Have you ever dared to explore your own cognitive distortions, your own cognitive dissonance? It’s a scary undertaking. Facing one’s own shadow. Cognitive Dissonance is the dirty fiend that leads us to repeat unhealthy patterns over and over again. Cognitive Dissonance is an enigmatic trap. The more we think something, the more we bring about the very thing we have expended so much energy trying not to create. For example, I fear being abandoned. I fear this so much because I have this idea/belief that everyone is going to abandon me. I have this belief because everyone has abandoned me. Except here is the enigma. Most people have abandoned me because I have this belief and, as a result, I behave in ways that I feel will keep people close. Unfortunately, sometimes those behaviors are off-putting and ultimately lead to people leaving my life. Self-fulfilling prophecy a la cognitive dissonance.
As I think about that it makes me wonder what some of my other cognitive distortions are, what else do I believe that is inaccurate and that ultimately I create because I believe so firmly that it is true?
I believe that I am unlovable. I believe that I am unworthy. I believe that I’m mediocre. I believe I’ll never be something extraordinary. I believe that no one could possibly really care about me. I believe no one could possibly understand me. I believe I am too much. I believe I am too sensitive. I believe that if people saw my real self then they would think I was an ugly human. I believe people must think I’m annoying. I believe I am a nuisance. I believe that my emotions make people uncomfortable. I believe that I’m broken and can’t be fixed. I believe that people who say they like me must actually be lying because there isn’t anything about me to like.
I could probably keep going but I’ll stop there. The real question, I guess, is really what do we do about these distortions? If they’re causing dissonance then how do we reach a level of consonance? How do we find harmony within our tumultuous selves? With all roads leading to failure at relationships, failure at work, failure at life, how does one find the ability to succeed? How do I convince myself that these distortions aren’t real? How do I get out of the feedback loop that has me trapped in the same kinds of failures? It has to be possible, right? That’s the whole idea behind therapy. The whole idea behind CBT, that cognitions and behaviors can be changed. There are people who buy into that, like, a lot of people. They can’t all be wrong. But, what happens when the beliefs have been ingrained so deeply? What happens when they’re the result of complex trauma? How does one maintain hope while trying to work through those distorted cognitions?
It’s an endlessly, erratic enigma. An unsolvable puzzle. A series of questions without answers. Or, perhaps, it’s a concrete concept with abstract solutions.