Editor’s note: The following article was submitted by the Lovefraud reader who posts as “Betsybugs.”
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort and confusion that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs or beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the mental conflict. Psychopaths use cognitive dissonance to entangle victims, to keep victims confused and docile and to create pain. My story is a story of cognitive dissonance.
My cognitive dissonance began in childhood when my father would go into rages, chase one of his daughters into a corner and beat the living daylights out of them while my mother stood and watched crying. When the beating was over, she consoled the victim (me or one of my sisters) and explained to all of us that Daddy really loved us but he just did not know how to show it. She was terribly emotionally abused too but drew the line at physical abuse for herself. I think that is why he beat us; he never laid a hand on our brother that I know of. It was a sick misogynistic thing.
I had only one boyfriend before college and he broke my heart and was most likely a sociopath himself. He was a low class charming hooligan from the wrong side of the tracks, charming as in Westside Story or Rebel Without a Cause. He succeeded in getting me to fall head over heels in love with him and I thought it was “forever.” Stupid first love insanity but I was going to marry him and have his children… in my deluded mind. All he wanted from me was my good reputation and virginity. After he got that he started lying, cheating, sleeping around and blaming me for not accepting what he was doing. His words kept telling me he loved me but his actions told a completely different story…at least in my book it did. Love was in diametric opposition to his behavior. More cognitive dissonance added to my book.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was fourteen. I remember getting into a fight with my friend who I stayed with when Mother went away to the hospital. She knew and told me but I was not allowed to know; more cognitive dissonance. I had more and more cognitive dissonance as I went through high school seeing Mother have shooting pains and being told that nothing was the matter. I must have been told but then it was denied finally using Christian Science when she had six months left to live. My parents forced me to go to college knowing that my mother had six months to live. I did not want to go; I even tried to get kicked out of school and sent home. She always said she would have nothing to live for after her children were gone and I was the youngest and the last to go. It became a prophecy. She died before Christmas break. I blamed myself. It was cognitive dissonance again.
I tried dating but hated it. I was afraid of boys and badly burned by my first and only “true love.” I was love-bombed by a psychopath I met at enrollment my freshman year in college. He was a senior and was so overly attentive that it gave me the Heebie Jeebies. Red flag number one. There was a look in his eyes that I found terribly disturbing too. Red flag number two. I fled but to no avail. He love-bombed me until I finally just went out with him to just to get out of the dorm. I never loved him but he convinced me he was stable, caring and a good catch. I did not even want to love anyone again. I thought a nice platonic relationship would do just fine. I was alone in the world without my mother and no one in the family noticed. By now, cognitive dissonance was normal to me.
The big wedding
I guess we had sex a few times. It was nothing to write home about but I did not want that bonding sexual intensity again ever. I was afraid of loving again and he did not care or notice. He raped his roommate’s girlfriend while she was sleeping in her boyfriend’s bed and got thrown out of his apartment. She woke up with him on top of her raping her sleeping body. He was so pathetic and played remorseful and alone and I came to his rescue; I got pregnant and “had to” get married even though I did not want to. I was on the cusp of not “having to” get married I suspected I might be pregnant and just wanted to run away but he found out I was pregnant before I even knew and got his parents to plan a big wedding. I was still in shock from my mother’s death. I did not want a big wedding. I did not want to get married at all. I just wanted to have my baby and never tell him. But the wedding was planned in Kansas City where his parents lived and owned a jewelry store. All of their friends, colleagues and business associates were invited. We were registered for china and crystal at their store giving them all the profits. I had my family and three friends in attendance and all of the bills were sent to my father, all the way down to the bill for alterations for the bridesmaid’s dress we bought for his sister. That cognitive dissonance took me years to comprehend.
He violently raped me on our wedding night in a run of the mill local motel. No honeymoon, no romance, no expense for him or his money gouging parents; just violence and vulgar displays of his ownership of me. The cognitive dissonance was so bad I just wanted to die. How could I have made such a huge mistake? How could this be the same person who worshiped me, doted on me and wanted nothing more than to be married to me? Sex was his domain throughout the marriage and he wanted me to play dead. Now I see that it was just more rape. He tried arguing and anger to control me but I was smarter than him and better at both. He tried physical abuse and I told him if he ever did it again I would leave him. Finally he figured out how to use cognitive dissonance. I never heard him apologize, it was blatant mind control. He was Jekyll and Hyde but he knew what he was doing. The world thought we were the ideal couple. But I was being slowly driven insane. The marriage was nothing but cognitive dissonance. I suppose it is with all psychopaths and cognitive dissonance is what prevents us from getting out. It causes us to believe we are the crazy one, the one even at fault while all the time they are doing it to us on purpose.
Fortunately my Spirit was strong and my maternal instincts were stronger. I was only wounded, not destroyed and I finished college, got a job and got out. It only took ten years, almost to the day. I did not know that such a thing as a psychopath existed. I finally realized he was incapable of loving and when we moved and he started shunning my son and love-bombing all of his potential friends, the new neighborhood children. He had just graduated from law school and wanted all the children to call him the judge, invited them in to sing while he played the guitar and would not include our son. I finally saw the cognitive dissonance. I tried to talk to him to explain how much he was hurting out son and he denied there was anything wrong with it. That was his big mistake and my wake up call. I did not know what it was called but I knew it was very bad and then I knew that he was doing it on purpose. I also realized that he had been doing it to me on purpose. Before that wake up call, I believed that all people were good, if not on the surface, at least underneath. My parents were very dysfunctional, but they were very good people underneath. They were defective people, hurting people, hurtful people; but they were also loving, caring, and real. A psychopath is inhuman.
Learning about cognitive dissonance
I only learned the term cognitive dissonance a few months ago and the definition is very mild compared to what a psychopath can do with it. A psychopath can use it to destroy his victims, get what he wants and seem benign all the time he is deliberately sucking the soul out of his prey. Before the psychopath I did not believe that evil existed. He took that away from me. I believed all people were good. He took that away from me. Now he has taken my daughter and I am seeing her cognitive dissonance. She is convinced that I am the evil one. Very few people believe me. They continue to treat him with respect and call me crazy. It is easier than believing in psychopathy. Even I know that. Cognitive dissonance is their shield and sword. But this time I can see the cognitive dissonance as I struggle to disengage myself from it with my daughter. I am again an invisible victim.
Knowledge is a tool. The knowledge that I am experiencing cognitive dissonance helps me from believing that it is my fault; that he is not a psychopath. It lets me know what I know regardless of what others believe. It helped me get out once. At this time I am not yet willing to give up on my daughter but I am getting there. I am not willing and will never be willing to give up my grandchildren. I know the insanity of the cognitive dissonance and this time I am using that knowledge to survive until I decide which way the situation will resolve. This time I may make a different decision and play the game my daughter wants me to play so I can have a relationship with my grandchildren. It will not be easy, but at the moment it seems to be the only solution. I am still in cognitive dissonance about it but knowing that it is cognitive dissonance gives me the power of sanity to protect myself and wait until I am able to make the right choice.