The directions of emotional dissonance

When you’re troubleshooting yourself and your own emotional state, it can be useful to have various and multiple models of what’s going on. Having multiple models means that you don’t have to ignore facts or evidence to shoehorn experiences into a model that doesn’t apply; having models at all allows you to look at your experiences from different points of view.

Today, I want to contribute the idea of directionality as a model. This idea will (hopefully) allow you to more easily find the area(s) or place(s) that need alteration to remove emotional pain in relation to your self-identity.

In this model, external pressure would be the dissonance between how you are (or think you are) perceived by others and your own self-identity. Internal pressure would be the dissonance between your self-identity and how you present (or are compelled to present) to the world at large.

For example, external pressure could be where a competent worker was viewed as incompetent… say, due to race, gender, or the like.  Or if someone is misunderstood and wrongly judged. It could also encompass situations where one thinks others are judging oneself, even if they’re not actually doing so.

Conversely, internal pressure would be someone who is, say, in the closet about their sexuality, is forced to hide (or lie about) their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), background, or any other such element that makes up their own identity.

I suspect that a vast majority of issues are external pressure – and I’d even say that most of those are due to perception rather than reality… or in other words, brain weasels.

This model can be practically applied to identify the directionality of the emotional response, so you could address it more directly. That is, if I’m having an emotional response because of something external (including brain weasels) that’s different than if it’s generated from something internal.

In general, external originating stuff often does require anything other than attitude changes, clarifying communication, or stopping brain weasels. That would resolve the conflicting emotions and allow action to take place.

On the other hand, internally originating dissonance requires one to make changes with oneself – or even one’s own sense of self – to relieve the emotional pressure.

 I’ve found this particular model somewhat useful; does it make sense to you? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. March 30, 2016

    "Internal pressure would be the dissonance between your self-identity and how you present …" — There may also internal pressure from the dissonance between your self-identity and reality. That is, between our *idealized* self-image and our real selves. I found a lot of help with this kind of pressure in Karen Horney's old book, "Our Inner Conflicts." It's available from the library, and it appears that there are even free downloadable versions online.

    When it comes to emotional dissonance, I found Karen Horney's book helped me to look at myself more honestly, and honestly, that's the hardest kind of honesty there is.

  2. March 30, 2016

    Good point – that's kind of what I was fumbling at there; thanks for elucidating it better than I!

  3. March 31, 2016

    Well, a LOT of people liked the way you did it, Steven. 🙂 I found your article because other people were recommending it. You just reminded me of this along the way. I think your article is very helpful for many people. Thank you.

Comments are closed.