By 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.
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?
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.