A narcissistic relationship can leave you confused, full of self-blame and self-doubt, heartbroken, and lost, to name a few, and it can wipe out your old belief system to the point you no longer know who you are or what to believe. The internal conflict caused because of that Jackle and Hide characters the narcissists show you can be crippling within your own mind.
What is cognitive dissonance?
This is a state of mind where your beliefs or opinions don’t match up with attitudes or behaviours, where your reality no longer matches your beliefs, so you’re always looking for ways to match them up, or you’re living two different reality’s.
One method narcissistic people use on people is gaslighting, causing cognitive dissonance. They learn who you are and what you like and dislike, what your beliefs are. They start by showing you the reality that they match you in every way, by mirroring you, claiming they want the same things as you, love bombing you, idealising you, treating you better than anyone ever has, once you’ve fallen in love, they then begin to use it all against you in many ways, from future faking to breadcrumbs of false hope, there are a few ways they can cause cognitive dissonance and use you against you.
First, they show you the reality to match your beliefs, then when their needs are not being met, they devalue you, those silent treatments, baiting you into reacting so they can shift all the blame onto you. Then project their shadow side onto you. So you believe you did wrong, then they’ll show you that false reality that matches your own beliefs, you think it was, in fact, you that did wrong, your mind becomes torn between the fundamental truth, the alternate reality and their bad behaviour towards you.
Second, because of their gaslighting with the above treatment towards you, it causes a state of confusion within your own mind, as you fight the actual reality of who they are, with the false truth of who they pretend to be that matches who you thought they were and want them to be, and who they show you they can be when they’ve got their admiration seeking face on, leading you into believing when their envious face comes out you’re at fault, so your mind will downplay their behaviour towards you. Your left in a trance with your mindset not matching and not trusting perceptions, people and your own self. As you are holding two or more contradictory beliefs or reality’s at the same time, it leaves you in a state of confusion, ruminating and often with anxiety, which they will use to gaslight you more, they’ll say things like. “That never happened.” And “I told you last week.” Or “you’re insecure.” And “you’re paranoid.” Which when you’re already full of self-doubt, those words reinforce this, as your constantly looking for a reality check, yet especially if you’ve been isolated, that reality check is coming from the very person who’s sinking you due to all the stress a narcissistic relationship puts you under, your memory can feel like it’s not what it used to be, with a narcissist telling you “you’re losing your mind.” as you become more forgetful you don’t recognise that it’s the relationship your in causing you to forget, and believe you’ve become forgetful.
Narcissists will happily watch your head go under the water, to offer you a hand and raise you back up, just to dunk you back under.
How do they do this?
You meet them, and they love bomb you, through various ways, learn all about you, if you like flowers you might get flowers, you like movies you go to the movies, long, two-way conversations in the evening you get, you’d like marriage and children they’ll want those things too, they’ll make all those plans with you, message you, call you, be there for you. Then at some point, it all stops. All you get is some half-truths, guilt trips, to make you feel obligated to them, “I went to watch that for you, and I don’t like it.” Or “we don’t need flowers; you know I love you.” Conversations turn into them talking about themselves, and they’re no longer interested in you, that wedding most often never happens, or they stall you “next year when.” Those breadcrumbs of false hope that sound reasonable so you hold on a little longer, believing they want the same things as you, and you don’t want to pressure them. If that wedding does happen that or a day close to that, everything changes. They’ll say a thing like. “You don’t do this for me.” To get out of doing anything for you or “If you loved me, you would.” To make you feel guilty and do things for them you wouldn’t usually do.
You might get the first silent treatment. They will project all their faults onto you. You will then blame yourself, beg, plead, apologies, change to suit them and the nice narcissist returns, making your mind believe it’s you. They are all those nice things they lead you into believing they were in the beginning, only for it to cycle back to them showing their true colours again while manipulating you into believing you’re the problem, leaving you a little more confused each and every time, slowing losing who you are, slowly losing your reality and slowing losing your mind. They’ll then call you “crazy.” Or claim “you need help.” They reinforce. In your mind, it’s you. When in actual fact, it’s what they do to you.
As you experience cognitive dissonance, it means your mind is holding onto two or more beliefs, reality’s, ideas or values. It causes a hazy memory, brain fog when you can see the facts and the truth. Yet, it’s not matching those beliefs people find any reason or excuses to relieve the discomfort within their own minds, making incidents not as bad as they were, blaming themselves etc. the psychological abuse received in this way leaves you confused, full of heartache, with mixed feelings of betrayal and you feeling to blame.
Narcissistic people reinforce this with their gaslighting that they use against you. Gaslighting an insidious form of mental torture. It is psychological manipulation, where the narcissist plants seeds of self-doubt within your mind, making you question your own memories, perceptions and sanity. This results in you having cognitive dissonance, leaving you often confused, isolated and going to the narcissist for reality checks, not understanding they are slowly take more power and control over your mind.
As all the stress of the relationship causes our brains to live in a state of Hypervigilance, with the narcissist’s intimidation, we don’t know who we are or where to turn, believing we are going crazy. ￼
Our minds can self harm us more, trying to remove this cognitive dissonance. By twisting our own truth, the reality feels too uncomfortable to bear, so our minds twist it, not knowing we are running away from the truth. It makes us feel worse. It’s the minds way of protecting itself from pain. Temporarily, yet long term, it causes more pain, our mind finds ways to eliminate facts, we don’t want to accept creating dissonance.
Evasion. We are avoiding what we don’t want to know, creating a sense of denial within our minds, creating that dissonance. With narcissists help their gaslighting excuses helps us escape the painful truth, and they escape exposure.
Seeking validation, which is a good thing, unfortunately, that validation we find is often from the narcissist, which only reinforces that cognitive dissonance, they’ll accuse us of being too “needy, Making it all about us, overthinking, being too sensitive.” As the relationship with them is causing those feelings within us, we believe we are the problem and work on ourselves, trying harder to please the very person who’s causing us to lose ourselves.
Healthy ways to reduce cognitive dissonance and get your mind back on track and working for you.
Write it out. Keep a written diary, write down the reality and facts precisely as they are no matter how painful, facing that pain and stepping over that pain will, in the end, free your mind from the pain it’s suffering now, every time your brain tries to tell you a more straightforward story, read the truth out until you got reality in your mind and can naturally leave it in the past.
Speak with trusted people, those who will relate with you, let you know your thoughts are healthy, why it’s happening and that it’s ok to think how you do. Vulnerabilities. When good people open up and understand vulnerability within themselves, they can connect with others.
When your beliefs and reality don’t match, it helps to understand what your beliefs are and recognise the reality isn’t matching, instead of making excuses in your own mindset.
Change your beliefs, and this can be hard, especially if it’s important to you.
Change the situation. If the reality of the situation isn’t matching your beliefs, get out of that situation, leave it behind. It’s not working for you. It’s working against you.
Change your actions, whatever it is, may have caused your feelings of guilt, pain, fear. Step into those, and work through them, acknowledge them, don’t run if you run. You don’t heal.
In future, become more mindful.
- Keep a written diary.
- Read and learn new things.
- Talk with others.
Keep track of your beliefs. If you need to change them, you can. If you need to change something in your life that’s not matching beliefs, you can.
You can, and you will recover from this.
How narcissists invalidate you.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.