Archive for the ‘Mona’ Tag


OK, now that my “Crash” is out of the way, I’m back to offering rules that – should you decide to accept them – will save time and money devoted to therapy. Well, maybe not, but I hope they are helpful.

So, what is “cognitive dissonance?” Well, first of all, lets go back to the issue of control. One thing control requires is a feeling that things make sense. Cognitive dissonance refers to the times when things don’t make sense, because we are trying to hold and/or act upon two (or more) conflicting beliefs. In order to restore a sense of order, we’ll change one or the other (or both) so the two are no longer in conflict. The other alternative is to avoid recognizing the conflict and basically give up trying to make sense. Let’s try a couple of examples.

Representative Donaught (obviously a made-up name) ran for office because he believed that to establish economic equity in the community is a basic moral requirement. Once he was involved in the political game, he discovered that the only way to stay in office to fulfill that moral requirement was to accept large financial contributions from people who expected him to support causes which would ultimately undermine his goal of economic equity. The stage was set for cognitive dissonance. It might be stated this way: the moral responsibility to work toward reducing inequity vs. the need to commit himself to causes that would maintain inequity. What might he do?

In order to stay comfortably in office, he may change his opinion about the morality of his contributor’s causes and vote to support them because he now sees their cause as good. He may decide that he was being too rigid in his earlier beliefs. Or he may stick to his original moral view and refuse the contributions, potentially being voted out of office. Or he might accept the money without modifying his moral convictions, consequently maintaining a high stress level resulting in psychological symptoms like perpetual anger, or maybe depression, or perhaps physical stress symptoms. And his constituents might complain that he is a do-nothing representative.

Maybe the potential for cognitive dissonance is a reason to prefer public officials who are super wealthy in their own right.

And don’t forget, this will all become more complicated if he isn’t wealthy and needs to stay in office in order to support himself and his family.

Or maybe changing his moral standards vis-à-vis the reason for public office will spill over into other issues, leading, perhaps, to formerly unacceptable personal behavior like sexual affairs. Now poor Mr. Donaught is really in a potential mess. I hope he had a back up plan before he decided to run for office in the first place.

Anticipating cognitive dissonance might be a very good idea before making an important behavioral decision.

Oh, but, most of you who have had the patience to read this far have no plans to run for public office, though it may be a good idea to increase understanding of those who are already there.

So, why read on… ?

How about parenting?

Try this. “I’m punishing you only because I love you.” Cognitive dissonance. “The person who is hurting me says it’s love.” Which is it?

The child may conclude, “She doesn’t really love me. If she did, she wouldn’t hurt me.” Or, “hurting me is part of loving. Love hurts.” Or, given the superior power of the parent, the conclusion may be, “She must be right. There’s something wrong with me. I am bad.” Or how about this, “If this is love, I’ll try to avoid it.”  One way or the other, the child has to modify the understanding either of love, or of hurt. Or maybe this could contribute to denial. “It isn’t really love,” or “It didn’t really hurt.”

Maybe one of those conclusions is one the parent really wants to encourage

(I hope it’s obvious that just one event isn’t going to change the child’s whole understanding of love, life, and relationships. I’m way oversimplifying here.)

How about applying this to spousal abuse?

And then there’s the cognitive dissonance some of us pick up in some churches. “God is love, but some things you do are so bad you may spend eternity burning in hell.” Personally, I’d rather give up the belief in hell. But maybe the best move is to get away from the church that’s delivering cognitively dissonant messages. (Again, oversimplifying for the sake of making a point.)

“Mona is good at making things clear; Mona has just messed with my brain. Mona has just created cognitive dissonance.”


Posted March 28, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,


It was a day of fun in Dalian, starting with a tour which took us to the farmer’s market and other places. As I’ve pointed out before, it was interesting to watch the progression of markets. This one was tidy and tempting, but I noted especially the following offering, one we wouldn’t find in the U.S. — at least I don’t think so. It did remind me that the one food I would not accept from my butcher father-in-law was pigs feet. Any other part of the body was worth a try, but pigs feet look like pigs feet. (For obvious reasons, of course.)

Dalian Farmer's Market


One thing that stood out was the activity in the public squares — people dancing, for example.

Dancing in Labour Park


As we drove past another square, we were told that people came out after dinner to exercise.

And then there were the kites. Part of our tour was the chance to fly our own and take it home with us. The kites were beautiful, but the wind was not cooperative. OK. If you haven’t already laughed at the header, let me tell you I forgot I’m not six years old and ran, as instructed by the girls who offered help at the park. Of course, as I probably did when I was six — spending my whole life as I did being physically clumsy –I fell down. No damage done, and I especially appreciated the reaction of the girls who simply offered help in getting up and assumed I would continue (as I did). No tut-tutting, “Are you alright.” Believe me, once one reaches my age, being hovered over like you’re fragile is not appreciated.

The fact is, no one — except for Doug — got a kite in the air. That orange flying object above the man’s head is Doug’s kite.

Doug's kite - Version 2


But there’s more to the story in Labour square. While I was assisted by girls who just happened to be in the park, there were also  young people who had shown up specifically to help us, hoping to practice their English — American English. They were students planning to become teachers. We met many such young people in China, eager to practice their linguistic skill with us. We also learned that children, when they start school, are given American names. The name of the young man in the next photo, conversing with Doug, is Kevin.

Doug talking with Kevin

Notice the man to the right, recording the entire encounter. No, he wasn’t a government spy. He was doing what people all through China seemed anxious to do — photographing Americans. Unfortunately our tour guides hadn’t told us that to have a conversation was the hope of the young folks who met us to help at the park, so we didn’t chat as much as we would have had we known.

Before I left the park, I gave my kite to the helper girls. It was indeed beautiful, but there wan’t much likelihood I’d use it, or display it, at home.

Speaking of conversing leads me to the next, and last, stop, for our day in Dalian. A totally delightful visit to the apartment of a retired couple. The entrance hall to their place was dark enough that I strained to see my way to the steps. Once in their place at the top of the stairs, we were escorted to their everything room. Six of us from the tour, plus Victoria – our student translator – met with an eager and happy-to-see-us Mr. and Mrs. Wong. Three mats were set on the bed and four chairs were arranged around the small table almost within touching distance of the bed. These were for us tourist guests. Mr. and Mrs. Wong then pulled up folding stools.

On the table was a plate of delicious small tomatoes and oranges that I would call Clementines. Although we had passed an outdoor food market on the way to their home, we were told that our treats had been purchased at a nearby super market.

I also discovered that the Wong’s were like my mother-in-law. With Mama, if you admired something, she insisted you must have it. (I learned early on not to admire things too often — unless it was food, of course.) At any rate, when I raised the question whether the food had been purchased at the nearby farmer’s market, everything was passed for a second time, with the insistence that we must take more than one.

But, back to our initial reception. The first question was, as you might expect, “Where are you from?” The couple from Canada were greeted warmly, as were the two from the Philippines, but when Mr. Wong heard Doug and I were from America, he leapt to his feet and took off his hat to show us it was from the states. He was clearly excited to meet us, as had been so many other folks we encountered in China.

With Victoria’s help we had a conversation of some 20 to 30 minutes. We learned that Mr. Wong had worked for the railroad, retiring at (uh-uh, I think it was 60) as required by law. Mrs. Wong had worked as a nurse at the RR station, retiring, as mandated, at 55. They had also raised a family there.

Upon leaving, we did, of course, take photos with our hosts. Mrs. Wong reminded me of my mother-in-law when she lovingly and enthusiastically caressed my face — and Doug’s — in saying an affectionate goodbye. All in all, it was a highlight of my trip.

Having paid that visit, I noted a bit of social psychology in action. I realized the reason for the communal activity in the parks. There one could engage in physical and group activity not even possible within the confines of a small apartment. The very size of the home directed folks to a life of community.

There is one very sad note, though. If anyone out there can help me, I’d be deeply grateful. I intended to send them a thank you note, including a copy of the photo. To that end, Victoria gave us a template of their address. The sad thing is, we somehow lost the template, so I haven’t been able to let them know how much I appreciated the visit. As a matter of fact, I even called the excursion folks at the Holland America Line to see if they could help. Declaring that this was a first ever request, the woman I spoke to didn’t offer much hope, but did say she would try. Sadly I have heard nothing from her.


Mr: & Mrs: Wong


Mr. Wong, Mona, Mrs. Wong, and (my son) Doug

Mr. & Mrs. Wong & Victoria

Mr. Wong (and his American cap), Victoria, and Mrs. Wong

The journey is almost over. Nagasaki is coming up. (Remember, you can increase the size of every photo by clicking on it.)

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