Cognitive Dissonance And The Coronavirus
One of the most common comments recently about what’s going on with the Coronavirus is that so much of the information we are receiving doesn’t match. There was recently a post on Facebook where someone put together about 21 different “facts” of what we are not supposed to do with their contrary messages that are also in the mix. The main comment being that there is more confusion than clarity.
This confusion naturally impacts our health and well-being in detrimental ways, particularly our immune, and limbic system. A main function of our limbic system is to alert us when there is danger which then will set us into fight, flight or freeze mode, which creates a clear action and direction biologically for us to follow to stay safe or bring ourselves to safety. When we encounter ambiguity and contradictory messaging around an experience, person or situation, it creates a lot of confusion in our biology as well as our mind. Our nervous system is constantly engaged unable to settle down and integrate. When the contradictions persist and we can not decide one way or the other, we wind up in a kind of limbo state, where, because we are unable to define a clear danger signal, we become numb to taking any kind of action at all.
We find ourselves experiencing cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance happens when we can neither confirm nor deny the input of external and internal experience we are encountering as good or bad or true or false. We have nowhere to land and we are suspended with no direction.
This creates great chaos in our mind and body. It’s the equivalent of stepping on the brakes and the gas at the same time. We can’t get anywhere. We feel stuck. The longer we feel stuck the more we eventually numb our senses out as a way to feel safe so our nervous system can settle somewhat.
That is also why so often we can remain complacent in abusive situations and relationships for so long. Feeling immobilized we are unable to take any kind of clear action. As long as we are in a state of cognitive dissonance, it is hard to sort through all the contradictory input so we just stay put. Cognitive dissonance happens similarly when being gaslighted by someone who appears, on one hand, to have our best interests at heart yet really have a darker motivation of manipulation beneath the projected goodness or concern.
This is also a common state for trauma survivors where the sense of safety has been so damaged that hypervigilance (hypersensitivity) has resulted making it almost impossible to discern a real threat and danger from imagined ones. I am witnessing around me that many who have PTSD trauma history are being reactivated because of the world situation facing us.
Cognitive dissonance interrupts our body’s natural ability to take action and challenges our bodies ability to balance our nervous system and body functions. It creates massive stress. It weakens us at a deep level in the very moment when we need to be strong in order to navigate the challenges we face. This is when our immune system starts to be depleted as well.
In this time of uncertainty and so much fear, we need as strong a mind and immune system as possible to get through this. We need clarity of information to guide us in our actions and thoughts. If that’s not available to us what can we do to create an environment of safety within us? How do we stop the draining impact of bouncing back and forth between so many contradictory messages? We have to access and align with something greater, something that we can access and utilize that is constant.
Our inner resilience
We are Nature, the same capacity of resilience in Nature is the foundation of our being. And that resilience comes from the ineffable force of good that governs all Life. We give that force many names, here I will call it Love. Love is a vibrational truth in life that exists whether I do or not to perceive it, a Truth that prevails beyond the dogmas and opinions of man. This vibrational truth is available to everyone of us when we choose to connect to it. Let’s let go of all the names and interpretations we give to this force for now, just tune in and connect to the Love within and all around us that can build our resilience.
Here are practices I will share here that can help to bring balance in these stressful times.
- First, breathe. Nice deep breathes. Filling your belly and chest as full as you can.
- Breathe in up to the count of five, slow and steady, then pause at the top of the breath before exhaling for the count of five as well. Slow and even.
- Pause and repeat about 11 times.
- Inhale through your nose. Exhale with an open dropped jaw, gently sounding ah, as when you sigh. Let your shoulders drop with every exhale.
- You may find it difficult to keep your jaw dropped open but keep trying. The unlocked jaw is a key to the nervous system releasing even more deeply.
To our biology deep breath accompanied by a dropped and relaxed jaw equals safety. It’s what we naturally did as children when we felt safe. This way of breathing is like flicking a switch to turn off your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and turn on your para-sympathetic nervous system (rest and repair)
This will help to decompress and recalibrate your nervous system so your frontal neocortex of your brain (responsible for reasoning, problem-solving and seeing the bigger picture) can come back online and the fear-driven limbic system can settle down. Our breath is one of the most powerful tools we have to shift our body chemistry and functions to better our health and heal. This tool is with us 24 hours a day and doesn’t cost a thing!
It is quite possible buried emotions may rise to the surface while doing this breathwork. That is completely natural. Allow yourself to feel it while continuing to breathe five in and five out. Doing this breath while emoting enables the held emotional charge in your nervous system to release, creating internal space where you can heal.
The next practice I suggest to integrate with the breathwork is being mindful where you are focusing your attention. Our power and capacity to choose what we focus on is our other ‘tool’ that is with us 24 hours a day and does not cost a thing. Where our attention goes, energy flows and that is the reality that grows. Our thoughts have an immediate impact on our biology. Try it out yourself. Tune into the vibration of Love through a memory or thought that generates joy and happiness in you. Within seconds your biology will respond releasing endorphins and happy hormones to enhance and feed that feeling. Your will experience your joy is amplified.
Now do the opposite, think of your worst fear, disappointment and what upsets you. Your body will respond as well releasing adrenaline and cortisol, amplifying the stress emotions activated by your choice of focus. Voila! Your misery is amplified.
Breath and focus
These are two simple yet powerful practices and tools available to us every moment of every day. Learning to utilize these, mastering our ability to self-regulate in moments of stress, intentionally choosing our focus is a game-changer that leads to greater health and well being.
Quantum Physics has shown that our thoughts are frequencies that broadcast and create ripples within and without. Both our inner world and the invisible world around us responds to our thought emissions. This is not about ‘positive thinking’ that deflects and tries to cover over what is unpleasant in life, like putting a band-aide on a gaping wound. This is about effectively using our capacity to choose what we give our attention to, choosing our thoughts intentionally in order for us to move through and overcome the challenges we face.
We are not pretending the challenge is not there. We are simply meeting it, more fully equipped to navigate it in such a way that we do not fall into the abyss of fear and frenzy. Which is what happens when we do not know how to self-regulate.
It’s alchemy, balancing our body chemistry as best we can through our breath and choice of focus to help us get through to the other side. This action of intentional thought and breath helps keep our frontal neocortex active and engaged when encountering stress so we can stay connected to a bigger picture and effectively find solutions and actions for our betterment. Otherwise, we become cognitively impaired, which renders us powerless to affect our lives beneficially.
The only constant
The fact is that the nature of living is uncertain. It always has been and always will be. There is more unknown to us than known.
As I see it, on one layer of understanding, the Coronavirus is bringing that truth closer to home to wake us up. We have been numb to the impermanence of life, our lives, for a long time, living in the assumption that the next moment will always come.
The unknown is scary for us, so we avoid it. That is how we subconsciously create a false sense of safety in a way in order to survive, but it robs us of our life. In avoiding the discomfort of the unknown and unpredictable we end up taking life for granted and missing out on so much beauty and blessings. When we really feel the vitality behind the truth of impermanence, that every moment is our moment of power to choose and create, that every moment counts, then the knowledge of impermanence has the potential to activate us to rise to do our best and be the best we can be, to make the most of this precious life we have been given.
I love the quote, “Life is a gift, not a given.”
If the only true constant in life is change and impermanence, which it is, how then do we use that knowledge to thrive and be happy?
We have to let go of fear. We have to learn to see every experience as having something in it we can learn and create our lives from. And if we can’t see it immediately we can choose what we can learn by deciding that no matter what happens to me I can learn and grow and that is my choice.
Like Socrates when he was in prison and given the death sentence, he still wanted to learn as much as he could before he died. It didn’t make sense to his jail mates at all. They didn’t understand what use learning had if he was going to die anyway. Even as they injected the poison to kill him he was observing the whole process of how his body sensations changed each moment, with fascination and curiosity. He was a remarkable human being who gave us a vision of another way to live and be. The other day a parable of a Buddhist Master and student showed up in my news feed that I would like to share here about the Corona Virus to offer another possible way to perceive what is going on in the world, within and around us in this time.
It is my hope it might open some minds and ease some hearts, redirect focus from fear towards exploring and discovering new ways to perceive and understand that help us to grow through this experience. It is translated from Spanish (forgive any errors please). What is reflected in this parable, for me, are ideas and insights I that I find are useful and make sense in reframing how we navigate what is happening.
The Coronavirus, seen from Buddhism:
Master, I have a hard time understanding that the Father has sent us such an aggressive virus. What is the purpose?
The Father doesn’t send it. He Allow’s it, which is different. The pandemic was generated by man through the constant violation of universal laws.
But something so bad is going to generate a lot of destruction.
Coronavirus is not bad. It’s not good either. It’s necessary, it’s different. There is nothing wrong with the universe. If the coronavirus is present it is because it is allowed by Divinity, or it could not exist.
The idea of good and evil is generated in your mind, that judges from its ignorance, an event that itself is neutral.
But there are so many people who are ill and infected in the world, and there will be many left without having to eat. So many children, elderly, men and women. It’s very unfair.
The unfair does not exist within universal love. That exists only in your mind that does not understand the deep purpose of such experiences.
What does exist is fair, it’s precise, it’s exact, it’s corresponding. There is a necessary evolutionary process consisting of a constant information taking. A learning through facing the difficulties that life presents us, so that amidst the chaos and suffering that is generated, we discover the principle of love that is found in life itself. And this principle of love is the one that will free us from human limitations, and will make us correspond with experiences of much more satisfaction and harmony.
You have to understand that no one happens upon an experience that doesn’t belong to them. And if it belongs to him he will live it, even when he fights or resists. Coronavirus is not bad. It’s very good, since many people are learning from it. The level of consciousness of the planet is rising, seeing us in the need to develop great tools of love such as acceptance, adaptation, patience, tolerance, and respect.
It may be a difficult test,yes, but it’s not bad. You are growing up because of It. If you stop seeing the coronavirus from your fears, and start to see it from your understanding, you can recognize the value in it. So you can pass this test that life is presenting you.
The decision is in you, and for that life gave you a Free Will.
You were granted the power to make decisions, and these will be respected by the entire universe. You can give the option to fear, pride and ego.
Or you can give it to love. The decision is yours. It’s in you!
What decision are you making? Did you opt for fear, or love?
The decision is yours, but it will have a result, which is also yours, and you’ll have to assume it.
If you decided on fear, you will generate destruction in your peace, in your vital energy, in your relationships and in your health.
If you decided for love you will pass the test that life is presenting you, and you won’t need to suffer anymore.
Give the option to love. The way is always love.
And what is it to give love the option?
- Become an imperturbable being. Work on you, so that your peace and happiness do not depend on the external.
- Stop seeing problems, and start seeing opportunities you can take advantage of to create inner growth.
- Develop acceptance. “Everything that happens is perfect, and if it exists and happens it is because it has a purpose.” “Father, let your will be done. and not mine.” “Show me how I can serve you better.”
- Learn to flow and adapt. Act wisely instead of reacting from fear.
- Watch your thinking so it only vibrates in the frequency of love. This will lead you to have clarity in your mind.
- Don’t share your fears with others. Share only your enthusiasm, and your joy.
- Watch your actions.
May your word generate harmony, and make others feel confident and safe.
Difficulties are not solved by fighting them.
Become friends with the coronavirus. Don’t see it as a bad thing, but as something necessary.
And talk to it. Ask, “What are you teaching me? You are valuable to me and I’m willing to learn what you can teach me.”
“As soon as I learn, you can leave because I won’t need you anymore.”
Take advantage of the opportunity that right now life is presenting you, to do an inner job.
I hope the thoughts, stories and practices I have shared here can be of benefit to you and I wish you many blessings of Love and Goodness to carry you through.
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