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What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Living with a covert narcissist and the consequences of cognitive dissonance, a mental conflict that occurs when your beliefs don’t line up with your actions.

It’s an uncomfortable state of mind when someone has contradictory values, attitudes or perspectives about the same thing. They are hypocrites meaning a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. They act in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. An example of this is of someone who watches a film about infidelity, continues to tut, shake their head and say how morally wrong this is and yet they are doing exactly that to their partner behind their back.

When you live with a covert narcissist (someone who has the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) but displays these behaviours in more subtle ways) it feels like you’re living in an alternate reality – because you are. You’re not just in a see-saw reality from the covert narcissist – your reality is different than that of everyone you know.At first, you feel like everything is wonderful. You feel like you’ve found someone who…

  • Truly gets you
  • Is a great communicator
  • Makes you feel great about yourself
  • Is thoughtful, considerate, and easy going
  • Has your back

Realisation

You feel like the luckiest person in the world. This reality is reflected back to you by your friends and family. They love and adore your new partner and are so happy for you. Seeing things through rose tinted glasses is so powerful, it leads you to discount reality.

  • Your partner runs in to the service station and “forgets” the bottle of water you just asked for. You put it down to being “absent-minded”.
  • You catch your partner in a lie. You explain it away as a “white lie.”
  • Your partner insists you never had a conversation that you remember clearly. You let it go as a “misunderstanding.”

Your belief about your partner’s true self is incongruent with your experience, so you discount your experience to alleviate the discomfort.

What are the signs of dissonance?

Over time, you may start to experience many ill effects of the relationship. These can manifest in many different ways but here are some of them listed below:

  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Decreased self-worth
  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Increased confusion
  • Increased self-doubt
  • Increased difficulty making even simple decisions
  • Increased stress
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased exhaustion
  • Increased overwhelm
  • Increased injuries/illnesses

You believe something is wrong with you. It’s easier to believe that something being wrong with your partner or the relationship. Those beliefs are too strong, the cognitive dissonance too great. When the distress of your constant physical, mental, and spiritual symptoms are as severe as the discomfort from the cognitive dissonance, you’ll start to see the truth.

You’ll notice the covert narcissist’s:

  • Lack of honesty
  • Lack of reliability
  • Lack of accountability and responsibility
  • Denial
  • Deflection
  • Projection
  • Dismissal
  • Blame-shifting
  • Gaslighting
  • Sabotage
  • Future-faking
  • And more…

Disillusionment

You’ll share your experience with your family and friends. They won’t see it. Their cognitive dissonance is still too great, their lens still too powerful. They’ll convince you that you’re wrong, that you’re too sensitive, that you’re making a big deal out of nothing. The cognitive dissonance of being at odds with those you love and trust becomes too much. It’s easier once again to dismiss and discount your experience. You’ll go through this cycle again and again and again, every time your symptoms peak, every time you reach that breaking point. Eventually the distress becomes so great that you’re willing to let go of not only the relationship with the covert narcissist, but also the relationships with those you love. You may have noticed that things were “off” during the relationship but found it difficult to explain. You believed and trusted in them and thought … “Nah, they wouldn’t do that, they wouldn’t be so hurtful and cruel because he/she loves me.” Once you remove yourself and break free from the cognitive dissonance and gaslighting brain fog, things become a lot clearer. You will find yourself again and set yourself free.

Tackle Dissonance

With divorce coaching, we acknowledge that separation is a process that takes time. There’s a lot to think about and consider. For this reason, I invite clients to book in blocks of 6, 8 or 12 sessions. As you’ve read, cognitive dissonance can be an immense problem but the support that you can find from the first session can often help to set you on the right path. You can contact me whenever the need arises. So what have you got to lose? All it takes is an initial conversation to recognise the kind of help and support you need to get you through this difficult process! You can drop me a line today by booking your FREE 30-minute discovery session and explore ways to make the process more bearable. Book a discovery call here.

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