Cognitive Dissonance Leads to Obsessive Thoughts

It is important to realize that when coming out of a relationship with a narcissist our minds are experiencing severe Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is the difficulty of trying to hold two opposing thoughts or beliefs at the same time. Cigarette smokers are a perfect example of individuals who may experience Cognitive Dissonance. They enjoy their habit, but at the same time, loathe it because they know it’s bad for them, right?

Cognitive Dissonance leads to obsessive thought because we are trying to make sense of a situation that doesn’t make sense. How can I love something that I also hate? How can I be crazy in love with this person, but despise them at the same time?

We remember the wonderful times, the good times and the person we thought we fell in love with and we miss them. We wonder what happened to them. Where did they go? Why did they disappear? What did I do wrong?

We must remember that we did NOTHING wrong nor is there anything anyone can do to bring this person back. The person we fell in love with is not who we thought they were at all. In fact, this person never existed. We fell in love with an illusion. The acting talent these personalities possess is astounding. They are master manipulators.

While we’re remembering this person who no longer seems to exist, we are grappling with a new person we no longer recognize and we don’t know how to feel about them. How can they be good and bad? How can I love them and hate them? Trying to resolve this in our minds is very confusing. Cognitive Dissonance leads to obsessive, intrusive thoughts that impede our ability to concentrate, work, sleep, eat or function.

Obviously, maintaining NO CONTACT is very difficult when we’re in this state of mind. When all we can do is obsess about our ex, it’s near impossible to avoid responding when we hear from them. We’re consumed with trying to figure them out and although we have the knowledge we need to stay away, Cognitive Dissonance keeps us wondering if they’re really all that bad. We want to give them another chance to prove us wrong, to prove that they really are capable of love.

Unfortunately, we learn the hard way that they will never change. Some of us need to learn this lesson more than once. Others can move on more quickly. It is my hope that by understanding why we obsess about them, you will be better able to stay away and move on more quickly.

Jul 6 - 11PM
adrienne1125's picture

not liking CD

Aug 17 - 3AM
blindfaith's picture


Thankyou, this is very helpful!
Feb 7 - 7PM
divorcingonenow's picture

Cognitive Dissonance

This is where I am now. I really hate CD!!! Today, I was told by my soon to be ex that I some times seem to be playing games. Any one that knows me well will tell you that I am not a manipulator. Ughh....having to co-parent with him, during/after divorce, is going to be tough. I can relate to it taking too long to learn not to trust him again. But, no more. I am mid-divorce, and my emotional state has improved greatly since he left home. I had thought I'd be devastated. I've been overly dependent upon him. Won't do that again ever with anyone. He put me thru 3 major, negative events over the years. Some how, I end up with blame for all of it. I have been nothing but committed and faithful to my family. I cannot say the same for him. Since I figured out that I had to get away from him, I've been able to eat, smile, and look forward to my future again. Thanks for a place to vent. divorcingonenow


Feb 1 - 6PM
Mindy's picture

Thank you for giving it a name!

My ex pursued me heavily for about a year and a half, but I always felt something wasn't quite right, so I never fully committed to him. I suspect that in his eyes, I was a prize to be had, so he worked it hard for a really long time. He was extremely charming, affectionate, vulnerable, giving, and constantly bending over backwards for me. Until of course I gave in... Despite my instincts, I allowed it to continue because I think I was amazed by his devotion. But the more I questioned and disapproved of some of his behaviors, e.g., over-drinking or catching him in lies, the more disillusioned he became, believing that I would probably never marry him. Soon, he began saying things like I was someone who would be "hard to hold onto," meaning that even if I did marry him, I'd probably eventually leave him for someone better, with less issues and more money. And in true Narc fashion, he began something on the side to ensure he had a safety net when he jumped ship... Not knowing this, and feeling that maybe I had been too hard on him, I panicked believing that I might be losing a good thing. But by then, the tables had been turned. He had the upper hand, and the devaluing began... the more I reached out to him, the more he ignored me. The nicer I was, the meaner he was... unless of course, he wanted sex, then he was sweet as sugar until I left, and then I was back to being no one. It has been a confusing roller coaster ride. I couldn't comprehend how someone who adored me so much could now be so cruel and indifferent. How did the man who was all of those good things, now be this person who was obviously so bad? I think there is something to be said about how a Narc behaves when confronted with what he perceives as a desirable women who is strong and isn't willing to take his sh**. I think he put his hope into creating a new facade for himself. He recently said to me that he feels he just put the bar too high for himself and not being able to reach it just killed it for him... I don't know if he suffers from true NPD or just is an incredibly insecure guy with a strong Narcissistic Style... but what I do know is the guy that I knew, does not exist now. Thank you for giving the torment I experience from obsessing over this a name. Now I am on my road to healing and leaving this behind.
Mar 1 - 5PM (Reply to #9)
Trulybroken's picture

I could have written this

I could have written this reply. My ex and my situation is almost eerily similiar.
Jan 22 - 9AM
finallyletgo's picture

fawn..i understrand where

fawn..i understrand where your coming from completely..i think im sure we all do. its very difficult for me too. i know all that i know about who and what he is..but he is a mastor and looking anything but...we broke up a a little over a yr and half ago..he came back with same old crap and found out that he was wiht someone just a few months after our 8 yr off and on rel. he gave up everyhting for her mopved to another state and now he is claiming that he loves me but cant give me what i need but wants to be with me foreever..the same carrot in the face..anyway when i tried to express my anger and hurt and pain.that how dare he come right back like this to reopen all this just to offer me the same and he just went with someone else and never cared to see how he can be diff and get me back..i kow i should let go and no matter what he says about God and him for once wokring together and him wanting to heal from his past and saying all the right things..i know he just wants me threr without giving me anything and would drop me in a sec... i was up all last night angry how selfish and oblivious these n's are abotu how they hurt us, how they used us, devalued, discared..and they think its so easy to just get over it..they relaly belive they are great people...i said teh same thing you said..when the hell are they goign to get theres...i know deep down that they are the losers and God sees everything and will take care of us ..and even if they do seem to look good with soemone else i truly belive no matter what they will be the same...even if they have GOd made me think about everything when i heard Jesse james statement about how 2010 has been the best yr of his life and that he is marrying his best frind who stood by him when the world turned awy from him..what an jerk. it was the worst yr of sandras life and its the best yr for him???? it reminds me of my exN saying to me that its going to be a big yr for him..he may even think GOd may lead him to be a missionary. ugh....all i kow is that no amtter what they will get theres...i promise you...its reap what you sow. we are all in this together. sorry for rambling, i know my post prob is all ove rthe place and doesnt make sense. we just have to know no matter how much it seems they are all on top ..they really are not xoxo
Jan 22 - 7AM
Fawn's picture

Cognitive Dissonance

I'm back here again. I completely relate to what someone else on here said about being two years out and not feeling it in my heart, but in my head. Ex-N has had a new girlfriend since before Thanksgiving and they seem pretty happy. She seems somewhat normal. I don't know her, but a few mutual friends do. I keep telling myself that I should be glad that she isn't some nut job, but I have been obsessively thinking about the two of them all night. I was able to tell my friends that I didn't want them to look her up on Facebook and that I didn't want to know anything about her, but I obsessed about it all night. When is he going to pay for the things that he did to me? Why does he get to be with someone else? When is she going to see through the facade? What if it isn't a facade and he can be normal now? Why did he pick someone who is in the same profession as me, teaching the same grade as I did? (same grade his mother taught too, and same name as his mother, btw). It makes my stomach hurt, thinking about it. I do know that she is very recently divorced and that they met in AA. So she is right out of a long relationship and new in AA, two major problems, but very vulnerable to his charms I'm sure. She is over at his apartment all the time, even when my kids are there. He is trying to recreate a little young family, I know. She has a 3-year-old. I know that it will all blow up eventually and I will have to pick up the pieces with my kids. My friends are telling me that I should be glad that she is normal, at least and will treat my kids well. I'm not taking much comfort in this. He has really been playing up the Father of the Year thing for the last few months (I'm sure to impress her). It really makes me sick that he can put on such a convincing show. I know that I should just move on, forgive him, let him go, etc., but I can't seem to stop obsessing. I'm right on the brink of dating. What happens is that every time I get ready to take the plunge and go out with someone, something like this comes up and then I get cold feet and lose interest in dating. I don't want him anymore, because he treated me so horribly. I know that he is an abuser and a Narc, and a Psychopath, but it just makes me mad that he can have a seemingly normal life.
Mar 1 - 5PM (Reply to #6)
Trulybroken's picture

That is called 13 stepping

That is called 13 stepping when two people in AA are dating and it happens a lot and is totally frowned on. But it's common for addicts to latch on to each other. She's newly divorced and new to AA, I give it less than 6 months before they both either kill each other or start to drink again, Romances starting in AA have a less than 1% change of making it.
Feb 4 - 2AM (Reply to #5)
Pumpkin's picture

Reply to Fawn

Pumpkin Hi Fawn, I felt somewhat how you are feeling. It was a kick in the stomach when I found out he had found someone eerily similar to me. But it also gave me some closure. At least one step closer to admitting he us sick and probably a Narcissist. At first I felt she should be warned. That he shouldn't be able to mess with her mind (she's young). But I realize that no amount of warning would have kept me away from this man and I found every excuse for his awful behaviour and I'm sure she's made of the same mold. My ex has so much charisma, he plays on people's sympathy and it works. I thought all those years that he would get his act together eventually but it just got worse. When you said "When is he going to pay for the things he did to me?" I don't think they do. I don't think they have a conscience so how can they pay? I've had the same thoughts but I keep coming back to the fact that if I'm full of hate and want revenge I'll just be wasting more of my life. The best revenge is to be happy. And that is a general statement, happy with or without a man. Just happy with the little joys in life. One step at a time. I let him suck the joy out of my life for way too long. I'm not going to do that anymore. I don't want him back, I regret that I let him into my life and didn't see him for what he was sooner. But I am responsible for my happiness now.


Jan 20 - 3PM
strongerthanever's picture

I definatly go back and

I definatly go back and forth with this. Some days, I am ok and some days I am not. It is coming up to 2 yrs! I am so sick of all of this. I dont feel the pain in my heart so much anymore, it is in my head. His 1 yr anniversary is coming up. He quickly moved on and started to date and his wife was a 6-8 whirlwind romance. He was taking her to his family in Spokane just months after our breakup and while I was talking to his sister, for support because she did support me, they were there. Here I was bawling and he was screwing someone else already. It amazes me how fast he picked someone and married them. Considering he was 42 and never married and people would tease him that he would never marry. Even with no contact, I wake up every day wondering what the happy couple is doing. Knowing that he took her camping with the kids too, like he did with my son and I in the beginning, makes my stomach turn. I know he is doing the same pattern and I wonder if the true self will be revealed with her or never be shown because she does make him happy, she is that person he has been looking for. I just was not that person with the qualities or could not make him happy. Or, is she weak for him to control? I stood up for myself many times in the relationship. I do have to remind myself that he was lying, cheating, and being dishonest from the very first date. It never stopped. I do not know how that marriage really is. I need to keep reminding myself that he is dead to me and try really hard to not think about him at all. I am working on filling up my days with more activities, meeting new people, and taking care of myself. That is the only thing I can do.
Dec 13 - 9AM
safyre99's picture

You are right on the money!

Lisa, what you wrote is exactly how I'm feeling. It's been almost three months since my exN broke up with me and I still miss him so much but I also feel mad at him for treating me so poorly. I do miss the guy he was at the beginning of the relationship and wonder why he changed, and seemed to change so quickly (I noticed the change about three months into the relationship). I keep analyzing things in my mind and obsess constantly and can't get him out of my head. I keep wondering why he cared about me so much at first, and then became very critical of me, and I couldn't seem to ever say the right thing. I was constantly walking on eggshells with him. He's moved on and is already seeing someone else and seems like he's in love so now I'm upset feeling like he's treating her so much better than he ever treated me. And, wondering why I wasn't good enough for him, and what she has that I don't have. But, I keep saying to myself that his true colors will show eventually. It might take longer than it did with me, but it will at some point, and I should feel bad for her and not be jealous. I'm so grateful for this website and forum. It really helps to know that you're not alone with this. My friends and family have been wonderful and very supportive, and I've talked to them a little bit about my feelings that my exN is a narcissist, but no one can really understand unless they've been through it and experienced it firsthand.
Dec 17 - 10AM (Reply to #2)
Deidre99's picture

The reason he ''changed'' is

The reason he ''changed'' is really because he didn't change. THE FACADE that we see in the beginning is just that. A facade. A lie. So your ex N pretended long enough to get you interested. Once he got you--he went BACK to his TRUE self. See...that is what will help you move on. You did nothing wrong. He didn't change. He was always the narc...but he just wore a sheep's costume in the beginning to lure you. It's sad. It's hard to imagine. But...I am coming to terms with what happened to me. And he was a fake...a phony. ALL ALONG. He never changed. He just pretended to be someone else until he 'got' me. Please read that over and over...because that will get you over him. Prayers for you! {[hugs}}
Dec 8 - 1PM
truetotruth's picture

Lisa-Such Truth

This is so true. Two things that are exact opposite exsisitng at the same time in my head. It is not the yin and yang of balance however. Lisa how do I manage this? I've read your other postings, I know its how I choose to react to these thoughts, however I am not there yet. I am simply at the point where I choose to try and get through them as best as possible. They won't leave. If I have a good day they seem to find me at night. I know part of this is the PTSD. The last 48 hours have been tough. The anxiety has returned, the chewing and over eating& no sleep. I see people here that are a year in and are doing better; it gives me hope, but it also makes me sad because as illogical as it sounds, I don't want to be thinking of him in a year. I know that it will take the time it needs to but I feel like I have a knife in my back and I cannot reach high enought o get it out. Its driving me mad!! Help.