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  • Jacqui Rosser

Why don’t we do the things we know we ought to?

I was talking to a friend recently and he told me that he had been diagnosed with a fairly serious illness. I commiserated and asked him what he needed to do to alleviate the symptoms. His doctor had advised him to take his tablets regularly and give up drinking.

I asked him how much he drinks and he said a bottle of wine a day. We discussed his drinking habits a little more and it transpired that he had no idea how many units of alcohol were in a bottle of wine or even what a unit of alcohol actually meant. I pointed to the icon on the bottle of wine he had, the one that showed that his bottle of wine contained 9.8 units. I asked him if he was good at Maths and he said he was. I asked him how many units of alcohol he was consuming per week 9.8 x 7 = 68.6. I told him that the recommended alcohol consumption for a man is 14 units per week. He wasn’t aware of these recommendations. Did he realise he was drinking 54.6 units per week more than he should? Now he did because I had just told him and he said he knew how to do the maths.

I met him a few weeks later and asked him how he was getting on. He was beaming. I’ve cut right back and now I’m only drinking half a bottle of wine each day. It was so good to see that he was making an effort to reduce his alcohol intake yet it was obvious he was deluding himself. He was still far exceeding the recommended units.

It’s not just alcohol dependents who struggle in this way, to delude themselves it’s ok to carry on doing what we know is right for us. The accepted phrase is ‘cognitive dissonance’ and it means “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change”

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