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Emotional Stability Leads to Cognitive Consistency

Ever felt so out of sorts that you couldn’t think clearly? I have already talked about how emotional stability builds trust in relationships. But emotional stability has another major benefit. It builds “Cognitive Consistency.”

Cognitive Consistency

This is the second in a series of three articles inspired by two of my professors at Western Seminary, Norm and Dave. Part one covered emotional stability. Part three will cover behavioral predictability.

Cognitive Consistency means a few things:

  1. You think about general situations in similar ways.
  2. You think about things in a way that people who are close to you can usually predict.
  3. Your thought process generally leads you to behave in a way that is in line with your values.

Cognitive Consistency Means Similarity

Imagine that you drive to work every day on the same route. You leave at the same time every day. You arrive at the same time every day. If the way that you think is like the way that you drive to work, then when you feel a certain way, you will think in a certain way, and do a certain behavior.

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If you tend to be an optimist, then even when you feel bad, you will tend to think optimistically. But the opposite is also true. If you tend to be a pessimist, then even when you feel good, you will tend to think pessimistically. So if we stop there, then we haven’t really helped anyone.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Cognitive Consistency Means Predictability

This type of predictability is a good thing. Not a bad thing. It means that someone close to you can usually predict how you will think about what they say or do. If you have cognitive consistency, then you are making it easier for people to be thoughtful of you.

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How many people have you encountered (or perhaps its you) that are constantly thinking of others, but feel as if no one ever thinks of them. Those are usually complicated situations, so it would be simplistic to claim that more cognitive consistency is the solution. But it might be at least part of the solution.

Cognitive Consistency Means “Congruence”

“Congruence” is a fancy pants psychology term that means you behave in a way that is in line with your values. The opposite of this is “cognitive dissonance,” meaning that you behave in a way that is out of line with your values, and then don’t feel good about it.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:5-6

Discussion

  1. What signals in your mood or body help you to know when you’re not thinking clearly?
  2. How does thinking clearly and consistently help your spiritual life?
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About the Author

I am a men's issues and marriage counselor in Vancouver, WA. I'm also the Executive Director of the Brotherhood of the Broken and a contributor to the Honorable Gentlemen project. I live to empower men to restore relationships.

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