Cognitive Dissonance (and other logical fallacies) Can Be Sour Grapes – My Story

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  • formal fallacy (aka logical fallacies) is a pattern of reasoning which is rendered invalid due to a flaw in its logical structure which can neatly be expressed in standard system of logic. *wiki*

  • cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals tend to become psychologically uncomfortable and they are motivated to attempt to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoiding situations and information which are likely to increase it. *wiki*

    When i was 17 (over 14 years ago) I read Diet For A New American and became vegan. Day one started with me reading information and pretty much every day for 9 years I had a book in my hand and I read everything about veganism, health, and how factory farms destroy our planet. I took it very seriously and personally that my diet had a real impact. I was always hungry & excited for information, even after 9 years so I knew I would be vegan for life because being engaged with the lifestyle was so effortless. The final 2 years of veganism for me were done as a raw foodist. I created 70 *lame* youtube raw recipe videos, helped open a raw cafe and found an entire community of like minded people to be apart of. Everyone was 100% on board with raw food, unschooling and conscious awareness (via thoughts and language). To say I lived and breathed raw veganism would be an understatement, not to mention the 7 years prior to that where I was just vegan. The raw vegan community at the time had a lot more gurus, leaders and  the “look at my body” types than the regular vegan community so when a handful of raw food celebrities were having an event the next state over I had go. My friend Jessica and I drove up to Oklahoma for the event. I knew Jessica from the raw food community, she was a few years older than me and had been into raw food way before I was. On the drive up to the event she played an audio from a multi hour long program by Daniel Vitalis. I was a huge Daniel Vitalis fan from watching his spring water videos  a couple years before that. I assumed he was a raw foodist like me from how his water videos moved through the raw vegan community. The 3 hour drive consisted of him talking about the value of animal foods and the fallacies of veganism (raw and cooked). What he was saying was really hard to hear, it was like some sort of mental, emotional, physical discomfort and I was not at all into it. We get to the event and it was great seeing so many people that I followed online including the raw model who’s blog I followed for years. I didn’t think about the Daniel Vitalis talk after that and it was pretty much was out of sight, out of mind. However I had already committed myself to seeing him live, he was coming to Dallas. I originally assumed it was a pro raw food kind of thing but stuck to my commitment to go once i realized otherwise. I knew my veganism was rock solid and his water videos had a huge impact on me so I couldn’t see any harm in attending the event. Plus so many friends from my community were going that it wasn’t just about seeing Daniel. Long story short his talk blew my vegan mind. He was vegan for something like 15 years (his tale is a pretty standard). It pretty much took someone who had been in my shoes, walking my path to make different sense of my journey.

and there’s where cognitive dissonance start to come in……

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Okay, lets say I have a world of information. My brain for some reason pictures a lime green jello salad. Each little chunk of gross shit inside is a nugget of truth, in and of it self it is what it is. Now the green goo could be the whole of my brain on the microcosm or the universe on the macrocosm. The goo is whatever it is that is holding (not sure that’s the right world) life and consciousness together.

Let say I zero in on one single nugget of information, cauliflower chunk on the left (raw food has lots of enzymes) and another nugget somewhere else (cooked food has less of the same enzymes than before when it was raw) and another nugget (our body uses enzymes). now these pieces of information are always out there in the ether. 99% of people will never zero in on those nuggets but they’re always there. Maybe 1% of people zero in on those nuggets of information and with that volume of information the brain could start to draw conclusion. Here’s what that drawing could look like:

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STARS are nuggets of TRUTH. The squiggly line is where    we connect the dots which paints a picture that draws                                             conclusions.

Our brains are fucking complex so there will be a lot of information that it’s taken in and an infinite amount of information that is weeded out. Part of how our brain weeds out the literally infinite amounts of information involves cognitive dissonance. If we have a vested interest due to strong held emotional beliefs/past experience it’s likely our brain will do us a solid and just leave out all of the dots that don’t maintain your already painted pictured (aka conflicting information). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I see some overlap between what I’m saying in regards to connecting dots and quantum mechanics (which I truly know nothing about outside of cheesy documentaries in my early 20s). Remember this sweet chz ball?

In my head what I’m hearing is that the brain is the map, not the territory. So an infinite amount of stuff is present forever and always, our brain takes in whatever capacity it can handle then starts making sense of it all. The more of “I know it already” you are the more your brain will starting taking completely unrated dots to weave it into the really big elusive story of the mind. Ever meet someone who will take irrelevant pieces of their life and use those piece to exemplify what they already know to be “true”? All extreme people do this (I’m raising my hand, super GUILTY). To that person everything is an example of how men hate women, how The Man is trying to keep us down, how shits gonna collapse, how something back in the day is prophetic, how too little or too much of a particular food is the the cause of X,Y and Z.

There’s more dots out there than we can take in and there’s more that we’ve taken in than we can process. So there’s an infinite number of ways to connect dots and make sense of a given amount of information. I had all of the vegan facts, a large amount of dots were connected which painted a very clear picture of veganism being the one and only way for a healthy planet, for healthy animals and healthy humans. Then I added in more information, the dots stayed in the same place but the connections were radically different. When I look into the world I can not see what I used to see as “the answer”. When I was vegan was I wrong for connecting those dots? No, I don’t think so. Am I right for how I’m connecting dots right now? No, I can’t imagine I’m right either. I’m seeing things how I see them and I’m open to change, what else can I do or expect others to do.

While it was embarrassing being a vegan know-it-all but I think the 4 years I did paleo after veganism seem WAYYYY more embarrassing. When I was Paleo I was listening to Robb Wolf and Daniel Vitalis. I felt niave that I believed veganism was natural because of Weston A Price documentation of traditional people each following their same non-vegetarian diet multi generations deep and all having outward signs of “superior health”.  I don’t know of any historical book that follows tribes of vegans for multi-generations, there was no living and breathing proof but just information and i put a huge amount of myself into it. but now i think paleo is the lamest most gimmicky bullshit ever. i used to have a charge with veganism which i no longer have. no i have a charge with paleo, i hear the word and cringe…. i’m hoping to not give a shit one way or the other.

The time in my life where I felt super solid in my brain I was raw vegan and on another wave length which felt almost like another planet. I felt really different and “the truth” was all super clear, i felt spiritual. That was also a time in my life that i was seeking the most “truth” and leaving very little room for new information. I locked my mental door, didn’t watch movies, listen to music, ate the least amount of food, lived alone and wouldn’t allow more information in (or out). So perhaps I had 1,000 dots to connect instead of 100,000 which created the illusion of clarity.

more dots mean more information and information isn’t good or bad, it’s what’s already there whether or not i was aware of it. I don’t need to be aware of more but its misleading to draw conclusions with limited information. I’ll take what my brain gives me and try to stay open. Truth is no longer my job, I don’t need big meaningful answers/conclusions.

For almost 2 years I’ve been wanting to write about cognitive dissonance. I started to see that as I unwound from my emotional investment with different diet bullshit as well as the radical anti-civilization bullshit that there was a quiet little space where I could observe, connect dots, honor what i’m seeing and not compulsively draw conclusions about how my thoughts and feelings “SHOULD” predict my behavior. Let me give you an example. The day I learned about sweatshops I will never forget. I was vegan for 2 years at the point, almost 20 years old and bought a progressive book from whole foods that talked about everything fucked up. It was a super simple book, I want to say it was almost like a photo book with a paragraph on each page. There was a page about sweatshops, human fucking slaves! I mentioned it to my roommate and he was like, “oh yeah, that’s pretty standard”. My emotional reaction to that was OH MY FUCKING GOD!!! I was poor as shit growing up so I already felt like an outsider to buying new clothes, like I’m not privilege enough to go shopping and everyone can tell. you guys know that feeling right? where you don’t feel entitled to shit and think you stick out like a sore thumb. so I went from thinking that I personally don’t deserve to have nice clothes to the compound feeling of buying sweatshop items is grounds for a panic attack. the level of cognitive dissonance involved to feel like i’m going to have a panic attack because i need to buy some bullshit at walmart was off the fucking chart. 2 years ago when I started making peace with having two conflicting beliefs I felt like i was in my skin for the first time in I don’t know how long. I can hate sweatshops AND buy sweatshop items as needed without all of the drama. The stupid thing is that I would spend all that time in the past making a huge ordeal in my head, “give away all of my power” (not to walmart but let my power drain from my body). it’s stupid because minus all of the emotional turmoil the actions are still the same. On some level I felt that my stress and anxiousness about the situation morally meant something. If i buy walmart products with joy in my heart then i was an asshole. if i felt a soul crushing amount of guilt that would elevate the sin and be proof that i really care.

and I see that line of thinking everywhere. I’m going to tell you why something is fucked up/extreme, then you’re going to prove you get it by saying, “oh my god that’s so fucked up/amazing, blah blah blah, my emotional stability is so out the window because this is fucked/blissed out amazing”. Like when someone tells you about their amazing fantastic religion, political party/candidate, their amazing diet or the truth on factory farms. It’s often seems like my emotional reaction is more important that them simply giving me the information and letting me make an unbiased opinion, the facts aren’t enough. Then when you don’t jump through their hoops they act like you must have not gotten it and want to re explain it. (i’m speaking from experience here, i’m way guilty of that too.) And it’s always the folks who are emotionally invested to a particular belief who want to call folks out as being biased and closed minded. Hilarious, takes one to know one, bro!

Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, traveling on pilgrimage, came to a muddy river crossing. There they saw a lovely young woman dressed in her kimono and finery, obviously not knowing how to cross the river without ruining her clothes. Without further ado, Tanzan graciously picked her up, held her close to him, and carried her across the muddy river, placing her onto the dry ground. Then he and Ekido continued on their way. Hours later they found themselves at a lodging temple. And here Ekido could no longer restrain himself and gushed forth his complaints: “Surely, it is against the rules, what you did back there…. Touching a woman is simply not allowed…. How could you have done that? … And to have such close contact with her! … This is a violation of all monastic protocol…” Thus he went on with his verbiage. Tanzan listened patiently to the accusations. Finally, during a pause, he said, “Look, I set that girl down back at the crossing. Are you still carrying her?”

Logical fallacies, like cognitive dissonance, are tricks our mind plays on us. Logical fallacies are really misleading. Think two pieces of truth sandwiched around some bullshit, it’s hard to decipher. PETA memes are perfect examples of logical fallacies. They tend to be “this fact + that fact = GO VEGAN!”. Let’s bust out an example: PETA meme: “Not eating a pound of meat saves more water than showering for 6 months” then the caption “animals raised for food produce more than 10 times more the poop and pee as humans do much of which ends up in our water. Go Green/Go Vegan”  The first part is a fact *but* only as far as factory farmed animals are concerned. Using vague words like “meat” as a blanket statement takes something that’s true (excessive amounts of water is being used for factory farming) and distributes that truth onto something inaccurate (meat raised in a polyculture or on pasture doesn’t require excesses amount of water AND the “waste” is now a benefit to the system). The logic conveyed is there’s only one way to raise animals for food (which is a huge fallacy) and that veggie is you’re only solution to their made up problem. Another misleading vegan slogan is “meat rots in your gut”. Everything rots in your gut, it’s what your gut does. Or the billboard with the the pig and puppy that says “why love one and eat the other” the fallacy is that you can’t love something you kill. i’ve been to small family farms where the husband, wife or kids play midwife when their cows or pigs are giving birth at 4am. They always aware of the safety of their animals, always protecting, feeding, giving affection and attention around the clock 365 days a year. They definitely love them. Is the point blank issue about love or is about killing? is killing an animal right or wrong? I honestly don’t know. Is the issue black and white? If killing animals is wrong then that would apply to all carnivores? Is it more wrong for a human to eat a deer than lion or a coyote? Could someone explain how you’d even go about figuring that out? PETA never talks about all of the animal death involved in growing vegan food, their one sided memes just seem really misleading.

Our preferences are not wrong. We don’t choice what we’re attracted to and we don’t always need to base our decisions on our preferences either. Life is flexible, break your own rules since they’re arbitrary anyway. Just try to be aware of the conflict of interests that lie within you and don’t snuff parts of yourself out (or shame others into snuffing them self out). This is something I wonder, there’s one school of thought that acts like we’re this eternal being that’s truly formless and can not be touched by this temporary worldly experience. And often that same crowd of people will also say that some disgraceful acts are somehow a blemish on your being.

The Fox and the Grapes is one of the traditional Aesop’s fables and can be held to illustrate the concept of cognitive dissonance. In this view, the premise of the fox that covets inaccessible grapes is taken to stand for a person who attempts to hold incompatible ideas simultaneously. In that case, the disdain the fox expresses for the grapes at the conclusion to the fable serves at least to diminish the dissonance even if the behaviour in fact remains irrational. The moral to the story is “It is easy to despise what you cannot get.”

Sour grapes aka The Fox and the Grapes is a great example of what people do in the health community. you take whatever food you’re not allowed and tell your self how much you don’t miss it and never really liked it. whatever, it’s how you’re coping. i saw my friend last summer who’s doing a low fat diet/lifestyle. she mentioned (and I don’t know if she remembers saying this) “i love french fries but i’m scared of all of the fat”. in that moment i was really rutting for her. i LOVE that she’s doing what the fuck she wants to do. she’d a grown up, she’s trying her best, she has dreams and goals and she wasn’t lying to herself. she deserves a goddamn metal! let’s all be straight up, say how we feel inside even when we have conflict within our self. Let’s not walk around correcting each other, that shit is old and feels dirty as fuck. Self correct and don’t get sucked into your own fallacies. and to save embarrassment down the road don’t try to suck other people into your fallacies.

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