Cognative dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions at the same time. One that I can relate to is wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy, a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant element (the ability to justify it to oneself) that the smoking is worth short term benefits.
A general view of cognitive dissonance is when one is biased towards a certain decision even though other factors favour an alternative. You know smoking kills but you find ways to convince yourself its ok to smoke.
This concept helped shed allot of light on puzzling irrational and even destructive behaviour to me. As I digest my meeting with Mike, the man who abused me sexually for 5 years I have spent hours trying to understand the human mind. For me to re-wire correctly and help who I want to help this realisation has been key.
My step farther Mike is a very religeous man today so of course I was very drawn to read about one of the most famous cases in the early study of cognitive dissonance described by Leon Festinger and others in the book When Prophecy Fails. The authors infiltrated a religious group that was expecting the imminent end of the world on a certain date. When that date passed without the world ending, the movement did not disband. Instead, the group came to believe that they had been spared in order to spread their teachings to others, a justification that resolved the conflict between their previous expectations and reality.