The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cognitive Dissonance: Mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time.

Family and Covid 19

I pride myself in my ability to see many sides to an issue. In politics, relationships, art, etc. my brain likes to turn a subject over and over until many sides have been examined. Here are a couple of examples: 1. With my family, I see the value in putting children first so they feel secure and have all of their attachment needs met. I also feel the very real needs of my husband to have our bond honored as a priority. 2. Regarding Covid 19, I viscerally feel the high vibration of stress and suffering in the world. The loneliness and fear ride on everyone’s shoulders, including my own, but I also see and feel an opportunity for paradigm shifts. This is a time of reflection and change. Racial injustice is seriously being addressed. The slower lifestyle and work-from-home setup has many benefits.

Looking at the Fizgerald quote and the wiki definition of cognitive dissonance, am I intelligent or stressed? I guess to prove my point, I’d say I am both.

Still functioning?

I have seen it written that genius and insanity are only a fine line apart. The key phrasing lies in Fizgerald’s quote — “and still retain the ability to function.”

The pull I feel between creating security for my children and meeting my husband or friend’s needs occasionally leaves me emotionally paralyzed. I stew over decisions that involve these groups. Perhaps this situation is an example of cognitive dissonance.

Personal narrative heals

When I write about subjects and give a two sided narrative, I feel intelligent. For instance, I can look at my avoidant attachment style which derived from my insecure relationships as a child and now see how that insecurity fed my self-reliance and independence. That self-reliance led to interesting travel, jobs and surprisingly, relationships. I can see the good and bad in my personal story. That’s one level of psychological healing.

One sided not healthy

When we cater to black and white thinking (things are either good or bad) or fortune telling (if I do this, I know this will happen), we distort our thoughts in unhelpful ways. We are not holding opposed ideas or even unopposed ideas, just one belief or thought.

The same thing goes when we only allow ourselves positive thoughts. During the pandemic, if we only allow ourselves to ’embrace the quarantine’ and learn a new language or cherish the family time, we ignore the very real need to cry or grieve for all of the lost activities, relationships and certainty. Stuffing down the negative emotions only makes them surface bigger and harder later like a beach ball held under water and then released.

Not indecisive

It is easy to feel wishy washy when we see both sides of a coin. Some people may make us feel indecisive, and there are times when we are indecisive (which is not maintaining the ability to function), but there are other times when we are simply showing intelligence.

How are you doing with your thoughts? Can you hold opposing ones without feeling stressed or indecisive? 

Photo by Alexandra K on Unsplash