Cognitive Dissonance


In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, when performing an action that contradicts those beliefs, ideas, and values; or when confronted with new information that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas, and values. Since my cancer diagnosis the second part of this definition has been quite the learning curve. My decision to treat myself using natural and alternative methods has challenged those who believe in conventional medicine. This is “when confronted with new information that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas, and values” part of the definition.

When I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer on September 22, 2016 it threw many of those closest to me and myself into a stressful tizzy as the issue of mortality was staring straight into our faces. Those who believed I would unquestionably follow the prescribed route of four months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation were shocked and deeply perturbed when I announced I would follow an ‘unproven’ route of alternative healing. Immediately I faced not only having to swim through my own fears but the incredible terror of those closest to me. (I understand that their fear came from a place of love and not wanting to lose me, but it was a lot to navigate.)

Thankfully after two months time, due to continually setting my boundaries and their acceptance of my ‘crazy’ path, the dust became to settle and the debate about my healing plans quieted down.

Very early on in my cancer journey a dear friend mentioned the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ to me and I realized this would play a significant part due to my choice to heal cancer naturally. We are raised to think, behave and operate in a certain manner in our society and are formed by our cultural, family and religious values. In the Equine Facilitated Learning work I teach, we address finding your ‘Authentic Self’. The Authentic Self is the you that is found at your absolute core separate from social or family conditioning. Horses easily mirror back the beauty of our true selves, which is why they are excellent facilitators for this work.

When anyone of us goes against what the commonly held belief system is, it is usual to be questioned, doubted, threatened and generally projected upon by another’s perceived fear. When I stated I was not going to rush into dousing my body full of chemotherapy I immediately got the reaction from some of those close to me that they were going to prepare for my death. If I wasn’t following the prescribed path, how could I possibly survive? Now here I am five months later, feeling better than I have for years!

The ironic thing is that if I had chosen the conventional route of healing, my friends would be urging me to question chemotherapy and try the alternative methods! The truth is you can’t please everyone; all you can do is choose what is right for you and be clear in your boundaries with the naysayers.

I know that I’ve ruffled feathers by stating my beliefs so openly about the way the modern cancer industry operates and it is not my intent to offend anyone. I apologize if I might have offended you by my bold statements. (I own my beliefs as I own my body and it is my choice to heal my body how I choose to.) I have no judgment towards others who choose a different path and I wish them well in their own healing journey.

I choose to speak my truth to inform others who might not know they have a choice in their healing modality, as having a diagnosis like this breeds instant fear and many doctors use intimidation to push you into treatment right away. The truth is that if you have a tumor, it most likely has been growing in you for 5-10 years so taking a few weeks or a month to decide your best course of action is a prudent idea.

I see how my choice to choose a different route of healing shakes the belief system of those who put inherent trust in what a conventional doctor prescribes. If one belief system is shaken, it can ripple out and effect the other held beliefs of what our ‘normal reality’ is. I see this also playing out with our current political system. Since Trumps inauguration, many feathers have been ruffled with his unconventional methods. The new president plays the wild card in what looks on the outside to be a safe and organized structure, yet at the root is an unbalanced and corrupt system.

Maybe the best solution is to surrender and know that nothing is predictable, as it seems to be a time of chaos and uncertainty. Perhaps the more we cling to our belief systems the harder it will be to flow and bend with the turbulent tide? The truth is that nothing is for certain and this is all we can be certain of! I know when I drink in this truth my fears dissipate and I put my trust in being present with what is real in the moment. All we really have is NOW; why not try to live it to it’s full potential?

"Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” -Sonia Ricotti