Cognitive Dissonance is a way of looking at drug use in a way that takes a slightly different route to the normal frameworks and concepts that are used when exploring this powerful dynamic within the human being. Dr Joy DeGruy Leary, used cognitive dissonance to explore inequality and the justification of slavery and destruction of Native American life in the Americas, the Caribbean and other regions of the world. Her focus was something she coined as ‘Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome’ (PTSS). She explored the accepted belief amongst many people in America that ‘blacks’ were inferior to ‘whites’. She identified that Native Americans fell into the same subgroup as those from African Descent. The questions Dr Joy Leary asked were: Why did those views come to be widely held?
Why did the humanity of Africans as well as Native Americans come into question? She concluded and identified the relationship between cognitive dissonance and inequality as follows: When we commit a negative act or think about doing so, most of us get uncomfortable. This discomfort is caused by the difference between our action and what we believe about ourselves. For example, most of us would experience a certain amount of discomfort if we were to seriously consider robbing someone and even greater discomfort if we were to actually do it. Why? Because most of us think of ourselves as decent people and decent people do not rob others. This discomfort is called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’. Cognitive –having to do with thinking: Dissonance – meaning discord. The greater the difference between our actions and what we think about ourselves, the greater the dissonance and so, our discomfort. She went on to say: Humans do not particularly like this discomfort so whenever it occurs we almost immediately try to resolve it. And we can resolve it one of two ways. One way is to own up to the negative act and address the harm caused by it. The other way is to justify the negative act rather than admit any wrong doing.
People that develop a problematic relationship with Substances often leave a trail of damage behind them. This can be damage to their own health, damage to significant relationships in their lives, damage to the fulfilment of their potential outside of substance use and damage to the community. And while in the throws of their substance use or once they leave it behind they would often prefer to justify their acts as being outside of their control rather than embrace what they did and accept and take responsibility for their actions.