When you make each other smile

Cognitive dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values simultaneously

-Leon Festinger, 1957


Everyone likes consistency. It creates harmony in our minds. But when you run into cognitive dissonance this harmony will be disrupted. Our present reality with Covid 19 is a good example. We all have certain beliefs in how our life should look like with forms of social interaction that include body contact, gatherings of people at meetings, festivals, parties and concerts, family visits with hugs and kisses, and so on, and so on.


Then Covid 19 messed all up. Suddenly our firm beliefs in how to interact were said to be dangerous. The new standard became social distancing and much more. This caused stress because it conflicted with the present beliefs on socialising. Yet most people obeyed. There was a sensible attitude towards the need of the rules. A few months later obedience has decreased dramatically.


People feel less in danger. The situation is more controlled which causes hope normal life will soon be possible again. When people realise their hope is an illusion for the time being, the ability to accept and adapt starts to crumble. Many cannot or refuse to cope with the stress of social distancing any longer and try to find a way out. They start to seek information that will confirm their personal belief on social distancing being rubbish.


And suddenly the world is filled with self appointed experts, conspiracies and safety claims (I am not in any danger). All bring their own new information into a less or more public debate, influencing others who like what they hear and support it as well. A new virus is born, but no vaccination programme alas. Read more in the link below on the role of Cognitive Dissonance in the pandemic.


View at Medium.com



Why do they do it?

The ones no longer obeying want their consistency back is my guess. It is their comfort zone that fits with their former belief and harmony. The old way of being social has to be restored to be able to keep their belief in it and to not have to change behaviour either. The newly gathered information (even if not true or incomplete or not proven) gives them back parts of their old life.


This is cognitive dissonance in optima forma. The new social distancing rules conflict with their belief in socialising like they did before. To lower the discomfort they seek information that makes it possible to ignore social distancing as being necessary.




Another important cause for people to go mad over safety rules for health I read today in the NRC newspaper. It is a worrysome development of how people have started to mess with freedom as right to do whatever they want to do, also in times of a dangerous pandemic.

I quote:

Positive freedom is the freedom to determine as citizens how and by whom you are governed. Negative freedom is the freedom to do whatever you want and to be left alone by the government. Please note: the terms positive and negative do not imply a moral judgment about the two kinds of freedom.

And now we are in a situation where measures to promote public health are seen as a form of tyranny.
“That is the rigid extension of the principle of negative freedom. It is, of course, completely nonsensical: you also don’t argue a law forbidding you to murder another person as one who robs you of your freedom. It is imperative that a state enables democratic laws that ensures as much freedom as is possible for as many people as possible. I hope my book is an incentive for a reappraisal of that positive freedom. ”

Annelien de Dijn: Freedom: An Unruly History. Harvard University Press. 432 pages € 39.95

Source: NRC (paid link alas, sorry)





Being an extravert or introvert person of course also matters. Extraverts get their energy and pleasure from socialising, introverts from solitude. It seems logic to me that extraverts will feel more stress when social freedom is being limited.



Back to cognitive dissonance:

No one is free of it. It is a common way of coping with conflicts as described. It does not have to be bad, but can become obsessive when it is present too much and in a too extreme way.

Some common examples: The Windows and Apple adepts belief in their brand. To keep that belief strong for themselves (generating harmony in their mind), they will seek evidence confirming Apple or Windows is superior. At the same time they will seek discrediting information about the other brand. Pretty childish yes when looking at it from a distance, but we all do it to a certain extent. The same happens when we buy cars, boats, bikes, phones and even food and drinks. A self confirming system with sometimes long lasting effects. People can choose to buy the same car brand till they die for instance. Marketing strategies use this of course as strong psychological tool. Read more on Cognitive Dissonance being present in many of us in the link below.


View at Medium.com



Second Life and Cognitive Dissonance

Yup, it also happens in Second Life and you all have been there. Me as well. And more especially it happens when people become close. When two persons meet or date each other regularly it has consequences. There is no escape from that. Some consequences are really nice, like feeling valued and appreciated and you rewarding that in a likewise way to the one you like. But consequences can be less nice as well when a mind gets stuck with cognitive dissonance. This happens when a person’s belief clashes with newly received information on that belief. To belief someone is your friend but hearing he or she gossiped on you is kind of   . . .  hmm how is that possible? Nah, must be a gossip itself! Or not . . . Fact is it starts to bug your belief  . . .


Another example is the stress someone experiences after having this wonderful feeling with another person and then something happens which disturbs that feeling. For example a sudden change in attention occurs by the one they are so fond of. It puzzles them why and makes them anxious because they maybe believe it to be a great love with potential for something long, deep and true. The change in behaviour by the other person does not longer support their belief. It stresses them out. The classic SL drama is about to hit them. They try to reduce their stress but most likely will do it wrong initially   . . .



Reducing stress from Cognitive Dissonance

Reducing stress from cognitive dissonance can be done in 3 ways:


    1. Change your belief or behaviour to comply with conflicting information
    2. Reduce the importance of your belief and behaviour.
    3. Acquire new information that outweighs the dissonant belief


The first option is the most difficult one. It means you have to acknowledge to have made a mistake in perceiving the situation. Seeing, understanding and admitting you have jumped to the wrong conclusions is hard.  And yes I know . .  your belief can have been fuelled by highly suggestive behaviour of the one you started to see as mr or mrs Right. But it still does not make it a fact. This option is not the best choice to start with reducing your stress.


The second option is a very helpful way of refocussing on other things in your life. Distracting yourself by for instance (re)connecting with friends, hobbies, sport, music, study etc, all take your mind away from being occupied with something that has the potential of disrupting you when given too much attention. I think the third option is the best way, because everyone can do it when motivated enough to get rid of the stressful thoughts and feelings. It prevents overanalysing, obsessive reassurance seeking and persistence in your belief. It is very well possible some of your belief is accurate, but not all. That’s why communication matters a great deal as well. Yes it means you will have to show some guts    . . . ask things and with that expose yourself. Free from risk? Nope. The other could decide to end all because drama alert activated. But you will only cause more drama when sticking to your belief and keeping stress high because of the conflicting information you keep receiving.


The third option is about adding information to disprove your belief. It will lower your stress and even can make you feel a bit embarrassed because wow  . . . was that me?? Did I really believe that?? Yeah, it can happen and has happened to all of us. But this third option often is used in the opposite way and makes people obsessed with their own belief having to stay true at all costs. In such a case people start seeking information to confirm their belief, no matter how silly the ‘proof ‘ is. This is where you get stuck in your belief



Oh oh, being stuck sucks

Yes, but finding proof to outweigh dissonant beliefs is not very attractive to many people.
Instead most will try to do the opposite and try to find evidence that keeps their belief alive.
A few examples:

  • A smiley with a heart in a chat becomes proof  (see?? he/she adores me!!).
  • A confession from the other to be afraid of rejection becomes proof ( he or she wants me but is just afraid and I will fix that).
  • A meet after a period of silence becomes proof  (I knew he or she would come back to me!).
  • A message telling you he or she is sorry to not have been around becomes proof ( Awww, so sweet, that’s true love).
  • A ‘I missed you’ message becomes an ‘I want to be with you forever’ message  (we read what we want to read . . )
  • A ‘I never would want to hurt you’ message becomes a love declaration (Love in any other way than you want to exist is HURT after all is it not?
    And of course you belief he or she means it like that . . )


Yes, yes, you laugh now maybe and shake your head   . . .
But when in this kind of situation we all are able to create our own twisted evidence and stories.
Apparently we choose being obsessed above being sane and realistic because our belief is too sweet to let go of just like that.
But one day you will have to  . . . unless you like to ruin your life with your unhealthy obsession.


Oh and yes, there is actually one other way to deal with it, but I don’t recommend it.
You always can choose to become a poor victim.
Blaming someone else is easier than taking responsibility for your own acts and wrong beliefs.
But everyone who chooses the victim way only continues the obsession and preoccupation with the love gone wrong belief.
It’s a lame and not helpful choice.



How on earth does someone get trapped in a belief anyway?

When you fall in love you like to think all you feel is also felt in the same way by the one you fell in love with. Being infatuated is like that and you are not to blame for it. When you feel love you feel love.  Simple as that. But love in this very intense phase of being in love makes you delusional a bit. In such a state of mind your mind is closed for feeling and spotting signals that may warn you it could be different than you feel yourself. Your infatuated mind colours the picture. You are blind to all other colours. This adds to your belief.


And yes, again  . . .  the one you love so much may use methods that fuel your belief as well. They may like the attention but not the claims you connect to it. They may like the intimacy but not your clingy sticky ways of missing it when not there a while. Or they simply are unable to be upfront and honest with you because they know it will hurt and do not want to do that to you. They do not dislike you, but just want it to be free of obligations and accompanying stress. If you keep insisting in what you belief despite crystal clear signs it is not true, you are close to obsession. I guess the worst case scenario in all of this is being confronted with stalkers. They have a ‘she/he loves me, but denies it’ mission. They want YOU to adjust to their belief  . . . . .



How to save oneself (and the other)?

Practice your skills on your beliefs being accurate or not.
Prepare yourself for being able to accept other beliefs than the present one glued into your mind. And especially in Second Life I would say, because love in SL is not very reliable in most cases.  Apply the earlier mentioned strategy from option 3: Reduce the importance of your belief and behaviour. How? Distract yourself by focussing on something else. Step away a bit from the intensity of these burning fires. Really, the soft breeze of less consuming behaviour is bliss too. Do it for a longer while, not just one hour or one day. Make it a routine becoming part of your daily habits to not only focus on that crazy love inside you. Take a distance literally and mentally.  Read a book, visit a friend, go for a bike, spend time on a hobby (noooooo, NOT Second Life when your mind is abducted by someone there), follow a study,  create quality time with multiple persons you like or love, do some boring but useful chores like housekeeping or gardening, treat yourself with something you really like, and so on, and so on.


And then ask yourself this:
‘How much do you think the other person really will have missed you’?
‘Will he or she have missed you in the same way as you always feel it, like a torture’?

Be honest in that  . . . .  do not make your own convenient truth  . . .


In most cases of being into a love trap with cognitive dissonance belief as bait, the answer will be something like this:
He or she did not really miss me like I always do.
I only want him or her to miss me like I missed him or her.


Once you see and accept your belief to be wrong, option 1 and 2 also will be available now as tools:
– Change your beliefs and behaviour.
– Acquire information that does not support your beliefs.


It will take some time of course to really accept all and feel different, but it will make you stop being obsessed. And no that does not have to mean it is the end of ALL. You still can be very ok with each other but it needs you to keep your head straight and feet on the ground. But when you have said goodbye to being obsessed you really do not want to go back there, believe me. The release of stress is way too cool :)




What kind of belief do you tend to have in SL Yoon?

Oh dear  . . .
Well I guess I am not immune either for developing beliefs with cognitive dissonance issues. I am as much human as everyone else. I do however have a very analytical mind that will check and double check my own state of mind and I also always will look at the other person’s mind. Plus I matured in SL after some hard but good lessons. I am extremely cautious and almost undateable in the traditional way like partnering and happy ever after blah blah. But in the rare cases  I do happen to fall in love (and of course I do sometimes) I see my own traps pretty fast and will adjust myself to more realistic beliefs and behaviours, because I know it will change when it becomes too serious in the wrong way. The super rare cases that will not be too consuming and disruptive, and that will not suffocate me with obsessive claims and expectations are indeed super rare. But yes those are the best. Well for me at least.


To understand the other mind when having stress is quite a challenge in this, because when do we really know someone well enough to understand behaviour and feelings without mistakes? I think what I use most is communication. Trying to get things as clear as possible helps me to not take a road that will cause gigantic stress. I would like the other person to do the same for himself. I think that is the best way to prevent beliefs and cognitive dissonance stress to grow into obsession. Creating checkpoints to measure a state of mind in each other is not a bad thing. You can adjust behaviour to each other’s needs and keep it balanced that way. Balanced is going with the flow, instead of pressing on a status quo to be extended forever. And well, if it becomes impossible to stay on a road that feels ok for both, it is time to say goodbye. Preferably with both being ok in that.


Liking and loving cause different issues in a connection. Loving someone causes more complex issues. I think it helps a lot when love is not an obsessed anxious way of loving. The one where need becomes dependency and spending time becomes a tool for measuring love. Loving someone without getting obsessed over someone is possible. Loving someone without needing someone is harder of course. But I have no problem with being needed or needing someone myself when it concerns a person I feel totally safe and ok with. Sometimes it is just ok to say you need each other. Need is a tricky word. It sounds very much like being dependent. But to be meaningful to someone needs a second person. It does not mean I cannot be meaningful on my own, in other contexts, but if I want to be meaningful to you I need you to be in my space somewhere. And vice versa as well clearly. That is the kind of need I mean here. For me needing someone does not mean I cannot live without that other person. I can, but the question is more if I also want to. Needing each other for me is knowing you make each other smile a lot and add value to each other’s life. What the heck is wrong with that? Nothing I would say. When it changes into depending on the other to be able to smile  . . . hmmmm . .


The blurry boundaries of healthy and unhealthy needs meet where your smiles become anxious to smile alone.
When your smiles only appear in connection with the smiles of the one you need, you have conditioned them into dependency . . .
Always keep your smiles safe from that   . . .
That does not mean you are not allowed to be sad when the smiles of someone you needed die.
It means you keep your smiles alive. For the one who is gone and for the ones you also need and who still are there.


Ergo: When you make each other smile, don’t deny the reasons why :)




This song is about how your thoughts and feelings can play with you. The yes I think I believe this is happening but I am not sure as well. But to get rid of such doubts and persevering thoughts and feelings is like having Jekyll and Hyde in your mind. They pop up and battle with each other, calling each other names and fools. They fight over your belief in love and an effective cold shower. I guess it also is possible a belief can be true after all but is not being revealed by the one your mind is focussed at. He or she can have his or her own reasons for that (fears, rl limits, etc).  Sometimes we just really do not or can not know. That’s the worst place to be when it takes too long. And that’s why communication is paramount, again and again  . . .



Oh, life is bigger
It’s bigger
Than you and you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up
Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
Try, cry
Why try?
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream

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