cognitive dissonance

cognitive dissonance

noun, Psychology.

1. anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible

attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her


The Cognitive Bit...


1. of or relating to cognition; concerned with the act or process of knowing, perceiving, etc. :cognitive development; cognitive functioning.

2. of or relating to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.

The Dissonance Bit...


1. inharmonious or harsh sound; discord; cacophony.

2. Music.

A. a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.

B. an unresolved, discordant chord or interval.

Compare consonance (def 3).

3. disagreement or incongruity.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when we experience a state of holding two or more contradictory thoughts or beliefs at one time.

For people healing from a toxic relationship* this can cause emotional confusion and anxiety.

Cognitive Dissonance in emotionally abusive relationships or following one is painful on so many levels.

In a relationship this can be the belief that their partner loves them, as they are being told they are loved; but experience conflict when their behaviour isn't mirroring the words.

It could be a person holds the belief that mothers knows what is best for her child, but the conflict arises when they see evidence that have acted in a violently, or in an unkind or abusive way towards them.

And this is why people say they feel like they are going crazy... A very specific kind of crazy!

It maybe a coworker is treating you disrespectfully; but is respectful to everyone else, you say something about the way you have been treated, but no one else understands what you are saying, they may even say but they speak so highly of you, which confuses you even more.

Eventually you may start wondering what is happening, you can't trust your own judgement.

And the film Gaslight (1940 or 1944) is an example of this; a man meets a young women, she falls deeply in love with him and believes he feels the same about her. They run away and marry. With his eyes on his wife's inheritance, he starts to play with her mind in order to convince her she is going crazy.

The husband systematically manipulates her, the term “Gaslighting” is now commonly used to describe this manipulative behaviour.

When we experience any form of anxiety or go through a prolonged period of stress our brains go into survival mode; we can't deal with any big decisions, we can barely look after ourselves. Melanie Tonia Evans says in one of her videos that researchers have discovered the brain basically shuts down to protect its self from further trauma.

Cognitive Dissonance or Gaslighting is a unique experience for each individual; it is very different from a normal break-up, be it romantic, friendship, family member or work colleague. Only a person who has gone through this very specific form of abuse will understand what it is like and how deep the trauma runs.

And the worst thing you can say to someone is get over it, its like telling someone suffering from depression to cheer up.

If you have experienced this form of abuse it is important to surround yourself with people who TRUELY understand what you have experienced.

For me, understanding what cognitive dissonance and the effects it has on the brain was like waking up from some form of hibernation. The state your brain works from has been described as a fog.

When I understood what I had been through, why my brain couldn't compute, why I was reacting totally out of character, and how this had happened; it was really only the very start of my healing. It was as if someone had turned on a light, and the relief was huge, I wasn't THAT crazy!

I could literally feel the tension leave my body and it was a HUGE milestone in my own recovery.