when cognitive dissonance tears you apart, give yourself grace.

i believe that each and every one of us on this earth is searching for and striving for the illusive feeling of wholeness. trueness. authenticity. the place where all of our sides of ourselves match up completely; where we feel in line with our truest selves. where we feel like a congruent human being, sure of where we stand in this world.

i also know that cognitive dissonance is exactly what destroys me from the inside out. in my nineteen years on this earth, i have put forth more effort into seeking to solve my seemingly shattered and dissonant self through more self-destructive behaviors than i can count. whether it be starving my physical body in an attempt to align myself with the dark emptiness i believed that i deserved, or harming my skin to balance the inexpressible inner pain with the concrete outer pain, i have always struggled to feel as though all my parts were not in constant incongruity.

and today, i had one of those moments that both made my dissonance scream, as well as made my mind reel. to describe to you this moment i’ll have to begin letting you in on the truth of my life right in this moment; i am now about seven months into doing the maudsley treatment approach with my parents, after never before attempting recovery outside of a hospital or residential setting since the time i began treatment at thirteen. in this treatment approach, the parents are to choose and plate all foods and portions, which undoubtedly leads to overwhelming anxiety and discomfort. though this is very carefully carried out with the help of my therapist (who, praise, is an incredible gem of a human), today i had one of those moments that brought me back to when i was a scared child, lost in the throws of a disorder i didn’t even yet understand. this was when my heart first took a hit; it pulled at my chest, this cognitive dissonance between my inner knowing of the human i long to become and the actions my childlike and terrified self was engaging in.

the second hit to my heart came after the wave of panic took over, and i left my dad to stand alone in a bedroom that wasn’t mine (for i only have a space living with my mum), needing to be isolated as i attempted to breathe through the fear. i stood, frozen, eyes closed with my forehead to the door, as my dad called out.

“what are you doing”. his fear was evident in his voice.

“i am standing.” my eyes still closed.

“stand somewhere else. or open the door.”

confused by his sudden need for my visibility, i hesitantly asked.

“what are you scared of.”

pause. too long of a pause.

“i’m scared that you’re going to harm yourself.”

and there it is. my heart broke.

the most dissonant of all; here i am, a girl to whom nothing is more sacred than this journey to once again finally become fully alive, this journey to one day spend more days in the light than i ever did in the darkness. and yet here i am, the girl who has seen far too many emergency rooms with bloodied skin, the girl that has been chronically ill with self-loathing for much too long.

time and time again i have believed myself to be somewhere that i am not, based solely on the ideas and values i hold so dear. and time and time again i have been told i was somewhere i never wanted to admit that i could be, based solely on the actions my pain showed to the world. and this, this, is what has torn me apart. there is more to me that what i hope to be, what i hope to become, and there is also more to me than the urges i act on in this body. this is what hurts so much to accept.

what if, what if, we could admit to ourselves that our actions still proved we were not fully devoid of our old pain? and what if, what if, we could breathe that knowing in and no longer use it to fuel our self-hatred?

what if, what if, we realized that being congruent in our struggle was undeniably more valuable that half-existing in an idealized truth?

what if, what if, that and only that is the way to diffusing this unbearable cognitive dissonance?

and what if, what if, these questions are the paths that can lead us there?


3 thoughts on “when cognitive dissonance tears you apart, give yourself grace.

  1. what if, what if it’s alright to feel however we feel, and act however we will, and be whatever we wished?
    what if, what if sometimes, the truth isn’t inside, at least not fully and perceived congruence is flawed?
    ‘what if’s are vehicles that take us wherever we will, whilst ignoring what truly is. But a part of our brains just loves to hold on to these little threads – that always seem to tug on the unknown and the uncertain.


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