Cognitive Dissonance: Children of narcissists

 

Cognitive dissonance is an abuse tactic utilised by the narcissistic abuser to confuse the victim of abuse. To be in a state of cognitive dissonance, is to hold conflicting beliefs about the narcissistic abuser. In this state, the victim struggles to make a decision in regard to whether or not the abusive person is ok.

An abused child will experience cognitive dissonance when their abuser says one thing and does the opposite.

To be cognitively dissonant is to have two inconsistent thoughts ruminating within the mind about the person; often consistent with an overall, whole body, negative feeling about something or someone.

Why do abused children of narcissists often become afflicted with cognitive dissonance? 

Children of narcissists are continually told one thing, only to experience the opposite. They may be told how loved they are, only to be abandoned when sick. They may be promised a special gift, only to be told when the gift is asked after, that they were never promised the gift.

The child becomes confused and anxious about the parent. They begin to suffer from cognitive dissonance; a very uncomfortable, whole body feeling, which completely takes over the child’s mind and body. Of course, the child often turns the feeling back onto themselves, and blames themselves for the abuse, in an effort to remain attached to their abusive parent.

‘Are they nice? Or are they cruel? Why do they do such lovely amazing things for me, and than hit me? Oh, it must be me that brings the worst out in my parents. Why else would they hit me, than provide for me so well?’

Who is vulnerable to cognitive dissonance?

Small children are especially vulnerable to cognitive dissonance because their minds are not yet developed enough to put two and two together. In fact, anyone, no matter what their age, can be vulnerable to cognitive dissonance abuse tactics. Unless of course, they are extremely intuitive, and knowledgable about narcissistic abuse.

Cognitive dissonance abuse examples:

  • The narcissist buys the child a gift, says I love you very much, than fails to turn up to the hospital to visit the child, teenager, or adult – child when sick with pneumonia.
  • Narcissistic parent goes all out and spends hundreds of dollars on an 18th birthday party for their teenage child, and than throws them out of the family home the next day when they disagree with the parent’s opinion.
  • Narcissistic parent tells son or daughter they can have buy a dog. When the day comes to go and purchase the dog, the parent informs the child they hate pets, and never said the child could buy a dog.

What does cognitive dissonance feel like?

Cognitive dissonance is a horrible feeling for children to endure, because it leaves them in a state of confusion, limbo, and discomfort. They don’t know which way to turn, or what to do. Do they dismiss the behaviour, and travel on? Or do they accept that their parent is sick, and make plans to leave as soon as they are of age?

Victims of cognitive dissonance often feel as though they are going crazy, turn the cognitive dissonance back onto themselves, blame themselves for it, and believe it is just one more factor which proves that they are the crazy, unstable person.

Researchers believe that the awful feelings associated with cognitive dissonance are the very reason why abuse victims continue to stay in the relationship with the abuser.

How do children of narcissists soothe cognitive dissonance?

Abused children often make excuses for the abusive parent in order to release the anxiety they feel due to cognitive dissonance; all so as they can stay in the relationship with the parent.

Examples:

  • ‘Oh well, I know they care about me, I’m just not the favourite. Its ok for mum to have a favourite child.’
  • ‘I know dad has a lot on his plate and he doesn’t cope very well. Thats why he hits me all the time.’
  • ‘My poor dad, he had such a bad child-hood. He can’t help but treat me badly. He tries his best.’
  • ‘I just need to toughen up and try not to be so sensitive. Why am I so sensitive?’
  • ‘He can be so easy going about so many things. I just need to excuse the rage, and try to accept him for who he is.’
  • ‘But my parents do love me. They must. Why else would they buy me lovely gifts, take me on excellent holidays, and throw me big birthday parties? Its not really that bad. I just need to take the good with the bad.’

The decision the victim often takes is the pathway offering less emotional pain. For victims of abuse, its all about safety; emotional and physical. If they can do everything within their power to please the abuser, instead of angering the abuser, they will be safe. So, they often turn a blind eye to the abuse, deny what they believe could be the truth, convince themselves that its all in their head, and make the decision to believe that their abusive parent really does love them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave A Comment

Leave a Reply