When something we don’t like happens, what stories do we tell ourselves about it?
LOSSES LEAD TO INCREASED SUPPORT FOR THE WAR
There have been recent reports on how the massive losses of Russian soldiers in Ukraine leads to increased support for the war among Russians.
It’s not so surprising. It’s a classic way for us to deal with cognitive dissonance.
A large number of people die in the war, including many Russian men. (They are poorly trained, have poor equipment, and are often poorly led. And the ones who survive will be scared for life, bringing their traumas back into Russian society.)
So Russians, and especially the ones directly impacted, have a choice.
They can see it as meaningless and an enormous waste of human lives and resources. This would be painful, which would perhaps be OK if they had the support of the people around them. In this case, it would put their views at odds with the majority of the people around them and the views of the Russian government and media. Voicing it would also put them at risk of going to prison.
Or they can use it to fuel their support for the war. They can justify it in their own minds, and align with the majority view and the view of the government.
Many will choose the latter. They can tell themselves that the deaths are justified and necessary since the war is justified and necessary. And they can fit in with the majority view around them and of the government and media.
SOMETHING WE ALL DO
When something happens that I see as unfortunate, what stories do I tell myself about it?
Do I try to find a meaningful reason for it? Do I tell myself stories about karma, that everything happens for a reason, and so on? When I imagine into this, I find stress. Somewhere in me, I know what’s going on. I know I am telling myself stories to feel better about what happened, and that I cannot know if they are true.
Do I tell myself obviously stressful stories about it? It’s a tragedy. I made a mistake. I did something wrong. This is obviously stressful and a way for me to torture myself. And here too, I know somewhere that these are stories I tell myself. I am trying to make sense of what happened by making it worse in my own mind and blaming myself. And I cannot really know.
Do I recognize that these stories are stories? That I don’t really know? For me, this is more peaceful. It’s aligned with reality. And here, there is another option and that is to make conscious use of what happened. I can make use of the situation to find healing, mature, be more engaged in the world, and so on.
I know that any story I tell myself about it is a story and I cannot really know. And I know I can make conscious use of what happened to grow.
What does it take for us to arrive at the third option? I assume it depends on a lot of different things. We may have seen other modeling that option, and it looks attractive to us. We may have access to practical guidance on how to do it. (A friend, therapist, inquiry facilitator, etc.) We may have suffered enough from the two first options and be ready for something different.