We might be triggered to feel tension when we encounter a situation involving our conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. It’s called cognitive dissonance.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them.
For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition), then they are in a state of cognitive dissonance.
It may also happen when a person holds two beliefs that contradict one another.
People like consistency. They want the assurance that their values and beliefs have always been right. They always want to act in ways that are in line with their beliefs. When their beliefs are challenged, or when their behavior is not aligned with their beliefs, this creates a disagreement (dissonance).
Since the dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling, the person must either change their behavior, their attitude or their belief in order to reduce the dissonance and restore balance. The uncomfortable feeling caused by cognitive dissonance might manifest itself as stress, anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, or feelings of negative self-worth.”