I’m still thinking about dissonance theory and self-justification and how it relates to quarrels and feuds and rifts.
I’m wondering if it does me any good at all (in terms of avoiding some of the cognitive dissonance and thus some of the self-justification) that I actually don’t think of myself as an easy person to get along with. I’m well aware that I can be irritable, rude, and sometimes worse. It doesn’t rock my view of myself to realize that I’ve been obnoxious.
Tavris and Aronson address that, on page 199 of Mistakes Were Made, but they do it in an odd way.
Who do you imagine would be most likely to blame the victim: perpetrators who think highly of themselves and have strong feelings of self-worth, or those who are insecure and have low self-worth?
Hang on! Why put it that way? Why not say “those with a more realistic self-evaluation?
People who “think highly of themselves” are shits. Come on now. We’re human beings, we’re flawed, there’s a limit to how highly we ought to think of ourselves.
I don’t think it’s “insecure” to be aware of one’s own faults. I think it’s rational and reflective and sensible.
Dissonance theory makes the non-obvious prediction that it will be the former. For people who have low self-esteem, treating others badly or going along mindlessly with what others tell them to do is not terribly dissonant with their self-concept. Moreover, they are more likely to be self-deprecating and modest, because they don’t think they are especially wonderful. It is the people who think the most of themselves who, if they cause someone pain, must convince themselves that the other guy is a rat.
Well, right, so let’s not call that “insecure” and “having low self-worth” – let’s call it a reasonable self-assessment.
It’s Dunning-Kruger all over again. There’s such a thing as thinking too well of oneself, and it causes more harms than just irritating conceit (but that’s bad enough).