On being coherent On being coherent

On being coherent

Armony in health 5 October, 2017 Ana María López de Mesa


The essence of the human condition is to find a balance between who you are and what you do. The key is to evaluate the decisions you make and act in accordance with them.

Advisor: Carolina Carvajal. Psychologist

The line from Hamlet’s monologue is well-known: “To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them?” The heart of William Shakespeare’s tragedy takes on the issue of identity: we can be ourselves until the end, or let go of the essence of who we are let destiny show us the way. Literature has thoroughly addressed this issue: being and doing, or the great conflict of wanting, but not being able to.

Finding a place of coherency between who we are and what we do is much more difficult than we think. This is why we see so many scandals about corruption in politics, families destroyed by infidelity, or toxic relationships that neither end or continue on as healthy and honest ones. All of this stems from the inability to be honest with ourselves and others.

Psychologist Carolina Carvajal explains that people make decisions on a rational and emotional level. We then put decisions into action after making the appropriate assessment: this is what we ought to do, this is how things should be. “If we make a decision on a rational level, but we feel the opposite on an emotional level, this ends in frustration.”
One of the most common barriers to finding a balance between reason and what we feel are social and family pressures. How many people have given up on living their lives just to lead a life that is not theirs?
A lack of self-esteem and the quest for acknowledgement also come into play here, as they drive many to make decisions to please others: parents, children, and partners. “When we are not ok with that decision, this action will lead to being unsatisfied, frustrated, irritated and not feeling fulfilled.”

A balanced life

The decisions we make define who we are. The key to aligning who you are with your actions lies in evaluating your future: “To what degree is what I have to do going to benefit or hurt me? This is the big dilemma that we face every day. Often times we choose things that give us momentary pleasure, but later we realize that we are making a mistake. That’s when people know that they are being incoherent.”

Our expert finds that the most deeply rooted problems about the incoherency between who you are and your actions are found when loving relationships become chaotic or when everything begins to fall apart. “Many people find themselves in a relationship that is harmful to them because they feel they cannot leave it, this is an example of an incoherency. There should not be a need for love, love should be given freely. Any dependent relationship can become an unhealthy one. For example, I can experience a great deal of joy and pleasure, but at the same time I can feel upset and unpleasant. It is therefore important to evaluate what is best for your mental health: if you are in a toxic relationship and you end it, in the long run, you will feel better. Staying away from this person is a coherent decision. These types of decisions must be made with conviction, however.”

Cognitive dissonance, the plague of our generation, is when decisions are made, but we act against them. Technically speaking, “The concept of cognitive dissonance in psychology refers to the internal stress or lack of harmony a person experiences in a system of ideas, beliefs and emotions (cognitions) when they simultaneously hold two contradictory thoughts, or engage in behavior that conflicts with their beliefs.” To overcome this, Carvajal recommends making decisions by using a rational process, “One that is going to benefit me and how I am going to feel. What’s important is to take responsibility for the decisions you make.”

In conclusion, the trick to finding peace of mind between who you are and the actions you take, is to make good decisions that balance reason and emotion; decisions that result in holistic wellbeing. Remember the words of Hamlet: “To be or not to be, that is the question”.

What people feel and think is related to who the person is as a being (identity, beliefs and values), what they say and their actions.