Cognitive Dissonance (Rugs, Writing and Fear)

Do you know what Cognitive Dissonance is? This is clearly a reference back to my short-lived grad school days when I was studying counseling… but all that to say, I’ve been experience a sickening amount of cognitive dissonance lately.

Here’s a little definition of CD: Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously 

And may I add: it’s one of the most uncomfortable, pinching, squeezing nauseating feelings in the world.


In music it’s described as a clashing of chords… nails on the chalkboard of the finely tuned ear.

I first heard about this concept not in a psychology class but in doctrine class.  I sat there, probably with crazy hair and an expensive planner when I hear him say something like this:

“There are few things more uncomfortable than believing one thing and behaving the opposite.”

(This is not a direct Dr Felch quote BUT it’s close!  And it stuck!…  I bet my friend Jill still has those notes still perfectly kept somewhere)

When played out in life, it makes you feel like an unevenly distributed washing machine, always thumping and shaking, still spinning but all out of balance.

And when you repetitively do something you don’t believe is right, self loathing soon follows… and it messes. you. up. 

Then, this dissonant self loathing causes stress and stress causes every health problem imaginable from headaches to nausea to insomnia to canker sores… you get the idea.

Cognitive Dissonance is a biz-natch.  

It’s a nasty, devil-sent thing.  And we all have it, somewhere.

Maybe it’s how we eat, how we parent or how we spend our time very few of us are experiencing perfect harmony.  We all have some dissonance kicking around in our cognition.

This weekend I was parenting solo… just like every weekend now… I had big plans to work on my writing, on guest post pitches and proposals.  I was going to edit and take red pens to things that have been awaiting revision.

I was going to make some calls about Young Life.

I was going to read dozens of books to my kids and a few myself.

Perhaps I’d listen exclusively to NPR and start a family band!

I was going to close the weekend out feeling fantastically productive…

You want to know what i did?  I watched a dozen episodes of Arrested development and worked on Rag Rugs.  

Because for me the rugs are a safe bet, I make them, people like them, they buy them.

When I post a picture of a crafty thing on my Instagram feed I get all the likes in the world and it’s gratifying.

But when I write… sometimes it’s crickets and when I send out pitches sometimes I receive a “no”… and it’s hard … and it messes with me.

When I write, I never regret it… but when it comes to rugs and writing?

Rugs are the safer bet.

But they’re also the thing that causes some of the loudest dissonance in my life. Because when I’m doing rag rugs more than an hour a day?  It’s because I’m hiding from something else I should be doing.  Something bolder, braver and more risky.

And when I finally go to bed after long days spent with crochet hooks and Netflix on repeat? I feel like crap on so many levels.

Because in the hiding and busy-work I usually ignore my kids or I see their realistic requests and expectations as a total nuisance.

And in the hiding I don’t always feed myself well or get the exercise I need.

So, honestly the rag rugs are the tipping point at which my life can go down hill and send me into some serious dissonance issues.  So naturally, like the human I am…  I keep going back to them.

Yes, they do make a little money on Etsy but as my brilliant husband pointed out: even in the BEST CASE scenario they won’t make near as much as I’d make if I got a few more freelance jobs or got my book proposal off the ground.  

So I have rag-rug related dissonance and I don’t know if I need to put limits on them or set them aside for a while.  I know I need shift, somehow.

Maybe I need to use them as a reward for good behavior, put some sort of weight watcher’s style point system on my time?

I don’t have the answer to this cognitive dissonance deal yet, and this isn’t the only way in which I’m experience it, but I wonder if it’s the place where I have the biggest opportunity to turn things around.

Do you have some screeching, nails on a chalkboard, Cognitive Dissonance going on too? How do you identify it, deal with it?  

How do you redistribute the load when you’re spinning unbalanced? 

  • Mary Evelyn Smith

    This post is brilliant and so very true. I watched an entire season of 30 Rock and farted around on Twitter when I should have been writing. I think it’s the instant gratification that is so enticing. Writing is slow and steady and sometimes it seems like you’ll never finish. But supposedly, that’s what wins the race, right?