Cognitive dissonance? After you’ve done so much hard work and been through the anguish of making a decision about leaving a toxic relationship, what next? It is time for rest, regrouping, reinvesting, and recovery, but do you feel like you are in a battle with your mind? Are you constantly reliving the good memories and longing for more while being angry and hating him at the same time?
You are not going crazy — this is normal, extremely difficult and it has a name —cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance – Remember when you were in that “seemingly magical” love bombing stage?
The birds were singing, you were glowing and all was right with the world. You were in love and it felt too good to be true. Sadly, with a pathological partner, it is too good to be true because it is not real. If it were real love, he would remain consistent with genuine caring and you would experience stability with normal ups and downs. The love would mature and grow.
We sometimes want it to stay this way so badly that we hide behind our denial. It is also very painful to face the truth. The trust you once had in him is fragile. You may be just hoping and praying that charming prince will return… and sometimes he does, but then that sucker punch in the gut happens again. You just can’t believe what you are feeling and seeing. You even begin to doubt your decision and despair follows.” Why didn’t I see this?”, is often a question I hear from women I work with and they don’t want to get there again. Sound familiar?
According to Sandra Brown MA, in Women Who Love Psychopaths, there are three layers of Cognitive Dissonance,
1) Cognitive dissonance regarding her partner… I love him/ I can’t stand him
2) Cognitive dissonance regarding the relationship… It’s exciting/ It’s exhausting
3) Cognitive dissonance regarding herself… I’m happy/I’m miserable
This mind fog and the constant thoughts going back and forth are a recipe for losing yourself. Some women report a new lack of self-trust or self-respect for not being able to honor no contact. The more conscientious you are, the more likely you are to suffer from this. This was definitely true for me until I realized that it was my superpower (super trait) of conscientiousness that was making it harder.
The other big contributor to cognitive dissonance is happening in your brain. Your brain in love and your brain under fear and trauma produce a complex concoction of chemicals that cause neurochemical imbalances and decline in your brain’s ability to function as it normally would. Recovering your healthy neural pathways is necessary.
The areas of your brain that need calm are anxious. Impairment is found in areas of rational decision-making. A healthy relationship-specific area of the brain will stabilize however, in the pathological relationship these areas are overstimulated causing what can feel like an addiction to the abuser —sometimes called the trauma bond.
The trauma – bond is the emotional attachment that develops out of the repeated cycle of abuse using devaluation and positive reinforcement.
Women need to work with professionals and healers who are trauma-informed and understand this, and the sooner the better. If this dissonance goes on too long it can affect the physical health of your body. In my own battle with cognitive dissonance, while still in the marriage trying to figure him out, I developed an “incurable bladder illness.” It was terribly painful and I was aware that whenever I was sucker-punched or highly stressed it would flare up and I felt helpless.
I would not accept the word “incurable” and began a valuable education through my own research on holistic and alternative cures. Here came green juicing, detoxing, acupuncture a naturopath. and much more. I eventually cured myself and discovered the spiritual symbolic meaning of this “illness” meant that I was “pissed off!” There is an emotional component to every illness. I am thankful to this day for the lessons in holistic health and wellness I learned.
It is a harrowing time, to say the least. Please take heart there is a cure for cognitive dissonance and it is a process. Don’t let the inconsistency of abuse wear you down like so many women have. It is time for us to rise, be smarter, get the best help, and recover stronger and wiser. Listen to your body.
Brainspotting can help release the trauma and calm the nervous system. See my previous newsletter on Brainspotting and trauma. My groups can meet you where you are in your own individual process.
Reach out for a free consult. I care and I get it.