Cognitive Dissonance in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: What It Is, Why It Happens and How to Resolve It - Get your cognitive dissonance healing toolbox right here.

Identify and Understand Cognitive Dissonance

What is cognitive dissonance? The cognitive dissonance theory was first introduced by an American social psychologist named Leon Festinger in 1957. Essentially, it states that humans are predisposed to seek internal consistency. That means that, in general, our beliefs, thoughts and opinions must correspond with our actions, behavior. and attitude.

This way, we don’t feel the stress of trying to live in a way that doesn’t correspond to our beliefs. But if dissonance, discomfort or inconsistency of any kind is experienced, we tend to feel psychological discomfort and strive hard to reduce it, or to avoid it altogether. What this means is that we have a sort of pre-determined drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). This is known as the principle of cognitive consistency.

When our attitudes or behaviors don’t match, it creates dissonance. If we are going to get rid of the dissonance, we must change something. We aren’t programmed to allow the dissonance to continue – in fact, we will feel mild to serious mental and emotional stress if we aren’t allowed to resolve it. But here’s where your narcissist comes in: since they make it nearly impossible for us to remain sane AND resolve the dissonance, this adds to our already-full emotional plate.

How much damage it causes us depends on the level to which we take seriously the issue over which we have cognitive dissonance. Of course, the theory is the greater the dissonance the more you will naturally feel motivated to resolve it.

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