WARNING: This post may offend. This is a very sensitive topic.
Cognitive dissonance or CDT, from my point of view, occurs when someone is experiencing a conflict with their personal beliefs, morals, or actions. Cognitive dissonance can cause a person stress and anxiety because of that constant need to resolve the CDT.
I am a survivor of domestic violence. Before I proceed, let me provide you with a background story. I meet my abuser in the Spring of 2000 at the corner store when I was walking from the bus stop after school. I went off to college Fall 2001, came back for winter break, and got pregnant on my nineteenth birthday. Happy Birthday to me, right. I dropped out of college Winter quarter. I had my son October 11, 2002 and moved into an income-based apartment on November 4, 2002.
At this point I was experiencing a very high amount of cognitive dissonance. The plan was for me to go to college, graduate, go back home, get a job, save my money, get my own place, get married, and then have kids. My entire plan was topsy-turvy. I felt ashamed because I was pregnant and not married. I was so embarrassed about my pregnancy, so I dropped out of school to hide it from my peers. I had a crappy job working at Domino’s. I was just a poor single mother on welfare. A total disgrace. But I was able to drastically decrease the amount of cognitive dissonance I was feeling because I readjusted my plan. I decided I would go back to school, work hard at Domino’s in the meantime, and be the best mom I could be.
This is when the abuse started. My abuser forcibly moved in shortly after I got my place and fought me every chance he got. I suffered from black eyes, bite marks that broke skin, busted lips, mild concussions, full concussions, rape, stalking, and much more. After two years of hell, I escaped and got a restraining order in August 2004. That restraining order was renewed for many years after and just expired in August 2019. My abuser died December 4, 2019.
That day was the happiest day of my life of my entire life. I have graduated college with my master’s degree. I have gotten married. I have had another little bundle of joy with my husband. Yet nothing in this world has brought me more joy than knowing that my abuser is DEAD. I could win fifty trillion dollars tomorrow and that still would not compare to the amount of joy I feel from him being dead. I know this is terrible to say and that is why I am experiencing an extremely large amount of cognitive dissonance.
I look my oldest son in the face and the CDT kills me. I know that I am not supposed to feel the way I do. My son is heartbroken. His dad, after 15 years, finally decided to be active in his life instead of his usually pattern of “here today gone tomorrow”. He loved his dad and despite my total disdain for the man, I never pushed my emotions off on my son. That is why every time my son cries, I experience cognitive dissonance. I experience CDT because I am pretending that I feel sad too when I really don’t. I pretend that I understand his emotions and share the same sentiments when I don’t. All of this just tears me up inside and unfortunately, I know that I can never resolve this CDT because I will never be sad about this man dying.
When my son’s grandmother told me her son was dead, I cried. I mean, I wailed, I choked up on the drainage from crying, and appeared to have totally lost it. His mother was telling me sorry when I should have been saying that to her. Then once again, cognitive dissonance reared its ugly head. The thing is I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because I was in total disbelief and overwhelmed with relief. I still have nightmare until this day about the abuse I endured. Fifteen years in a mental imprisonment. Fifteen years spent avoiding certain parts of town because I knew he might go there. I finally felt FREE. I went to the Dayton Mall and drove around in my old neighbor for the first time this month since 2004 due to my newly found freedom.
The amount of stress and anxiety I have experienced and still experiencing from this conflict of emotions aka cognitive dissonance has become almost unbearable. I am crying right now as I write this because I feel bad for feeling this way, yet happy even still because he is gone. I have been in a constant battle with myself to resolve this cognitive dissonance since he died. I truly don’t believe it can be resolved. Due to this fact, I know that the amount of cognitive dissonance I have will never dissipate. But you know what, I’m okay with that.