Friday, 25 April 2014

Cognitive dissonance

Wikipedia (totally unreliable source and fount of all knowledge) defines cognitive dissonance as 'excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time'.

So knowing two mutually exclusive things at the same time. Thinking one thing but believing another. Behaving in a way that totally hours against your thoughts.

This is another of those things everyone does. Thinking justin beiber is crap but then enjoying listening to his music. Thinking you need to lose weight and cut out chocolate whilst eating a Mars bar. You can know that the common house spider sorting in the bath tub is unlikely to kill you and still run screaming from the room.

Cognitive dissonance is part of life. Because of that it's also part of mental illness. Everything I say from this point on is me. It's not every depressed person, every anxious person, every mental ill person. Just Me talking about my brain and my thoughts and my self. It's all me me me round here basically lol.

That out of the way, how does this concept fit in with my personal mental health. Well let's take my little rant from the other day, for example; I called myself all sorts of stupid names and accused myself of all sorts of stupid things. I suggested I was evil and that I had the power to affect a thirteen year old boy so strongly that the rest of his life was ruined. I also happen to know that said boy has rather a nice life now. I recognise that evil is an incredibly strong word to use just for getting angry with someone. I realise that there are times where I'm worthwhile and do good. At the same time I also believe truly and totally in all those horrible, disgusting things.

What's my point? I have a couple. Firstly, when I say these things it's not necessarily because I want reassurance or I'm fishing for compliments, it's because in my mind they're fact. Of course it's nice to know someone cares enough to want to contradict them....But it doesn't make an awful lot of difference. I already know I'm wrong, I just know I'm right at the same time! Which is where it all gets twinkly frustrating with one person talking logic and reason and the other listening patiently and saying yes I know but you're wrong.

Secondly: CBT. Now, I'm not knocking CBT, it helps a lot of people very much. It's the ham fisted, sledge hammer version that I dislike. The one where they repeat over and over and over as  ad nauseum that you just need to think logically and challenge what they charmingly call 'warpy thoughts' and remind you that what you think is what you feel repeatedly. No. What I think isn't always what I feel. Don't patronise me please. I'm capable of logic. In fact logic is one of my strengths for the most part (Oh look at that, I admitted I have strengths blimey!). And challenging the thoughts doesn't necessarily make them go away it just makes my head a very noisy place to live. Instead of one internal monologue telling me I'm crap I have two arguing about whether I'm crap or not and they each get louder and louder as they try to beat each other.

A while back I had a psychologist who suggested a technique called 'thought neutralisation'. He used the analogy of meeting someone on the street. This person wants to convince you of something (that their religion is the only true one, the end of the world is nigh, total enlightenment can be found in a prawn cocktail crisp. Whatever). You could stop and engage this person. You could list all the reasons they were wrong and explain to them. Chances are they're not gonna change their mind. And you're not gonna change yours. So you get into an argument...a pointless one, since no one will ever win. Alternatively you could just keep walking. Tiddly ignore them, or passify them with a 'yea ok' or 'Oh right'. Something non committal. Chances are they'll at least quieten down or at best get bored and go away. I prefer this technique (incidentally it somewhat mirrors part of a technique used for people with dementia as part of the SPECAL theory....Maybe I'll talk about that some time lol).

Thirdly, it's not because I don't value your opinion. It's not because I don't trust you. It's because that is how my brain behaves. I can, and do, work on it but no matter how earnestly or truthfully or lovingly the words are said it can't be fixed like that. I'm rambling cos I'm tired lol. Sorry. X