Narcissist Abuse & the Torment of Cognitive Dissonance

narcissist-deceiverBy definition, cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort a person feels when he or she holds conflicting beliefs about something simultaneously. When we’re involved with a narcissist, cognitive dissonance is a psychological state that keeps us clinging to a narcissistic partner even when we know he/she is completely incapable of ever loving us.   In other words, we are torn between believing what we want to believe about someone and accepting what we know to be the truth (as horrible as that might be). Moments of cognitive dissonance can – and do – occur with everyone numerous times in a lifetime and every so often will actually result in our making important decisions that ultimately work in our best interest. Cognitive dissonance is not always a bad thing because it does, every so often, help us to weigh both sides of a situation so that we make the best choice based on the truth and on the facts.

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Cognitive dissonance is not always a bad thing, that is, until it becomes the catalyst for our inability to 1) leave a narcissistic partner,  2) remain in a state of “no contact”, 3) not give in to the hoovering, or 4) recover from the whole ordeal when it is finally is really truly over.

Cognitive dissonance becomes a problem when it keeps us shackled to a codependency to hope that will never get us anywhere as long as we choose to remain chained.

The hardest part about letting go of the narcissist is our reluctance to accept what we already know to be true: that nothing about anything we experienced in our own mind was real…..that the narcissist didn’t love us (never did and never will)…that every precious moment, every kiss and caress, all those times when we thought he might be coming around and oh-how-glad-we-were-that-we-stuck-it-out…all those times that were, in essence, LIES. Yes, indeed, it was all fake. It was indeed a fabrication created by  the narcissist to benefit the narcissist. We were stuck in the cognitive dissonance of loving a person that we know didn’t love us back.

Narcissists, in fact, have a strong dislike for their partners.  All of the wonderful qualities that attracted him to his partner to begin with become a point of contention later down the road. At first, he tries to mirror these qualities, creating the soul mate effect and hooking us in. Later, he might keep us in the queue by future-faking events that give allusions of promise but never occur. Oh, but that didn’t mean he didn’t like me, does it? Certainly that wasn’t true the whole time, was it?  Our cognitive dissonance prevents us from really believing it even with the cold hard facts laid out before us. The narcissist creates just enough plausible deniability to keep the cognitive dissonance alive. We want to give him the benefit of the doubt or another chance and sometimes we just want to look the other way. But no, we had such great sex he had to have loved me! Little did you know that having great sex with the narcissist changes nothing. he will still cheat and he will still lie. Little did we know!

It’s a struggle to accept that our entire chaotic relationship was a fraud even when we know in our heart of hearts this is true. We want so much to believe that the narcissist must have loved us at some point in the relationship even though we know for a fact that no one who could have possibly loved us would have ever done the things that he did to us and behind our backs. Oh Good God…how do we deal with the pain of cognitive dissonance?

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I will tell you now how I dealt with it and it’s really very simple. The one belief that saved me from LITERALLY dying of a broken heart throughout my 13-years with a narcissist motherfucker is my belief that all things have to be logical in order to be real. During the last three or so years of the relationship, I simply couldn’t take it anymore…the constant lying …the constant insult to my intelligence…and I started tossing out the same response to his bullshit: “I’m sorry, but that’s not logical. It simply couldn’t have happened that way. You’re lying!” and it absolutely infuriated him. He eventually resorted to mocking me about it. “Logical, logical, logical…I’m sick of your “logical” bullshit!” he would say, right before disappearing out the door and plunging me into a good long silent treatment. But I knew I was right because what HE said – whatever story he was telling me – wasn’t logical and I found comfort in that.

A person – even one as good at lying as a narcissist – can not argue with logic. I used logic to navigate my way through – and up and out of – the muddy waters of cognitive dissonance and you can too, my friends. I’m not saying it’s easy but how long can we continue to postpone our recovery based on the conflicting beliefs we have about the narcissist – especially when we know the truth! To escape the grief and emotional torment of cognitive dissonance, you have to make a choice between what you want to be true and what you know to be true and using logic is one way to ensure your choice will be the right one. You have to be confident in the truth that you know and you have to stand strong in your own defense. If you practice doing this, you will learn to do it naturally and you will eventually break free of the spinning mindset that clouds our ability to decide correctly. It is time, right now, to begin to finally make the right choices…..for yourself, for your children, for your future, and for your sanity.


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Zari Ballard, EzineArticles Basic Author



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  • lisab1117

    February 14, 2017 at 8:17 am Reply

    He simply could not believe that I was on to him. It was hard, but I gave him enough rope to hang himself. I even warned him that he was getting caught in his own web of lies. I guess after 24 years of my groveling and begging, and apologizing for things that were never my fault, and listening to his horrible abusive rants about what a slut I was (I’m not) and how I had maliciously set out to destroy HIM (I didn’t)…and the ever-present triangulation, lies lies lies and cheating, he thought he could get away with anything. Not this time. I snapped. He left me a voice mail message that was clearly NOT for me. It was for the OTHER other woman. Yes, he’s married. Still. The voice mail was so sweet and sexy, saying how GOOD I looked and that it was so great seeing me again that morning, and maybe we could do lunch sometime. Ha! Wrong number. I had not seen the asshole. I probably did something I shouldn’t have, but as I said, after 24 years of his shit and of me saying nothing, I snapped. Big time. I forwarded the voice mail to the girl for whom it was intended, THEN I forwarded it to his wife. His wife controls his cell phone and home phone, so he could not call me from either. After a couple of days I got a call from a number that showed up as the local grocery store that I use. I didn’t answer, but he left a voice mail. As soon as I heard him asking why I “stabbed him in the back” I hung up and deleted the voice mail. Blocked that number. He tried again a couple of days later from his mother’s house. I didn’t even listen to the voice mail, just deleted and blocked. He waited about 3 weeks to try again. This time he used a local home improvement store. We are having some work done, so I thought it might be legit. Nope, it was the N. Again he asked why I stabbed him in the back. I was so angry that I let it fly. I told him that I knew exactly what he had done and why, and I knew the voice mail was not for me. He started trying to come up with lies and to “gaslight” me but I would not shut up or give him a chance. I figured that this was my one shot to get it out. So I yelled as much as I could while he kept saying, “oh man, I wish…” but he never got a word in. Then he hung up. So he tried calling back about 3 times after that, and since then he’s been blowing up my phone with calls from different numbers and voice mails that I delete without listening. There was about a two-week time period that I didn’t hear from him right after that, but now it’s back to multiple calls and voice mails every day. It’s been about 7 weeks since I snapped and forwarded the voice mail, but it appears that everything is fine in his little narc world. It’s been about 4 weeks since I told him I know what he is and what he does, and I’ve been NC since. I’ve never done this to him before. He absolutely can’t stand it. There is no telling what kind of hate is spewed in those voice mails. Thanks for letting me vent. I’m on my way back to me.

    • Zari Ballard

      February 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm Reply

      Hi Lisab1117,

      Oh, how I remember the calls from local businesses that he figured I would pick up on. And how I remember the OVER 250 VOICE MESSAGES that I never listened to, deleting them periodically in big bunches one by one before I could hear his voice. Finally, and for the last time, I blocked his number so that I wouldn’t be bothered by the intrusion and you should do this too, my sister. The truth is that we THINK we are in control by not answering…we think we have the upper hand FINALLY by letting all the messages go to voice mail…but the truth is as long as he can get through on JUST THE CHANCE that one day you may listen to his venom filled messages, he wins. Why? Because he actually CAN stand it that you don’t answer. All he cares about is the “getting through”. Like you said, he’s just going about his business. Narcs, as you know, don’t care much about being with us as long as they’re in our heads. While we’re “being strong”, we still have one eye on that cell phone. He is ramping it up right now in preparation for going silent again. Why even put yourself through that? Block his ass so that you can’t even receive a voice message from him if you wanted to. You may have to call your phone provider to do it but it’s well worth it. Block his ass before you slip one day and DO listen to a message, risking a knee-jerk response/reaction that will put a smirk on his face. Block his ass while you technically DO have the upper hand having “outed” him and gone silent yourself. He shouldn’t be allowed the PRIVILEGE of even hearing the RINGING of your cell. Do you understand this? Quit while you are still ahead which is way more than most of get to do at the end of the day! LOL

      Stay strong, sister!

      Zari xo

      • LisaB

        February 22, 2017 at 9:17 am Reply

        Thank you, Zari, for your response. It came at a great time. I’ve had a few more calls and voice mails, that I erased without listening to. It seems, though, as if he goes through periods of almost manic calling and then suddenly it stops. I know that is designed to hook me back in, but I’m also a bit scared. He’s made threats in the past before about making me sorry if I ever did anything to cross him. He’s always been big on getting revenge. During our relationship he would take any minor “infraction” and consider it justification for whaver “punishment” he wanted to dole out. Once he told me that if I knew some of the things he had done, I would leave him. In your experience, do these narcissists/sociopaths require some sort of “revenge” when they feel that they are the ones who have been done wrong? As he sees it, he is an innocent victim and I’m the evil crazy bitch who deserves whatever I get. Admittedly, there are times that I feel quite crazy. I take on responsibility (internally) for everything that went wrong, and yet, I need to remind myself that I suffered through 24 years of emotional and mental abuse. Maybe I have been left a little “crazy.” I will need therapy to work on this and my co-dependency issues. I just wonder, now that the thought of being with him again disgusts me, if I should listen to any of the voice mails, because if they are threats, I want to have records of them. I want to know and I don’t want to know. But my biggest question right now is, from your experience and the others you have helped, should I consider the possibility of revenge as a serious threat? Or was he being a typical narcissist and trying to keep me in my place?

        Thanks for your help!


        • Zari Ballard

          February 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm Reply

          Hi Lisa,

          Honestly, I don’t believe there’s a threat. He’s following a very specific pattern and it’s all because he knows you are listening. A narcissist doesn’t care about being with us as long as they are in our heads. This is why he ramps it up, calling and leaving messages and then suddenly he goes silent. The silence is supposed to make you wonder about everything – and obviously it works! Don’t listen to his messages!! Like I think that I told you, at one point I had over 200 messages on my voicemail that I hadn’t listened to. The ones that I did hear or had to listen to for the first five seconds so that I would know it was him and delete them either began sweetly with the word “Please…” or they’d start with “Bitch…”. They go back and forth trying different things. Its a game. Then they go silent hoping you’ll wonder where they went and call HIM. I’d bet big money on this. He’s just trying to keep you in your place, as you suggest.

          If you’d like to talk about it, girl, I’d be happy to help you through it. Don’t be so quick to label yourself as codependent…remember that HE is the problem, not you. Consider booking some talk time with me so that we can hash this out. If you do, I’ll send you my books…if you haven’t read them, you should. You will recognize your situation on every page, I guarantee it:)

          Zari xo

          • LisaB

            February 25, 2017 at 10:39 pm

            Hi, Zari,
            Thanks for your response. It makes sense that trying to instill fear in me is just another of his bullying tactics. He will never know that it is not going to work!
            I have all of your books except the one on female narcissists, and I’ve read them all. I’m currently working my way through the workbook, and I have to tell you, facing what I don’t want to face is so hard. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done to admit to myself that the person I love is not real and that everything he said and did and every bit of attention and affection and yes, the great sex…it was all a fucking lie. ALL of it. And so much future faking, it makes me sick to even think of it now. But I am grateful to you and will forever be, because of all of the dozens of books I’ve read over the last five years, of all the websites I’ve visited, forums I’ve read, online groups I thought could help me…YOU have been the one who has been honest enough to get down to dealing with what needs to be done NOW to get past this anguish and deal with the pain of the loss and move on. I’ve been distracted by YouTube video personalities who want to focus on the reason I allowed myself to become involved with this narcissist and to stay for so long when I knew what I was dealing with. They had me convinced that I need to fix myself first of my co-dependency issues, but hell, I’m not strong enough some days to decide what to wear, much less deal with issues from my childhood that made me what I am. I need help, real, honest, kick in the ass help to get me through the process of getting past this shit before I even care about why I was in it. You and your books, your website and your postings, and your responses to my questions, have helped me more than any of the dozens of books I’ve read or websites I’ve searched. It’s from your heart and because you have suffered what I am suffering, and because you truly want to make our recovery from this living hell easier. And you are making such a difference. Every word in your books hits home with me. I want to highlight the whole book, because I say, “Yes! That’s exactly how it was/is, and what I need to remember!”
            Do these fuckers have classes, or a handbook, or are they taught by some hideous monster from hell exactly how to carry out their evil deeds as narcissists? Because they are ALL the same. As you said, my situation is on every page, with basically only a minor detail or two changed. It is uncanny. I really do want to book some time with you, and I am going to. First I think I want to get through the workbook and have at least that much of the work done. It’s as you said, we tend to forget the bad things when the relationship is over, but fortunately, I kept a journal of some to jog my memory just in case. And I have the random awful slap in the face realizations hit me sometimes, so that’s when I grab my phone and put a note in so I won’t forget to add it to the journal. I look forward to talking to you. You’ve already been a God-send and I am grateful.

      • LisaB

        February 22, 2017 at 9:32 am Reply

        I just re-read your initial response to me. Your answer is right there. I won’t be listening to his voice mails. And I will contact my phone provider about having them blocked, too. I think I am just freaked out because I don’t know what his intentions are, or if he is making threats. And I wondered if others have dealt with this, too. So I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing, and living my life, and not let him interfere with my enjoyment of it without him. Thanks.

        • Zari Ballard

          February 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm Reply

          That’s the way to go, girl. Believe me, it’s for the best. Block him and just continue on. All we can do is put as much time and distance between us and them.

          Zari xo

        • jarwithaheavylid

          February 26, 2017 at 2:06 am Reply

 will blow you away. It’s what really cemented the abuse to me. But it was 18 months later and it’s what I needed to put it to bed. I still bargain in my head (regarding my son) but nothing good can ever come out of these people. They’re whole existence is a lie. It’s heartbreaking to know that – really – they’re already dead. Always have been… always will be.

    • Essie

      April 5, 2017 at 12:22 am Reply

      Actually, one tactic that pathological narcissists use is to ‘accidentally’ leave or send a message that is clearly intended for someone else. It’s part of their triangulation. It’s no accident. The narcissist does this in order to incite jealousy and to keep the partner fighting for the relationship, trying to win the narcissist back, trying to feel some sense of adequacy. Whatever your partner had up his sleeve, kudos to you for shutting it down at last.

      • Zari Ballard

        April 8, 2017 at 12:11 am Reply

        Hi Essie,

        Oh yeah…I know that tactic. In fact, I have to admit, I did that to him more than once during the longer silences. It was a way to smoke him out of hiding…and it worked every time. Gee, how’d that end up working out for me?? LOL Should have left well enough alone! Everyone needs to know that IS a hoover. If you block all means of communication, you won’t have to worry about it at all and that’s a much better way.

        Thanks for sharing!

        Zari xo

        Zari xo

  • Sick of BS

    February 8, 2017 at 11:43 pm Reply

    I resent the word CO-DEPENDENT on these type of arseholes…just coz U want to get to a better place in the relationship. U can’t be co-dependent when u’r working with a pathological liar, that purposely finds that fun. Addicts lie to hide their addictions & the consequences of it…in essence, they wish they could change back. PSYCHOS don’t….even tho, they maybe addicts too, yet fly high functioning jobs.
    I prefer to call it EMOTIONAL ABUSE….the abuse that comes when U are involved with a pathological emotionally UNavailable PSYCHO & DON’T realise it…simply cause U NEVER realised there ARE such people who are wired in the brain that way…that constantly pretend they could have feelings…when they have NO feelings, NO conscience & definitely NO guilt they may have hurt U….yet, THEY KNOW!!!
    And that may make it hard…for ppl…even in co-dependent relationships with addicts…where they know their words are just words & there seems NO change…but, deep down…U KNOW they can change….U’ve known them before.
    The thing with PSYCHOS…U didn’t KNOW them before (well not well enough) & that’s what they count on.

  • clara

    September 1, 2015 at 11:15 am Reply

    I cant tell you how amazingly empowering your articles are. This one and the triangulation – simply slapped some reality in my face I was so desperately looking for. Sorry this post is long.
    I am going insane, and all your articles are helping so much. My husband of nearly twenty years has been an out right N, but I didnt realize it, and I have two psychology degree’s so cant explain how much im beating myself up right now. But that is the whole idea isn’t it, they get us to beat ourselves up with indecision and self doubt. What a fucking idiot I am. Ok here is a quick brief because I could do with some advice to stop this madness from completely destroying the little that is left of me.

    I am a pleaser, a fixer. I have always been trying to fix the marriage, telling him what was wrong, what my needs where etc… all to be met with inaction. Or he would agree to go therapy like every month, even send ME lists of therapists to chose from but never go. Then there was the no sex, while he fantasized about his emotional relationships. The gifts when I pull back. Anyway, recently he broke, down, crying shaking the works, I pushed him to tell the truth about his ’emotional affairs and his fantasizing- (is this possible for a narcissist – to just want to fantasize, that would be cerebral, although mine really does live in a fantasy world), – ok so the pushing the truth out of him made him literally collapse. Then I had everything full force, how he didnt get me a birthday present for me, because he was being passive aggressive, (what for I still dont understand, control I guess), and how he would walk twelve miles to buy our three children a present, just not me. Nice! He then told me he only wanted to renew our wedding vows to keep me. Anyway, since this breakdown about six weeks ago his lying seems to be getting worse. I told him to leave yesterday and he has, honoring my every wish. Although I have been asking this for years. I am doing no contact only by email. I am getting emails about how he loves me and is picturing me, (didn’t call the children to say good night last night, and I get told he had no cell reception), so I get this love email filled with oddities, which I can relate to your concept of all things illogical. I have lost my judgment. I don’t know if he really has broken down, he said he feels raw and cant believe how awful he has been. He has started seeing a therapist.
    Now, I told him two days ago that I had figured out that (due to my parents not giving me any validation and love as a child), that he was using my vulnerabilities to
    hurt me, he only validates or gives me attention when he see’s fit, validate, control concept of yours. (The feelings of rejection have been intolerable, waiting for any signs of real intimacy). And guess what? He cant respond to that email he said because it is too painful for him – so I guess he is demonstrating the very thing I am realizing?

    There is so much and my head is spinning. He masterbates to his ex affairs, not me, I was told this while he was looking very sad. Is he fucking with my head or is he trying to change. When I said I had closure over his affairs (because I have been pleading for the truth for the whole marriage), he then said that he wanted to show me the pictures and emails from his last emotional affair, (he was besotted with her, he even brought her home to meet me when I was pregnant nice!), which were on a computer in the garage, that he might or might no be able to access. Again he crying telling me he wants to tell me everything to help him heal. I said no, and yet again he said he was happy to sit down with me and show me the pictures and emails. Ok – that is sick, he was happy too, thats not normal. Im going nuts, is he sorry, the pull that you so brilliantly explain and triangulation, (he has been withholding truth to keep me begging) makes so much sense, but im battered.

    ANY advice please, I used to be a very outgoing active person, now im stuck in doors trying to understand the pain and not knowing if he really is sorry and loves me as he keeps pleading.

    Sending hugs out to everyone in and out of this living hell.

    • Zari Ballard

      September 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm Reply

      Hi Clara,

      Wow…first, I’ve got to do give you my usual apology for being so long in responding. I’m trying to catch up! That being said a lot could have happened with you in two weeks and I would really be interested in hearing an update. I promise that I will look for it.

      My honest opinion about the crying and shaking and wanting you “to help him heal” and the “fantasizing”? It’s all a bunch of crap to distract you (and HIMSELF) from what he’s really been up to. The truth is that narcissists can’t possibly have “emotional” affairs because they don’t have any true emotions. Having a physical affair is a whole different thing and I’d be willing to be that all his “affairs” have been physical. But now, in his mind, just the fact that he “cried” and admitted SOMETHING (even if it wasn’t the whole truth) means that he now has a clean slate. He’s not really sorry (at least not for the reasons we’d like) because he can’t be sorry for a whole lot of anything. He may, though, try therapy to appease you but I give it two sessions at most before he tires of the whole thing. Btw, are absolutely right when you say that he has used your vulnerabilities to manipulate and control the situation – he’s doing it right now! I guarantee that when he tires of kissing your ass about this, it’s going to happen in a split second, catching you off guard. Then, when he happily senses your anxiety about his attitude, he’ll say “Well, you asked me to leave. This was your idea. This is what happens.” The intention will be to put you back in a tailspin so that you doubt yourself once again. Narcissists are very good at what they do.

      Look, I know it’s hard but deep down you know exactly what’s going on here. Isn’t it amazing how they can break us down…reduce us to a fraction of the person that he was initially attracted to? While he’s gone, you MUST try to get that back. I’d like you to maybe consider having a consultation with me so we can talk about this one-on-one. You’d be amazed how empowering it can be. No one really “gets it” except those who have been there to really experience the weirdness with these creatures. I provide phone consults for this very reason. Here’s the link to information about it…just give it some thought:)

      Stay strong and remember that YOU are not and never have been the problem. EVER. You deserve, above all else, to be happy and live a peaceful life. There is life after the nonsense, I promise. Keep reading and staying educated and communicating. Please write back with an update and let me know how you’re doing, sister…

      Zari xo

    • kg

      September 16, 2015 at 9:42 pm Reply

      Hi Clara

      Do you want to live a crazy life?

      Then you have your answer.

      To test if he’s a narcissist, do not show any emotion. Wear your pokerface. A narcissist will fish and fish (or bait and bait) until they get the response they’re looking for. Your responses tell him how to act, and without them, he’s like a camper without a compass. Regardless though, I repeat question one. Do you want a peaceful life? Then you have your answer.

      I wrote here earlier – your fella doesn’t like sex, he’s merely distracting you from that fact. They can’t handle intimacy. Do you want a life with healthy intimacy? See questions 1 and 2.

      Last, don’t call yourself stupid. I have a double major in psychology too. It’s not that we’re not intellectually intelligent – but we are emotionally stunted and we’ve attracted this scenario so we can pull back and reassess. You’ve attracted this person because you are trying to fix something so that YOU can be alright. It’s pretty co-dependent. Unfortunately until you partner with yourself and look after yourself, you’re never going to get what you want out of the guy. What you’re trying to get is like trying to get blood from a stone.

      So even though you can see that this guy has problems, it’s really because you have the problems with real intimacy and taking care of yourself. And unless you take care of yourself then you’re always going to attract these kinds of mates. You probably already have in the past.

      They are real headfucks. Please read Melanie Tonia Evans’s blogs and if you can afford it, do her course. But you need to be No Contact with the narcissist. Also – google ‘hoovering narcissist’ and you’ll find what you’re probably going through. MTE has great articles on this too.

      Choose peace. x

  • Vicki Modica

    August 22, 2015 at 11:08 am Reply

    Such an awesome article that is extremely well written! Love the sassy sense of humor used while explaining these guys in such a way that actually helps you makes sense of all the craziness from dealing with a pathological lying narcissist! This article helped me IMMENSELY! THANK YOU!!!!

    • Zari Ballard

      August 22, 2015 at 11:58 am Reply

      Hi Vicki,

      Sometimes you just have to laugh at the insanity of it all. It is, after, EXTREMELY INSANE! Glad you enjoyed it…

      Zari xo

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