I just finished reading a book called Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tarvis and Elliot Aronson. It’s about why we justify foolish beliefs, some of the bad decisions that we make, and even hurtful acts that we commit. It struck close to home at times if I’m being honest. I definitely saw some of myself in a few of the stories in the book. The main premise is that we create a very uncomfortable cognitive dissonance when we make mistakes. We do this because we unthinkingly attach our own self-worth to the mistakes. The easiest and quickest way to relieve our dissonance, the path to least resistance, is to justify, blame and deny. It’s something that purrs right below our conscious thought. The good news for me is that I came to recognize this a long time ago through other literature like the 7 Habits and I’ve worked very hard to not allow myself to take this path of least resistance. Although it’s true that I could recognize myself in the book, it is a self that existed before I made a serious commitment to change my life, my mind, and my habits. It was a less mature me. There is a quote about maturity in their chapter about self-compassion (which is uncanny because I’ve also come to realize, before reading this book, that we need to be self-compassionate before we can let go and own up to our mistakes in order to change) that I really liked. “Maturity means an active, self-reflective struggle to accept the dissonance we feel about hopes we did not realize, opportunities we let slide by, mistakes we made, challenges we could not meet, all of which changed our lives in ways we could not anticipate.” Prison is full of people who need to “mature”, but it seems like its hard for people to do this in an environment where compassion is so non-existent. Both among the inmates AND the staff. This is why I try to be compassionate as much as I can with others and myself. I believe being shown true compassion by another is tremendously healing. So much so that it’s one of the things that can push someone to confront themselves and become more self-aware. It can push someone to realization. Much like Jean Val Jean’s coming to awareness after being helped by the compassionate priest even after stealing his silverware in the classic book Les Miserables. I read that book early in my incarceration and that specific part about 30 times because I connected with it so much. It still stirs up emotions in me just thinking about it. Anyways, reading this book about dissonance theory has helped me to remember not to fall prey to the dissonance trap. Reading this book will help me now and after my release in the sense that it affirms and reinforces my decision to take responsibility for myself and live a more psychologically healthy and mature life. This will be instrumental in developing the strong character necessary to weather the storms when they come. this will be the foundation for my success after my release from prison.