Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Cognitive dissonance in substance abuse: understanding its importance

Cognitive dissonance occurs in victims of drug abuse, leading them to justify and rationalize the harm they cause. Discover how this psychological mechanism works.

Cognitive Dissonance In Substance Abuse: Understanding Its Importance
Elena Sainz

written and verified by psychological Elena Sainz,

Last Update: January 09, 2023

Most of us know someone who is or has been in an abusive relationship. In this type of relationship, the narcissist manipulates, lies, belittles, and causes great harm to their emotional partner. And yet he remains by her side.

When this happens, we often wonder how it is that the person does not see the harm being done; And the truth is that it does, but there are certain mechanisms that work in the process. They have cognitive dissonance in substance abuse.

This unconscious mechanism is largely responsible for keeping the relationship going. No matter how toxic or harmful it is. However, it is not only presented in this context, but we all experience it at different times in life, and especially when making decisions. If you want to know what it contains and how it prevents victims from leaving the link, we invite you to keep reading.

Cognitive dissonance is the mechanism responsible for continuing a relationship with a narcissist, despite the discomfort experienced.

What is cognitive dissonance?

The term was coined by the American social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957. refers to cognitive dissonance an internal tension that occurs when there is a mismatch between what a person thinks, feels and does, For example, if you feel that exercise is very important for your health, but you never exercise; Or if you smoke but you know it can cause serious diseases.

This lack of agreement between the various elements makes us feel uneasy, and therefore We apply various mechanisms to reduce stress and regain inner harmony. In this regard, we have two choices: either we change our behavior, or we change our thoughts.

Following the above examples, the discomfort will subside if the person starts exercising or stops smoking. However, these decisions are costly and require great willpower. Therefore, it is likely that you choose to justify or rationalize the situation in order to keep it from feeling stressed. So you can convince yourself that sport is overrated or that you’ll quit smoking soon (even if you really don’t).

generally, We choose the option that requires less effort or suffering, And we do so unconsciously, to the point that we actually deceive ourselves into continuing the behavior without realizing that dissonance.

cognitive dissonance in substance abuse

When a person is immersed in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic partner, this mechanism appears and takes center stage. We all know that for a relationship to be healthy and satisfying, the partner should be a support and a safe place. Like this, When the person sees that their partner is harming them, lying to them, manipulating them or putting them down, they feel a lot of psychological stress.

To reduce this discomfort, you can leave the relationship and thus regain inner harmony, because you will not allow an obviously harmful bond. However, it is not easy and There are many factors that prevent you from walking down that path. Which is very logical for those who look at the relationship from the outside. Among them are the following:

self inquiry

It is common for people who are in abusive relationships to question themselves. The person may believe that their partner’s behavior is actually “not that bad”, that they are exaggerating or that they are not correct in their claims. and he is it’s a lack of confidence in your own judgment fueled by manipulation and gaslighting what he receives from others. Thus, they don’t really pay attention to or give credence to the discomfort they feel.

low self-esteem

On the other hand, lack of self-love and low self-esteem can make the person feel that they deserve that treatment, or to believe that it is love. You may feel that if your partner is mean, uncaring, or hurtful, it is because of your own behaviors, not measuring up, or “bringing out the worst” in your partner. In a way, he takes responsibility for his misbehavior.

high investment in relationship

Another important element that prevents the victim from leaving the relationship is a large past investment. And it is that, if the narcissist starts abusing the other a few weeks after meeting, he or she will probably leave the bond quickly; Even then, The loss begins after the bombardment of love which captures and entraps the person, Which feeds that dissonance.

When the pain begins, there has already been a strong investment, devote time, energy and love to the affair; Hopes and projects for the future have been made, family and friends have probably been left aside and it is also possible that there is economic dependence. It is not easy for all of them to end the relationship.

Of course, the individual sees the harm that the partner is inflicting on him, feels uneasiness, doubts and questions what he should do. When dissonance is present and intensified, it prompts a decision to be made to regain inner harmony; But since it’s very expensive to get out there, usually They choose to justify, rationalize the situation, and forgive the couple.

“He treats me like that because he’s hurt”, “With time I can change him”, “Actually I’m not that bad, we have good times”, “All couples fight”, “I I am the one who makes him lose his temper”… All of these types of justifications help reduce cognitive dissonance in substance abuse, They relieve internal tension, but keep the victim trapped in the situation and place them at risk.

Narcissists often become very invested in the relationship early on in order to ensure the other person’s permanence. This is a strategy to trap and confuse the couple.

Recognize cognitive dissonance in substance abuse

This process of excuses and self-deception is usually unconscious. that’s why it’s so important attend to discomfort when it arises And realize what mechanisms we are using to cover it up and attenuate it. It’s not easy to admit that we’re deceiving ourselves, but starting to acknowledge and recognize the justifications we use is a fundamental first step.

In-spite of this, A therapeutic accompaniment is probably necessary to be able to leave the abuse. and regain health. However, understanding how cognitive dissonance works in substance abuse will help us understand what is happening to us and how we can improve our situation.

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