Archive for guilt

The compulsion to entertain false beliefs

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

If I have any aim in my personal development (which is far from linear), it is achieving what I would call one possible definition of sanity: The absence of any internal psychological compulsion to believe something radically false.

In my view, such a compulsion would not so much stem from genuinely unconscious motives, memories and impulses, but rather from cognitive dissonance. I have had my fair share of experience with false beliefs and delusions based on cognitive dissonance, and maybe even more than my fair share. While someone who clings to an obviously deluded opinion which is completely out of line with his original ideas and his very own interests might not technically be psychotic, his reality testing is obviously impaired. Not by any traceable illness, but, as it seems, by his foolish attempts at avoiding an injury to his self-esteem. And that, for anyone with intellectual standards, is a humiliating place to be in.

It is a situation that shows me my personal limits like no other. Right from the start, there have always been times when I tried to believe the opposite of beliefs I knew to be false, and yet as soon as I stopped intentionally agonizing over how wrong I was, the false beliefs would slip back in place. Not completely, more in the sense of double bookkeeping. My previous realization that specific beliefs of mine were false would remain without consequence. I would, for example, acknowledge that my family was not actually abusive, and yet still perceive and treat them as hostile. When noticing my behavior, I would seek rationalizations for it which relied on very sinister interpretations of events that, other than my original stories, had actually taken place, thus making my explanations seemingly conform to reality as I knew it while still having the necessary exonerating effect.

From what I´ve gathered, some studies on cognitive dissonance show that people who are faced with contrary arguments or even evidence tend to cling to their opinions even more fiercely. If that is the case, then telling myself how wrong I am and agonizing over my foolishness and the embarrassment of it is actually going to predispose me for another relapse! And yet this is precisely the “cure” I´ve been administering whenever I came close enough to even seeing in which way I was ill.

The motive behind that line of action was my idea that in order to cleanse or rid myself of the past, I had to suffer for it. I still sort of sympathize with this view, but I might be overlooking the price I already payed. Fact is, most of the things I agonize over happened 10+ years ago, so my whole occupation with them doesn´t seem quite adequate in the first place. But that aside, those are 10 years which could have been productive. Productive, happy, adventurous. They were so to some extent, and I wouldn´t want to miss most of them, but there was always an element of gloom and self-loathing which wouldn´t have needed to be there.

I do need to sort out my belief system. But I´m doing myself and my connection to reality a great disservice if I try to make it intentionally painful. It is my good days, not my bad days that brought me to the point of even recognizing my errors. I said before that depression is an enemy of the truth. You have a much greater chance of looking at things objectively if you decrease the need to interpret everything in your favour. Depression, however, only makes you more sensitive towards anything that could be seen as failure.

I fear that I cannot muster up the mental strength to reality-test my beliefs. Some people in my past have hurt me a great deal with what they said, and I don´t know if I could stand coming to the conclusion that they were justified in doing so. The thought evokes a sense of despair, like: Was I right in absolutely nothing? Can´t I even rely on the notion that what hurts me cannot be alright? Unfortunately, that is pretty much what going crazy does to you.

Already we are back in the realm of self-punishment. Torturing myself with such ideas gives me a certain sense of satisfaction, at least as long as I can stand them even though I initially thought I couldn´t. It might actually be useful of sorts, but, like I said: Only if I can stand it. If I realize I can´t and stop, I have renewed the cognitive dissonance and in turn my need to entertain false beliefs.

Maybe this phenomenon can be compared to exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorder. It is only effective if the patient makes the experience that he can stand the situation he was scared of. If he ends it prematurely, he makes the opposite experience. Today anxiety patients frequently receive drug treatment, too, so they have to work through less fear during the exposure in the first place, rendering success more likely. Similarly, if I was less depressed, I would probably be more tolerant towards the idea that I was wrong and that others were right telling me so and reacting negatively to it even though it was torture for me at the time. By accepting this idea, I could free myself from the need for it to not be true, which would open up the possibility of looking at the whole thing with fresh eyes.

There are still some therapists, however, who believe that drug treatment takes away from the effectiveness of exposure therapy because the patient isn´t forced to confront the real extent of his anxiety. Likewise, some have the idea that those who take antidepressants don´t want to face themselves. I´m inclined to believe, though, that a stable mood actually facilitates this task.

 

Undoing myself, for better or for worse

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , , , , on January 8, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

If it is true that our greatest fears typically deal with things that have already happened, then I´m fighting a battle that was lost long ago. I´m struggling to justify being who I am, but I feel an increasing alienation towards the me that is doing the struggling. In my mind it takes the form of a noisy, querulent fanatic who is rabidly enthusiastic about every miniscule way in which he can prove his opponents wrong.

My most treacherous feelings are those which contradict what this self-righteous mouthpiece is saying. Their existence is humiliating, but it is quixotic of me to assume that this makes them an illness that must be removed. They are legit. They exist. My feelings contradict my stated beliefs, which means that I state them despite knowing better. What I do is highly unreasonable. I only need to look at my feelings in order to know what is true, at least in terms of the truth I´m looking for. What I do is ill.

Looked at from the depths of my heart I see a troll when I look at myself. I see someone who will humourously contradict everything she resents, a false note in her voice, because humour means she doesn´t have to answer to anyone. I see someone who is using humor in order to justify reprehensible things. I see an abuser.

At this point nausea hits me straight in the stomach and I cannot go on anymore. There´s nowhere to go from this thought. There is no darker thought I can use to punish myself for what I am. I´ve gone from hurting my pride to a much darker place. Trying to challenge myself to stomach even worse thoughts in order to get relief or as a form of atonement seems like a highly indecent act to me. The worst punishment is to dwell on that thought without considering it a punishment. It should come naturally to me. But since I´m apparently emotionally too twisted to react appropriately to the graveness and the reality of my guilt, maybe I should pay my debt to humanity by denying myself things I enjoy. It is the only shot at relative decency that I have. The only way to prove I at least vaguely understand the depth of my guilt, even though I´m incapable of emotionally taking it seriously.

When I look at this groveling, castrated part of me, I see a rapist who was put in a ward for the criminally insane for life because he can never be expected to develop true moral feelings, which is also why everybody turns away in disgust when he whines about how remorseful he is. He is just one step below fully human, and so am I.

 

 

An enemy of the truth

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on December 1, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Waking up with an awful feeling. I feel like I did back then with Athena the morning after an argument. Well, maybe not all of the anxiety. But the massive feeling of worthlessness. Not so much in terms of skills and abilities. It´s a moral worthlessness. It´s a feeling of: My character, my whole personality is so massively flawed and disordered that I cannot do ordinary everyday life things. What business does a person like me have trying to study?

My priorities shift, from really urgent things (I desperately do need to study!) towards my personality. It is an almost delusional shift. My mind is fixated on my own inherent badness, though not without accusing me of trying to dodge my responsibilities that way. “What is more pleasant: Actually studying or lying around here thinking?” That kind of question could even come from Athena.

Dear madness, let me rephrase it for you: “When I feel like this, studying is indeed more painful than just lying around. Because it sucks when you cannot focus and when your inability to focus and the fact that you didn´t start studying earlier is constantly being held against you until you want to give up because you deserve failing the test anyway. But if I had the choice, I would most definitely rather study all day than feel like this.”

I guess I´m a study in depressive thought. The way things are going, I´m actually starting to consider medication. It is something I angrily refused when I was younger, but I´m starting to see that I was misguided; by prejudices, yeah, but also by my own illness. My depressive thoughts were a trial, and I was desperately fighting to be aquitted. I didn´t just want to block out the accusers. I thought “depression” was just another word for “truth”.

Maybe if I had simply taken medication as soon as I was diagnosed for the first time so much could have been avoided. Such as trying to lie to the judges. I´m coming more and more to the conclusion that depression is what makes you unable to accept the truth. And that´s human. It is impossible to accept the view of the world and the self as depression colors it. You can accept that you made a mistake, even that you acted selfishly and out of petty motivations, but you cannot accept what depression makes out of that.

I´m trying not to blame myself for that, I´m trying as much not to place the blame elsewehere. I´m not going to accuse people of not forcing on me something I adamantly refused at the time. I also, though, will not accuse 16-year-old me of being stubborn and arrogant and a horrible know-it-all. Maybe I was all that, but the primary reason why I couldn´t see how ill I was – was that I was ill. I felt like a fake when my mother took me to a psychotherapist. I couldn´t take any of it seriously, not me going there, not them for not calling me a fake right away. They had to see that I wasn´t really suffering, right? That it was my friends who should be sitting here, that I was just robbing the attention they should be getting.

I cannot help but feel that to some extent this simply was true. I did want attention rather than help. And I´d be so glad if there was any conclusion to be drawn from this, anything on the basis of which I could move on to somewhere. But there isn´t. All I can do is pointlessly judge myself. I´ve gone the way of trying to find out why I would be such a horrible person, and I ended up accusing others of being even more horrible persons – apparently that´s the sole purpose of the exercise. I´ve been considering finding other ways of getting attention, and the result was that it took the innocence out of writing and that I acted out of character. Yeah, I know. “What is more comfortable – acting like you´re a hopeless case and enjoying the pity you get, or trying again and working on yourself?”

Huh. Maybe the most comfortable thing would be to be allowed to just forget things after 10+ years. If what you once did at some point stopped defining who you are, even without a pompous, official “I have now changed” moment. If crimes can become time-barred, why can´t shame? Isn´t there some point at which you have suffered enough for one single thing, regardless of who you are now?

My imaginary mentor once said something beautiful to me with regards to my self-lacerations. He said: “In the society you live in, no matter what anyone does, he is not obliged to punish himself. He might be punished by others, but if he had to punish himself we´d consider that a perversion of justice.” – “Well, what if no one else will do it?” I replied. And he: “That´s called getting away.”

What he “intended” me to take away from this last line was that, maybe, if people hadn´t turned away from me no matter what, then it was okay. Not great, maybe, but not a reason to abandon me. I tend to feel that I don´t deserve to have relationships with other people, so if I do, I either think they have to be immensly generous (that makes me feel even smaller, which makes me feel resentful), or extremely blind (which makes me lose respect), or I believe that they are on the verge of losing their patience with and about to dump me. What he also meant was that there is no higher judge who can decide whether or not I should be in a relationship – only my relationship partner can decide that (yeah, well, and me, of course), and if they decide to stay, that´s the final verdict. (Then again: How final? If they dump me five years after I did something I feel bad about, I´ll still think it´s about that.) My relationship partners should have more of  a say in how dumpworthy something makes me than the voices in my head, and yet I stubbornly keep on ignoring the evidence. (I bet I´ll be dumped five minutes after writing this, just to prove the voices right.)

I think his point was not to tell me that from now on I should let my partners decide if I´m okay or not. What he meant was that if they think I´m okay, then I am not morally obliged to tell them that they´re wrong because it is up to them to decide what is and what isn´t alright with them.

***

So, I´m feeling just a little bit better, but that mood is far from stable. I´m still scared of trying to study. In my new life, it that´s how you want to call it, I feel like an impostor. I don´t really deserve to be there, either, so how can I expect to understand anything I´m reading, or to memorize what I learn? I understand and I memorize, although my focus indeed isn´t as sharp as it could be. I already passed one test. Still, I cannot take myself fully seriously. Cannot take uni seriously for accepting me. It´s basically the same problem. The truly ironic thing is that I was accepted because of the GPA of my high school graduation, something I did years ago. And, other than with shame, this one doesn´t count. It was years ago. I told you I´m a study in depressive thought.

I´m trying to tell myself they haven´t accepted me permanently, with all those tests they are still weeding out (though the drop-out rates don´t reflect this idea). This, however, doesn´t get me motivated, it just gets me scared – and it makes me feel arrogant. Again, there seems to be no way out, no way to get it right. Either you scare and intimidate me and beat me down all the time, or I will lose respect immediately. That´s about my self-image.

The truth, however, should be different. It might be along the lines of: “You had to make a risky decision rather quickly when you went for this new path. It is allowed to make such decisions. You don´t need to make sure you know that it is the right path for you before you even walk it. That is impossible to do.”

And also: “They don´t hate you. They don´t want to kick you out. No one can look inside of you. No one looks and you and wonders what the hell you are even doing here because you are definitely not what you´re aiming to be. The others are just as scared as you are. They, too, hate some subjects or feel like they will always fail them. They´re not all working harder than you, some are actually working less; and no matter how much they do or don´t work, they all procrastinate at times or give in to bad moods.”

I´ll write you a postcard the day my depressive mind actually starts to believe in evidence that opposes its view. This fact, however, nicely illustrates what I mean when I say that depression is not a friend of truth. Where it doesn´t make the truth feel so terrible that it becomes impossible to accept, it completely ignores exculpatory facts. Depression is not the cold-blooded scientist who fearlessly names uncomfortable truths. Depression is a trial in a rogue state. It is legitimate to flee where justice is not to be expected.

Apparently me thinking I´m psychotic again, but most definitely a whole lot of confusion

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I do okay for several days, or maybe experience some moments when I´m really down, but it´s all within reason. Literally. Until suddenly my cognitive functioning breaks down.

Most of the time when I´m down I can describe how I feel and what happens. During a breakdown like this one I can´t. It´s like my mind is cannibalizing itself. I ruminate about myself, then my self ruminates about me, and written down like this it sounds like a witty pun, but in reality I am lying on the bed sobbing pointlessly, unable to put into words or even thoughts what is wrong with me and what I´d need to feel better. This, however, makes me completely helpless. It´s a mental breakdown without any real content; a breakdown of functioning. I cry and cry, and simultaneously I want to dance because there´s a song on the radio that I like; and I´m at a loss to explain where my tears are gone or why they are still streaming down my face while my mind is singing along to Waka Waka. This inability to understand myself or to stay in one emotion for thirty seconds at a time is driving me nuts. Verbalizing is the only real weapon I have against my moods and my mean inner voices, and during those breakdowns it gets knocked out completely.

The only constant during a breakdown is a bizarre sense of guilt. I keep on wondering sincerely how it is possible to reliably do everything wrong all of the time. To be unable to even stay depressed for five minutes. On the one hand, a cheerful song can kick me straight forward into a different mood, and on the other hand, the simple fact that this is so makes me want to kill myself, so what mood am I truly in? I don´t know. It is a circle that perpetuates itself. If I´m actually still depressive, than knowing this should make the unbearable tension go away, but it doesn´t, because the song is still making me happy. I don´t even know how you can have all those affects simultaneoulsy.  And again: How emotional and desperate can I truly be, if I take the time to put the word “have” in italics? Those are questions which, to me, are absolutely condemning, and I don´t even know why. It just seems to me like I am absolutely inconsistent as a person and I cannot cope with that. Maybe according to identity theory (identity as constructs which need to be consistent in order to work) I cannot cope with being inconsistent because it makes it impossible for me to have any kind of self-conception on the basis of which I could try to understand myself or categorize my feelings, assign meaning to what happens inside of me.

I think if the Holy Inquisition still existed I´d go see them and ask if they can save my soul. Now, at the (hopefully) end of one of those breakdowns, I still feel like I desperately need to have all that falseness and absurdity in me eradicated; carved out of my body. I wouldn´t even want it to hurt, though I would want to feel something – the kind of relief you feel when you can at last scratch an itch, or when you finally breach the surface of the water and breathe.

Maybe it is single-mindedness in its literal meaning that I´m looking for. One mood, one line of thought, one emotion. Not all channels open at once. And maybe pain can grant a bit of that. Pain caused by someone else. Get my focus that sharp, fix me there, eliminate. I think my pain perception was a bit dulled during this breakdown.

Oh god, I´d better try to go to sleep now that I have a trace of my usual sarcasm back. Maybe I´m just having that breakdown because I have to study, anyway. Or well…I guess it started because I felt like I´m a complete loser and it just went on from there. Never mind. Never mind, forget it, move on or die trying. Goodnight.

 

A true anniversary post as it sums up this blog quite well

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , , , , on November 4, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Wow…if WordPress hadn´t alerted me, it would have completely eluded me that this is my blog´s second anniversary! Well, happy birthday, Possible Truths!

I feel a bit foreign on here right now. For the last few weeks I´ve been working on some larger post, yet I simply didn´t have the time to finish it. Additionally, I´ve been feeling ill for the larger part of October. Still, I can try to note down some quick snapshots of the thoughts I´m having lately.

1. One thing I noticed about feelings of guilt and inadequacy is that they can make me want to surrender to something – just about anything. I don´t need to believe in it, I just need someone who takes out of my hand the responsibility for my being a decent person. I´m going through another patch of depression, and often I feel like I´m a failure on so many levels that I simply cannot fix it on my own. Health, personality, household, studying – even hobbies. Worse than that, little actions, emotional reactions and thoughts seem to reveal just how inadequate I am. And at this point I realize I´m incredibly tense and stressed out and I would feel so much better if only someone forced me to act better. If someone else told me that my thoughts and feelings are just me feeling sorry for myself. It would be so comforting if I could do something right just by accepting someone else´s reign over my life. If I could earn approval just by agreeing.

2. I also read up on attack therapies. And I realize that, in a way, it is just an external version of what is going on in a depressed person´s head. Or maybe even worse. In the early stages of my first depression, I could still believe that I somehow had a point in being depressed. I could proudly refuse what I thought was superficial happiness. Then, however, I was slowly broken down towards seeing those thoughts as something that made me an insincere person. I “learned” that my depression was self-serving. A non-depressed person might have concluded that there were better ways to stroke their ego. I, however, came to the conclusion that I had the duty to be truly and solely unhappy. I worked hard at eliminating all secondary gain to make sure I was genuinely suffering. Of course this is an endless regress, as the moment I would have become aware that I reached that goal I would have gained something.

Now, there is a certain allure in the idea of having someone who makes sure you suffer enough. Someone who, in exchange for your submission, allows you to have a clear conscience. While you are still a horrible person who regularly needs to have it pointed out to her, you earn basic acceptance for surrendering to your guru in the widest sense of the word. I never wanted to reach a point in my life to understand this. Or maybe I always did. I guess I kind of wrote so in my last post. It might be the greatest ambivalence my psyche has to offer.

It could create inner peace to know that you don´t have to monitor and doubt yourself – someone else is doing it for you, and if you fail, you will feel the consequences immediately, without ever being given up on. And yet I know from experience how horrible this kind of situation can be. It was precisely the kind of threat Athena was hanging over me – if you don´t make an effort or if you whine too much or if anything makes me think you do not really want to change, I´m going to give up on you. It is weird that you can experience something painful, have it ruin you to the point of complete mental breakdown, and yet you continue to idealize it without even making the connection.

And then again, with Athena I was responsible for monitoring and fixing myself. While she tended to go colder and colder rather than become emotional, she still didn´t have herself and her own fears under control, and it was because of this, because of her dependence on me that she had to treat me as (emotionally) brutally as she did. She needed me to answer in certain ways, she needed me to be a certain kind of person and most importantly she very much needed me to not be certain other things. It was her weakness, not her strength that made her abuse me. I don´t think I ever saw it as clearly as this, and despite all the humiliations she dealt me I can´t feel inferior right now when I think of her harshness and that´s incredibly liberating.

Unfortunately, though, I know that my ideal of non-judgmental, all-forgiving listening and correcting can never come true. Neither can I fulfill it, nor can anyone else encounter me like that. Everyone has needs, opinions and an ego and you can only deny yourself for so long. I´ve been on both sides of the fence. I´ve been trying to be the perfect guru, I´ve been trying to find myself one. It is a beautiful illusion, but it is an illusion. Maybe a solution to many of my problems would be to 1) stop searching and 2) stop beating myself up for being an actual person. I actually do feel guilty for having opinions, as they make me more judgmental. But then again, if you really believe you have to accept everyone and take everything anyone says seriously, you´re not doing yourself a very great favor. You cannot let just anything and anyone into your mind unless you want to lose it. In a way, there is something spineless about never just speaking your mind, never risking to offend people by giving an opinion. It seems I can easily feel ashamed for one thing and its opposite at the same time, as I feel like I´m both spineless and judgemental.

I was raised an atheist, but I was always just a little bit hesitant to call myself one. I simply don´t have that kind of psychological make-up. I don´t want to be responsible for the ways of my soul, or, in modern terms, my thoughts and emotions. I might be relieved to accept a punishment for my thoughts if only it eased my anxiety a little, but I feel like the order to “take responsibility for my thoughts” is to demand that I dash it out myself. And that seems cruel and degrading. In reality, it probably means no such thing, but I guess this kind of misconception is what happens when you face a person of such a masochistic mind-set with modern-day morals. I cannot treat myself the way I would accept to be treated by others, because I cannot give myself the general approval and ease of conscience I´d get from others for taking that treatment.

Again, more reason for shame. Dependent, unable to be responsible for herself, and so eager for a regressive, somewhat dodgy relationship towards a fantasized father figure…what does this tell us? I don´t know. I deal with those thoughts the same way I deal with everything else – I imagine to get what I deserve for them, but in a somewhat safe way that doesn´t endanger anything that is truly important to me. It seems to be the only way to ward off the anxiety that my being who I am will cause something terrible to happen.

I just wonder where all that anxiety is coming from, and why I am so ill with feelings of shame and guilt.

 

 

Chronic guilt and depression

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on July 15, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher
  • Waking up from a nightmare feeling momentary relief, then remembering that your nightmares only reflect what would happen to you for real if anybody knew your sordid secrets. You wake up knowing you´re cheating justice.
  • You go to work and feel guilty for deciding to function, as it is a way to escape the guilt momentarily. If you stayed home, though, you´d feel guilty for letting the people at work down and lying to them.
  • You genuinely cheer up for a second and instantly get mad at yourself for being so inconsequential.
  • You imagine seeking help and immediately feel guilty for wishing to waste someone´s time. The fact that you still imagine someone listening to you with genuine interest and compassion (as opposed to the professional edition) is grounds for ridicule. There´s only one reason to seek help: Because you really want help. You don´t even feel embittered as you ponder this;  a melancholic, cooperative resignation softens these thoughts. Being listened to is for better people, motivated people, not for idiots who cling to their disease, like you.
  • There´s always this fluttering, hollow feeling in your chest, like a wound sucking air. A knife seems to be the only thing that could fill it. You don´t even want to die – that would be way too melodramatic – it would just be nice if that feeling stopped already, and it´s not like you´d be a great loss.
  • The thought that other people might love you is terrifying.

 

 

Cognitive dissonance and breaking

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

In the light of my last post I thought I´d probably do best adhere to strictly rational thinking. I read some skeptical views on recovered memories and quack therapies and again and again I was told that one main reason why people stick to false beliefs even after being faced with contrary evidence is cognitive dissonance.

Every theory on the human mind and soul has its list of sins. On some lists, the sins are selfishness and narcissism. On the list of rational thinking, the mortal sin is giving in to cognitive dissonance.

The effects of cognitive dissonance are, of course, depressing. “I mustn´t be wrong so I can´t be wrong”, or “being wrong would be too costly for me personally, so I simply ignore the facts”. This is painful for the individual in question, too, though. It is not “the easy way out”. If that´s the easy way out, I don´t want to know what the hard way is. I think skeptics are taking the easy way out if they treat giving in to cognitive dissonance as a mere character flaw which they themselves are above. I´m not saying that´s what all of them do this, but I rarely see people treating the issue with a whole lot of sympathy.

I think cognitive dissonance is one of the most powerful psychological forces there are. I think it´s ultimately what is behind breaking people. Take a look at 1984: Winston wanting to give up Julia to save himself from the rats is so at odds with his love for her that after doing this he cannot feel love for her anymore.

I think about my reaction to understanding what my priorities were with regards to Lola: “That isn´t me.” Acting like my obsession was more important than my best friend was indeed “not me”. Just one year before Lola herself had told me that she wouldn´t know what to do without me because I was such a good listener. I was generally known as a good friend. Nobody could understand what was happening. And neither could I. How could my obsession be more important than a friend who had been through terrible things? I couldn´t find an even remotely sensible reason. Not even a psychological mechanism. It was as irrational as a rat phobia.

I always sensed there was a connection between Winston´s and my situation. A few months after Lola´s letter I was close to putting it into words when I wrote: “How do you make a person want the wrong things? Make him do the wrong things!” It was more complicated, though, than mere brainwashing or an ideological conversion. What happens in Room101 is psychological mutilation. In my case, that mutilation was accidental.

If cognitive dissonance can kill off two peoples´ love for each other, then we shouldn´t ever take it lightly. “The truth hurts, suck it up!” is not a solution. If cognitive dissonance is a universal psychological power that has the same effect on everyone, then there´s no point in judging people who are deformed by it. Maybe you´ve just been luckier than them. Essentially, it can happen to everyone. Statements like the one above deepen the cognitive dissonance and the shame. They are part of the problem.

If we accept that our identity is a construct based on a narrative of our lives, then cognitive dissonance rips holes into that narrative. Our identities don´t work anymore. We need new narratives which explain how we could do something that is not who we are. Maybe we´ll find reasons for our behavior we can identify with. I tried that. A lot. I tried real and imaginary reasons. It didn´t work.

I wonder what Winston would have done if he´d still had the psychological capacities for doing anything at all other than getting drunk. And the logical step would have been to look into his past for anything that justifies his rat phobia. I´m sure he would gladly have made up any horror story just to be able to love Julia again. Or at least bear look at himself in the mirror.

This has nothing to do with being particularly narcissistic. This accusation is similarly cruel as the “suck it up” response. They are, at their core, the same thing.

Now all I´m wondering about is how you cure this.