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by Melanie Anne Phillips

Reason measures problems, Emotion measure inequities. For every dissonance of which we become aware, we perceive it both as problems and as inequities because we measure it by both our Reason and Emotion.

When deciding how to alleviate a dissonance, we often try to be efficient by addressing only one leg of the offending item by treating it solely as either a problem OR an inequity. Although this may alleviate most of the dissonance, it will never alleviate all.

Still, alleviating all dissonance is not always the best course. Sometimes a problem may be easy to solve, correcting 90 % of the dissonance, but the 10 % causing inequity might require an enormous outlay of emotional energy, making it counter-productive. The cost of eliminating the inequity might very well exceed the benefits obtained.

Cost VS Benefits is an important concept to consider, but for purposes of understanding triangulating we will assume in our examples that benefits outweigh costs, making it worthwhile to resolve both problems and inequities that spring from the same dissonance.

Most of us have had experience crossing our eyes when looking at something close to our faces. If we keep our eyes crossed but focus on the background we see two images. If we then stare out into the distance bringing the background into a single image, the object close to us diverges into two images. Because of the displacement between our eyes we cannot see everything both near and far as a single image at the same time.

Similarly, when we look at dissonance with both our Reason and Emotions we cannot see an Objective and Subjective view as meaningful at the same time. The Objective tries to show us what's going on as if we stood outside ourselves and gave our own Reason and Emotion no more weight than anyone else's. The Subjective view shows us what's going on solely from the perspective of our own Reason and Emotion.

The Objective and Subjective views are similar to objects we are looking at being far or near. Reason and Emotion are like our two eyes and Problems and Inequities are the two images. To get things into focus so we can understand what we are considering and make the best decisions we can, we must cross our Reason and Emotion so that we can bring Problems and Inequities together.

In this analogy, we cannot bring them together both Objectively (far) and Subjectively (near) at the same time. This means that we cannot see what's best in the big picture and also best for us at the same time. We could slip back and forth between the two views as fast or frequently as we like and will never be able to make them both focus simultaneously.

Many people fall into a trap of trying to focus somewhere in the middle, hoping that by clarifying each situation a little bit, they have a better overall view. In fact all we do by this approach is give ourselves a headache because nothing ever seems resolved and we live in constant chaos.

To get an anchor, to build a foundation upon which to construct one's life, each dissonance must be measured only one way at a time - Objectively or Subjectively. Then, If we want to think deeper about the ramifications of our decisions we can compare the results of the Objective view to the results of the Subjective view to see which is the best of the two to make our purpose of improving.

Naturally, this kind of approach both increases the resolution of our understanding of the dissonance but also leads to "second guessing" and can begin a spiral of thought that gets so far away from where it began that the original dissonance that started it all is completely forgotten!

But even if we do decide to take that path, we must first start by picking either the Objective or Subjective and triangulating our Reason and Emotion on the dissonance so that the problems and inequities create a single image.

Let's jump back to practicalities. Reason tells us if something makes sense or not. Emotion tells us if its desirable or not. When something doesn't make good sense but is desirable we have a problem. When something makes sense but is not desirable we have inequity. When something neither makes sense nor is desirable we have dissonance.

If we elect to only solve the problem, we can take dissonance and arrange it so it makes sense, but it still won't be desirable, leaving an unresolved inequity. If we elect only to resolve the inequity, we can take dissonance and fix it so it is desirable but still doesn't make good sense, leaving an unsolved problem. As mentioned earlier, perhaps the law of diminishing returns steps in and allows us to easily solve the problem OR resolve the inequity, but not both. In this case we must choose the lesser of two evils and just accept the fact that in the struggle between humans and their environment, the humans don't always win. As indicated before, for our examples we are assuming that the problem and inequity are equally important and must both be dealt with to disperse the dissonance.

The way to approach triangulating on the best means of dispersing dissonance is to look for an effort one can make that both solves the problems caused by the dissonance and also resolves the inequities. Any plan that fails to address both has not properly triangulated and has one eye on the object and the other staring out in space.

Essentially, if you just solve the problem and leave the inequity or vice versa, you haven't been looking at the dissonance the right way.


As mentioned above, sometimes in the discrepancies between humans and their environments, the humans lose. This means that there simply ARE no solutions that also resolve or resolutions that also solve. You can't have your cake and eat it to.

What to do then? Pick one or the other. You have a real dilemma that cannot be dispelled due to the constraints of the laws of physics or the laws of psychology. Either you can't change it, or you can't change yourself. You're stuck.

"You mean there are some difficulties that can't be dealt with?" Yes. Sometimes things CANNOT work out. You love someone who doesn't love you. You are an artist and go blind. You trip and the family heirloom falls into the garbage disposal. All of these cannot be dispelled. They cannot be undone and all hope is lost.

What a bummer! What do you do then?!?! When there is a true dilemma all one can do is accept it or grieve. There are methods by which one can approach either option and they are covered fully elsewhere.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

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