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:
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.
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.
The enabling mother or father of a narcissistic parent is also personality disordered, and in fact, a secondary abuser, because they keep their child in an absolute torture chamber. The failure of the parent to support the child when in desperate need of release from the narcissistic situation, suggests that the enabling parent’s needs mean more to the parent, than the needs of the child.
The sad reality about enablers’ is that many enabling parents are in actual fact, the kinder parent to the scapegoat child, and to the other children as well. However, the true enabler is a mixed bag; and sometimes this parent can be downright horrible to their children.
How does the scapegoat child feel about the enabling parent?
In adult – hood, the scapegoat child doesn’t know how to feel about the enabling parent. They know that the parent appeared to care for them more-so than the narcissist, and even attempted to protect them from severe abuse at times. However, in the scapegoat child’s eyes the enabler didn’t do enough; and much of the time, gaining support from the enabling parent was like playing a game of lotto. It may happen, or it may not. Support from enabler’s can often depend on their emotions at the time.
For the scapegoat, the scenario goes something like this: the parent may support them today when the narcissist calls them a ‘bitch’ for no reason, or they may not.
The hardest issue for the scapegoated adult – child in this mess fueled by narcissism, is the reality that the enabler also scapegoated their own child at times too, when they decided to side with the narcissist, and to engage in blaming the scapegoat for absolutely everything that was going wrong in the family.
The enabling parent enhances the scapegoat’s fear that they are crazy. Instead of validating the child, and telling them they are not the crazy one, they often unconsciously support the narcissist by defending their sick perception of the scapegoat, which is not real, was never real, and will never be real.
The confusion for the children of the enabler
The adult – children with an enabling parent want to love this parent. After all, they did pay for the private school fees, organise braces, dental appointments and swimming lessons; things that otherwise would most likely not have happened if the child was left in the narcissist’s care without the enabling parent. They want to love this parent that often asked the narcissist to stop calling the child names, hugged and held the child, told them they loved them, and appeared to honestly cherish this child here and there.
However, the emotional conflict the scapegoat child goes through in relation to the enabling parent, is pure mental anguish, because yes, the enabling parent really was the only parent to the child, this is true. However,ultimately they decided not to protect this child when deciding to stay in the situation with the child, instead of leaving the parent with the child.
Where it becomes very complex for children with an enabling parent, is that the enabler is often the kindest parent, the most placid, and the reason why the child wasn’t ultimately destroyed by the narcissist. The enabling parent showed the child some love, which may very well be the reason they came out the other side. However, this parent is also the reason why the child became destroyed in so many other ways, and now struggles terribly in adulthood.
The scapegoat’s overall analysis of the enabler is that they were part of the abuse, and did the wrong thing.
The enabler panders to the narcissist
The enabler panders to the narcissist, tries to keep them happy, and will even become a part of the abuse of the children, if it means the narcissist will get off the enabling parents back. At the end of the day, they are the narcissist’s sidekick, soldier in the narcissist’s army, and thoroughly perpetuate the bullying epidemic even further.
Enabling parents tend to expect support from the children to help to contain the difficult situation, and the narcissist’s rage. They expect the child to make the narcissist happy, to keep them content, and to make sure the narcissist feels admired, special and cared about all the time. In situations such as these, the enabler will perpetuate the abuse by having unusually high standards of the child; and will expect the child to show the narcissist the utmost respect, even when the narcissist is not respecting the child.
The enabling parent will not meet the child on their own emotional level, validate the child, and walk away from the narcissist.
The enabler’s view of the situation
However, the enabler is not going to see it this way. The enabler can be very kind, is terribly loyal to the narcissist, and has an extreme amount of empathy for the damaged person that the narcissist has become. So they dismiss the narcissist’s behaviour, apologise for their abuse, and downplay the abuse for reasons of self-preservation.
The enabler often feels reliant on the narcissist, isolated in their abuse, and as though they are going crazy.
We must not forget that in all of this mess, the enabler has also been incredibly mentally damaged, manipulated, and brainwashed by the narcissist. Sometimes they simply shut down.
The enabler’s favourite phrase: forgive and forget
A lot of enablers’ play down the abuse, tell the children to toughen up, and to forgive the narcissist.
This reality questions the enabler’s ability to access real empathy. Is the enabler truly empathetic at all? After-all, while their child is being denigrated, the enabler watches, says ‘don’t be so sensitive now, forgive and forget,’ and continues on.
To have empathy is to be able to see, and to feel through the eyes, and heart of another.
The enabler is stuck in the vortex with the narcissist and their children. They allow horrific emotional abuse to occur, and become a flying monkey to the narcissist instead of supporting the child. Enablers are renowned for pushing the child to maintain their relationship with the abusive parent later on in life, even after the child realises that they have been the victim of serious mental abuse.
The enabler as the perfect victim for the narcissist
The enabler is the perfect victim for the narcissist. Enabler’s are often quiet, easy to talk to, very placid, and appear to have a lot of empathy. They also lack confidence, second guess themselves, don’t listen to their gut, and don’t believe in themselves.
What keeps the enabler in the home with the narcissist?
The enabler may be acting out on family patterns. They may have had an enabling parent, and a narcissistic parent.
The enabler may believe that there is no point in leaving because if they do leave, the narcissist will make their life a living hell. It is very likely the enabler would need to get an AVO out on their narcissist if they left.
Some enablers’ are not concerned in the slightest about the abuse of the children, and are happy to stay with an abuser for the sake of their comfort pleasures, and the financial growth that has been achieved while with the narcissist.