on Belief Systems in my book “The Magic and The Mire”
*If you feel you are suffering from any kind of depression, please consider whether you need to seek medical/alternative therapy to assist you with support and therapeutic options)