Cognitive Dissonance and the Narcissist/ Sociopath/ Sex Addict

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Now that my kids are adults, he’s shown up again, riding in like a hero on his “great guy” image, denying his actions and sewing confusion anew.

Narcissists (NPD’s) and sociopaths are like that. It’s easy to be the great guy when time is limited to holiday photo ops and lunches. In their wake, however, these personality disordered individuals leave people with the uneasy feeling that something isn’t right.

Most of us readily dismiss that feeling because we like our belief systems to match our reality. When confronted with information that conflicts with our beliefs, values, or ideas, we experience emotional pain called cognitive dissonance.

When the difference between the new information and our beliefs is huge, so is the pain. The greater the pain, the greater the desire to deny the new, disturbing information.

There are only 2 ways to reduce the pain: changing our beliefs (very difficult) or denying the new information (much easier).

No wonder spouses of sex addicts experience such trauma. The truth is directly opposite our supposed reality. It takes intense trauma therapy, and enormous courage, to quiet the war waging in our brains and face the abuses perpetrated against us.

Cognitive dissonance explains why his version of the story – “I cheated once 15 years ago because my wife was such an angry crazy woman” – is much more palatable to his family and our children. Who wants a dad, or a son, or a brother who is a sexually deviant serial cheater?

They’ve never witnessed the deviancy, but have plenty of experience with his carefully crafted false image. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

I won’t ever win by engaging in the war of words, so I have zero contact with him. He will continue to lie/deny and sew confusion wherever he goes, and I will be portrayed as crazy.

He has to have it that way, just in case his worlds collide and any of his victims speak truth to his new prey.

But, all hope is not lost. I have a secret weapon called truth. It always wins, just not on my schedule!

Is He a Narcissist? It Doesn’t Matter.

“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ~ Jonathan Franzen, Freedom”

Ten years ago, when I found out my husband was a sex addict, the word “narcissist” was just beginning to surge. Now, divorce attorneys joke that every woman who files for divorce is fleeing a narcissist (and every man, a crazy woman – but that’s another post). The word is tossed about with reckless abandon, but for those who’ve fallen victim to a bonafide personality disordered individual, it’s not a laughing matter.

In a relentless pursuit to regain some equilibrium after the complete upheaval in my life, I poured over magazine articles, consulted research on PubMed, scoured Google, hauled evidence before my counselor, and completed online questionnaires in search of the answer to my most pressing question: Is he a narcissist?

I just knew if I answered the narcissist question, I could wrap the devastation in a neat little box and get back to my life. I didn’t yet comprehend that my life as I knew it was gone forever – slashed violently into two fragments: before and after.

More than all that, I deeply hoped that an answer would provide me with some rules and predictability so I could steer my children away from any more pain or, worse yet, similar fates. I naively thought I would finally understand why he did what he did, and why he did it to me. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. What matters is what he did and what he didn’t do. What matters is the lack of respect he showed me. It matters that my needs, desires, hopes, dreams, and fears were ridiculed and treated as inconveniences. It matters that he misrepresented himself before and after entering the marriage, and in doing so, repeatedly risked my very life.

That’s not love. It’s not even friendship. It’s the systematic devaluation of a human being you’ve promised to love and protect for life.

The answer, it turns out, was not “Yes”. It was, officially, “Yes, somewhere on the spectrum of Sociopath and Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. I have my answer …… and I still don’t understand.