Tag Archives: Fear

Cognitive Dissonance and the Victim of Abuse

The following is taken from an article written by

Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Clinical PsychologistImage

“Cognitive Dissonance” explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable. When we have two sets of cognitions (knowledge, opinion, feelings, input from others, etc.) that are the opposite, the situation becomes emotionally uncomfortable. Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation – few want to admit that fact. Instead, we attempt to reduce the dissonance – the fact that our cognitions don’t match, agree, or make sense when combined. “Cognitive Dissonance” can be reduced by adding new cognitions – adding new thoughts and attitudes. Some examples:

  • Heavy smokers know smoking causes lung cancer and multiple health risks. To continue smoking, the smoker changes his cognitions (thoughts/feelings) such as 1) “I’m smoking less than ten years ago”, 2) “I’m smoking low-tar cigarettes”, 3) “Those statistics are made up by the cancer industry conspiracy”, or 4) “Something’s got to get you anyway!” These new cognitions/attitudes allow them to keep smoking and actually begin blaming restaurants for being unfair.
  • You purchase a $40,000.00 Sport Utility Vehicle that gets 8 miles a gallon. You justify the expense and related issues with 1) “It’s great on trips (you take one trip per year)”, 2) “I can use it to haul stuff (one coffee table in 12 months), and 3) “You can carry a lot of people in it (95% of your trips are driver-only).”
  • Your husband/boyfriend becomes abusive and assaultive. You can’t leave due to the finances, children, or other factors. Through cognitive dissonance, you begin telling yourself “He only hits me open-handed” and “He’s had a lot of stress at work.”

Leon Festinger first coined “Cognitive Dissonance”. He had observed a cult (1956) in which members gave up their homes, incomes, and jobs to work for the cult. This cult believed in messages from outer space that predicted the day the world would end by a flood. As cult members and firm believers, they believed they would be saved by flying saucers at the appointed time. As they gathered and waited to be taken by flying saucers at the specified time, the end-of-the-world came and went. No flood and no flying saucer! Rather than believing they were foolish after all that personal and emotional investment – they decided their beliefs had actually saved the world from the flood and they became firmer in their beliefs after the failure of the prophecy. The moral – the more you invest (income, job, home, time, effort, etc.) the stronger your need to justify your position. If we invest $5.00 in a raffle ticket, we justify losing with “I’ll get them next time”. If you invest everything you have, it requires an almost unreasoning belief and unusual attitude to support and justify that investment.

Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals. Almost any ordeal creates a bonding experience. Every couple, no matter how mismatched, falls in love in the movies after going through a terrorist takeover, being stalked by a killer, being stranded on an island, or being involved in an alien abduction. Investment and an ordeal are ingredients for a strong bonding – even if the bonding is unhealthy. No one bonds or falls in love by being a member of the Automobile Club or a music CD club. Struggling to survive on a deserted island – you bet!

Abusive relationships produce a great amount on unhealthy investment in both parties. In many cases we tend to remain and support the abusive relationship due to our investment in the relationship. Try telling a new Marine that since he or she has survived boot camp, they should now enroll in the National Guard! Several types of investments keep us in the bad relationship:

  • Emotional Investment – We’ve invested so many emotions, cried so much, and worried so much that we feel we must see the relationship through to the finish.
  • Social Investment – We’ve got our pride! To avoid social embarrassment and uncomfortable social situations, we remain in the relationship.
  • Family Investments – If children are present in the relationship, decisions regarding the relationship are clouded by the status and needs of the children.
  • Financial Investment – In many cases, the controlling and abusive partner has created a complex financial situation. Many victims remain in a bad relationship, waiting for a better financial situation to develop that would make their departure and detachment easier.
  • Lifestyle Investment – Many controlling/abusive partners use money or a lifestyle as an investment. Victims in this situation may not want to lose their current lifestyle.
  • Intimacy Investment – We often invest emotional and sexual intimacy. Some victims have experienced a destruction of their emotional and/or sexual self-esteem in the unhealthy relationship. The abusing partner may threaten to spread rumors or tell intimate details or secrets. A type of blackmail using intimacy is often found in these situations.

In many cases, it’s not simply our feelings for an individual that keeps us in an unhealthy relationship – it’s often the amount of investment. Relationships are complex and we often only see the tip of the iceberg in public. For this reason, the most common phrase offered by the victim in defense of their unhealthy relationship is “You just don’t understand!”

Out the Darkness He Still Creeps

Its been a long time and I hesitate to even mention it for fear he still lurks here and will see that he got to me vicariously again but it is part of the process I suppose and something perhaps others want to know. How long will he haunt me?

Well its been 2 years, 3 1/2 months and in he walked into my dreams like nothing had ever happened, smiling that sheepish grin he used to get when he knew he was being a “bad boy” the grin that I used to tell myself was his way of showing me he couldn’t control his desire for me, love for me, or whatever it was that made me keep going back. It was a grin that melted my hardest resolve and took away my voice and he knew exactly what he was doing.

Last night he was there just like so many times in the past, professing his love, me telling him to just go away and him telling me to “just let things happen as they should”, didn’t I know he would be back? Didn’t he tell me I would do better without him? So am I supposed to be grateful he left me? I suppose. Grateful for the years of heartache, lies and eventual vicious discard. Sorry, no, I don’t thank him for that and never will. I told him last night that he had no right to come now professing a love that never existed just when I am getting by on my own and am happy.

Then he kissed me and when I put my hands up to push against his chest he took my hand and slid a ring on my finger. He refused to let me speak and just said, ‘Don’t say anything, just wear it, no one has to know where you got it; only we will know. Just wear it for me.”

Then he disappeared, faded into black and I woke up and checked my finger, no ring. relief.

But all day I half expected to see him, I thought I saw him driving a semi through town, he was on my mind more than usual and yes I checked his facebook and he has unhidden his profile. He had it hidden for a long time and I haven’t checked in so long I don’t know when he unblocked me. I hate that I checked and I hate that now I wonder why he unblocked me, was he checking on me? probably.

I had his sister come out for the weekend a couple of weeks ago. They have barely talked since he made her miss her daughters wedding, in fact his whole family has seen or heard very little from him since he got with M. But Denise was on the skytrain on her way to meet me when he called her. He was in Vancouver on his way up the coast and he had missed his ferry and did she want to go for coffee. She said, “You aren’t going to believe this but am on my way to sped the weekend with Carrie. She said he barely missed a beat but there was a definite silence before he said, “Oh well, good for you, have a good time.”

Sometimes I think there must be a higher power controlling little things like that, those coincidences. I didn’t ask if he was still with M and neither did Denise. We had a great weekend and I really haven’t thought much about it until last night.

Where the hell did he come from? and why? I know it is my own head so why now would I dream a dream like that? I didn’t wake up in a sweat like I used to or crying. I got up and went on with my very busy day and then I got home and had the stereo on and that song “I Set Fire to the Rain” came on and all of a sudden I was crying, sobbing. Kato stopped licking his balls and looked at me like he was saying, “What’s up? you haven’t cried like this is ages”. I laughed and said, “Its ok buddy, I’m fine, ……….. really.” So he went back to licking his balls.

Why was I crying? I’ll tell you why. Because the son of a bitch, ass hole, bottom feeder hurt me, manipulated me with my love for him, the bastard screwed around on me, lied, conned, blamed, physically abused me all in the name of “love” and it hurts damnit!! I am not healed, I wouldn’t wear his ring if he had appeared at my door but I think more than him coming to me it was my mind warning me.

You see, I have another post started about why I stopped seeing C and will leave those details for another post but I was trying to maintain a friendship due to working together and I nipped it in the bud early enough there really should be no hard feelings. Its not that I know he is an N, I don’t know that, I wasn’t dating him long enough to know that, I just know I was uncomfortable about a few things.

Its strange because Kato had been wanting to spend the night with him all the time and then the day I really felt I needed to remove myself from the situation Kato followed me every where like my shadow and made certain I didn’t leave him behind.

Then last night I had stopped at the shop after work to let the dogs run free around the yard. C’s dog was in his dad’s truck and Laila was trying to get in the truck at her. I was giving Laila shit mainly because she was getting muddy paw prints all over the truck. Then C’s dad came out to move his truck and said something to the effect, “I’ll run the brain dead bitch over.” I went to reach for Laila and she growled at me, I slapped her snout and told her not to growl at me and she ducked under the truck. I reached for her and she darted out the other side, by now she was in a real frenzy and C was trying to grab her and I backed off because we were getting no where, she was just getting more worked up.

Then I see C has a 2×4 in his hands and he is swinging at her trying to hit her, then he is poking it in her face and she is really losing it now and I am yelled at him to put the frickin 2×4 down. I ran to the truck and opened the door and called laila and she ran and jumped in. C said she was out of control and it was necessary and I said a 2×4 was NOT necessary and I left.

Tonight he sent a text saying “Can’t fight with you over it I apologize to you cause you feel what I did was wrong. I knew she needed to know she was losing it like she does but needed to be snapped out of it”

My reply was, “All I could see was you losing control and hitting her with a 2×4. At that point I just wanted her out of danger. I have never said anything about you disciplining her before because I felt it was appropriately done, for the crime at the time. I felt you lost control and that scares me.”

his reply, “I did not lose control. I knew the situation needed to snap her out of her rage the she gets going.”

Me –  “So you aren’t sorry. That means it would happen again. |You have every right to feel you were right to do what you did but to me it is no small issue. I would rather hold her while she is put to sleep than to have her beaten with a 2×4. The only thing she learns from that is more aggression and fear. I suppose some people call that respect; but fear has nothing to do with respect. The next time she sees someone with a 2×4 will she attack them? She was growling horribly last night when you approached the truck. That bothers me. I am reading up on what to do with aggressive dogs and no where yet has anyone suggested beating them.

He has sent 3 more text messages defending his actions and I have not responded because I won’t defend my right to decide how my dog is treated. His response was so N-like, not sorry just sorry I was being un reasonable. Well guess what? I don’t care what he thinks.

And I think JC paid me a visit last night to remind me how it felt to be beaten down and put in my place. When I saw Laila snapping and lunging at the 2×4 I was reminded of how I felt when I was cornered, scared, and trying to fight back but knowing I was going to lose. if A person can do it to a dog because they “needed to be controlled or snap out of it” then they will do it to a person.

Thanks JC for stopping by last night, just don’t make a habit of it ok? next time I just might bite back.

Hugs everyone

life is good