I am watching Lisa Nichols in this activity at the shelter. A video I’ve seen before. A video that makes me sad and mad and brings up so much crap inside of me.
A video that used a term that has always had a negative place in my life: cognitive dissonance.
That’s when you paint a mental image of yourself that doesn’t match your current behavior.
Cognitive dissonance is what made had me in a state of being broken and ashamed and worthless. Because I listened to everything he said to me to break me down. Every time he told me I was worthless. Every time he told me I didn’t deserve to be happy. Or that I didn’t deserve to be angry about being hurt. I didn’t have a right to fight back. I deserved every beating.
I took all that and I began to live it. I didn’t treat myself right anymore. I didn’t stand up for myself about anything. I felt insane. I knew better.
I knew better and yet I kept trying to force myself to accept it fully. But something inside of me wouldn’t allow me to make that my truth. So, I stayed angry. I stayed depressed. I stayed in a state of complete torment. Why? Because my tormentor got pissed off and beat me for behaving the way he told me to. He told me I was worthless and that I didn’t deserve to be sad, that I should be happy. Then he’d beat me for being happy. He’d say I didn’t deserve to be happy and how dare I be happy while he’s so miserable.
I never knew what to feel. I never knew what to think. Because all I wanted was to be happy with my family. I wanted him to be happy and my children to be happy. And nothing I did or didn’t do was ever going to accomplish that as long as I was trying to conform to his whims.
Whims is the key word there. His feelings changed from moment to moment. I don’t even think he had a clue what he wanted besides control. Little did he know that he couldn’t even have that. He wanted control over me, over Jiraiya, over every aspect of our lives. And by that I mean down to every emotion or reaction we had, every word we said, even down to every facial expression. If he was enjoying something or if he were happy, then we were supposed to as well. If we weren’t, there were consequences. The man was an absolute nightmare and cognitive dissonance was what kept me in that nightmare.
So, each time I hear Lisa mention it, I cringe a little. Because for years it worked to prolong my suffering. Little did I know that that was the same thing I used to do growing up and even into my adulthood that kept me going. It kept my spirit from breaking when everything in life tried. That’s actually one of the first things Mr. J insisted I get rid of. He said, my daydreaming was childish. He said my problem was that I didn’t live in reality (mind you, I didn’t even know I had a problem). So, I stopped trying to envision myself as anything else but what I really was. But I still wasn’t. I was envisioning myself to be whatever he told me I was. He made sure to correct me when I thought I was good at something. Or when I thought I was beautiful. He told me I was lying. He said I was pumping myself up in front of people to make myself look good and bragging about all that I could do and it was all a lie (btw, none of it was a lie. I was realistic enough to know when I wasn’t good at something and had no problem admitting it either). My desire to have peace and happiness with him eventually overpowered my senses including my sense of self worth, my common sense and every other good sense that would have had me walking out the door and never looking back.
For those reasons, I don’t see myself ever living with him again. He has been the only person since my own mother (more on her later) that has ever been able to convince me that I am any less than who and what I really am.
But I am getting my healthy cognitive dissonance back again. And through it, I am accomplishing a hell of a lot. And I know it sounds odd but this is actually really fun to do. I live my life as the star of my own anime. I do make mistakes a lot but they’re key to keeping the storyline moving. So, I find it so much easier to forgive myself for mistakes I make when I think of it that way. And of course there’s a lesson to be learned in every episode. Sometimes more than one. So, growth will never be stunted due to “daydreaming”.
What Lisa Nichols explains about cognitive dissonance is that when we envision ourselves in a way that doesn’t reflect our current behavior, eventually our behavior slowly begins to match our mental image.
I used to constantly envision myself as strong and unbreakable like the protagonists in all my favorite anime. That’s what kept my spirit from breaking. I also used to picture myself being a wiz in the kitchen like some of my favorite characters in anime. Like Belldandy or Makoto (from Ah! My Goddess and Sailor Moon). I pictured my friends and loved ones enjoying my food so much, they fought over it and begged me for it every day. I pictured myself having great insight and being able to help everyone with their problems.
Of course, I didn’t just envision it. I actively practiced and tried my own recipes. I listened to people’s stories without having anything to say but just to hear all sides. I watched and observed and studied and read a lot of things about psychology and studies. I observed my own feelings of how would I feel if I were in this set of circumstances or that situation. And that’s how I ended up being the person whom(who?) everyone turns to for answers for all kinds of random things. And so many people call me wise but I don’t feel wise. I just feel like I’m just repeating information I’ve studied just like any student that does their homework. But then again, I guess no one who is actually wise really “feels wise”.
When it came to the cooking, I practiced. I watched cooking shows. I bought recipe books and downloaded apps on my phone to help me think outside the hamburger helper box. And I got pretty damn good at figuring pretty much anything out when it came to cooking (what I didn’t realize was just how precise I needed to be when it came to baking, so my expertise will have to wait until I get my place and the basic baking needs).
You see, it’s not just about envisioning it. You have to do something to make yourself match your vision. It’s really as simple as that. And it’s only as hard or as easy as you make it to be on yourself.
Now that’s not to mean that it’s easy. I’m just saying that just because it requires real effort, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or enjoyable. Just because it seems easy at first doesn’t mean it will feel that way all the time. But in the overall, it will only feel as difficult or as easy as you allow it to feel.