Ever had an undefined feeling that something is wrong? That there is something that does not make sense but “you can’t put the finger on it”? You have this tingling feeling but you can’t point to exactly what it is. . . yet you know that there is “something”. It’s intangible knowledge or understanding, and you are not able to ‘touch’ the intuition that supports the understanding. Look at this:
Ten to one a contradiction might be involved. A contradiction is something that is opposite or very different in meaning to something else. Or there is a difference or disagreement between two things which means that both cannot be true. Or someone is doing things that could not be interpreted unequivocally, because it could mean different, contradicting things. Or things are said that could not be “true” and “not true” at the same time. They contradict each other.
A contradiction could even lead to a double bind, which is a stressful situation where regardless of your response you will automatically be wrong. “Do you still beat your wife?” . If you say yes, you are a bastard. If you say no, you admit that you have beaten her before, so you are a bastard.
Because the meaning of the communication cannot be clearly understood, vague feelings of unhappiness, uneasiness and uncertainty could be provoked. You can even feel anger, resentment and frustration. The body reacts to the unequivocal messages. Unfortunately, the underlying reason for these feelings and emotions are unconscious.
We can use a range of strategies to dissolve cognitive dissonance but basically it comes down on avoiding or even ignoring contradicting situations and information. Often our bodily signals will be suppressed in order to restore consistency, which can lead to psychosomatic symptoms like headaches, heart attacks and back pains.
However, we suggest to give carefully attention to signals you body gives you if it is confronted with contradictions, however unconsciously those will be received. If suddenly experiencing angry, uneasiness, frustration or a bad feeling in your stomach, the following inconsistencies could have happen:
- there is an inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal communication – someone says “yes” but nods “no”
- there is a discrepancy in someone’s behavior – someone says that he will come in time but he doesn’t
- there could be a contradiction between the content of a dialogue and the subtext (the content underneath the spoken dialogue). When we are talking or writing to someone there can be conflict, anger, competition, pride, showing off, or other implicit ideas and emotions that contradicts what is said. “Well done”, she said sarcastically.
- nonsense and no-nonsense could have been used in the same phrase, as well logical and illogical arguments or a contradiction. “The situation is hopeless, but not serious”.
- A paradox – a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true. “Don’t believe me, I am a liar”. A paradox may contain an non-executable order. “The barber is a man in town who shaves all those, and only those, men in town who do not shave themselves.” However, this causes an impossibility for the barber, because who will shave him? On-going paradoxical messages could be ruined the development of mental health. A mother has given her child two shirts, but when she wears one of the shirts, she says; “didn’t you like the other one?”. Or a female politician who is encouraged to look beautiful and then is commented as being not a serious politician since she wears lipstick. There are many paradoxes like “any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane”. Catch-22 is a logical paradox where the creators have made up arbitrary rules in order to justify and conceal their own abuse of power. In the works of Kafka also many examples of catch-22 situations can be found. A list of know paradoxes can be found here.
In the picture above you see the Monty Hall problem, which steams from a situation that may occur on TV game shows. It is a type of probability puzzle. What should you do?
“Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?”
Vos Savant’s response was:
“Yes; you should switch. The first door has a 1/3 chance of winning, but the second door has a 2/3 chance. Here’s a good way to visualize what happened. Suppose there are a million doors, and you pick door #1. Then the host, who knows what’s behind the doors and will always avoid the one with the prize, opens them all except door #777,777. You’d switch to that door pretty fast, wouldn’t you?”
- Another contradiction presents itself as when there are two possibilities, neither of which is acceptable. A father to his son: “Will you forward or backwards climb the stair to go to bed?” This is called a dilemma.
- There is a discrepancy between what is verbally said and what is implicitly said about the relation the messenger wants to establish or maintain. “Yes, sure, I love you”, he said while continuing waking towards the fridge to get a beer.
Contradictions, if not noticed, can lead to feelings of desperate powerlessness and furious destructive aggression.
However, contradictions, if not neglected, are powerful triggers to reflect on a situation and extract information from it. Attention to feelings and bodily signs are the clues to this.
Why I am so angry?
Why do I feel so uncertain of myself?
Where does that aggression so suddenly come from?
There could be contradictions around!