Cognitive Dissonance in Recovery Part II

“It is easier to fool people, than convince them that they have been fooled.” – Mark Twain

In this blog, which is part II of Cognitive Dissonance in Recovery, we are going to look at what I call Type II Cognitive Dissonance.

Remember, this type occurs when one’s mental perception and core beliefs are in a state of unrest or discord with new information they are receiving, which creates an unpleasant state.  This can be distressful in all forms including physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, spiritually, physiologically, etc.

This type of Cognitive Dissonance can manifest in different ways and is known by different names. It can also have many similarities.

Let’s look at a few.

  • Stockholm Syndrome is a condition in which the hostage develops empathy and compassion for their captors during an intimate, stressful event. Generally, strong emotional ties are formed toward the abuser. The name comes from the 1973 robbery in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Lesser known is Lima Syndrome, which is named after the 1996 event in Lima, Peru. When a Japanese embassy was taken over by a militant group, they showed empathy towards their hostages and set them free because of sympathy they felt towards them.
  • It is not just an extreme traumatic event like these, but any traumatic event can create a reality we hold to be true. Trauma and life experiences create our core beliefs and vows, which have helped us survive as little boys and little girls. Trauma can take many forms within a family, cultural, school, or religious system or even situations like a thunderstorm, lack of food, unmet needs, the withholding of love, or being disciplined in anger.
  • In any case, emotions prove to be very powerful forces. In recovery, especially in sex addiction treatment, emotions can begin to control both individuals involved.  Emotions can become an individual’s reality of what they believe to be true or false, which can lead to what I call emotional addiction. When positive and negative emotions are used by an individual to determine what is true or false, much like a polygraph regardless of the factual information, it can be problematic for restoration.  I call this emotional addiction. (Take the Emotional Addiction Self-Assessment.)
  • Delusional or Thought Disorders are another form of Type II Cognitive Dissonance. These are lesser known and can be very difficult to detect. Generally, they are only clearly diagnosed with a psychological evaluation and are extremely subtle.  After an individual is diagnosed and identified, they will generally deny they are delusional. Treatment is difficult to nearly impossible, as cooperation form the individual to receive help or take medications that can stabilize them is met with resistance.  This type of disorder is generally fatal to a marriage or very harmful at best.  I talk more about this in our book, Offended Deceived Addicted.
  • Psychological Scotoma is generally associated with the eye or vision disorder. More specifically, it refers to a blind spot in the eye itself.  Psychological is about the mind or mental state. Put them together, and you have blind spots in your mind, mental state or a blind spot in the way you view reality. Some believe this keeps people stuck in their addiction(s). This individual can act much like someone under a magical spell.
  • This is most commonly known and referred to as Denial, which occurs when a person believes something to be untrue when it is in reality…true.
  • Ego is perhaps the part of us that holds all of this together. It is the question, “who am I?” “What makes me me?” The “I exist” or the “I am” in the Greek.  It is a collection of beliefs and experiences that make each of us…us. Freud referred to it as the concept of self.

  • Now, ego gets a bad name. It is not all bad, as we need it to get up in the morning and go about our day as well as to be confident enough to interact with others personally and professionally.
  • However, in spiritual growth and personal love relationships, it generally does not serve us well. The ego always wants to be right and will war with others to prove it is right. The ego wants fairness. It is the extreme left or the extreme right but does not seek to pursue compromise, as that is considered failure or weakness.
  • On a continuum of the extreme left or right, negative or positive, bad or good, they are just extreme and both in ego. Ego is all about dualism. Our culture programs us to be dualistic in everything from religion, politics, the court system, sports, gender, career, race and social class.
  • It is only in the middle where understanding, empathy, compassion, service to others and love are found and experienced. It is extremely seductive and subtle.
  • ANY time you get into an argument about anything for any reason, you are in ego, regardless of the circumstances.

For example, a poor homeless person who chooses to be free from money and the rat race of chasing materialism believes they have all the time in the world.  They may feel sorry for the man in the luxury sedan and custom suit who is trying to give them money.  The rich man finds freedom and security in his money and feels sorry for the homeless man in bondage and lack of money.  Who is right? Who is wrong?

In this example, both are in ego.  In a relationship, couples struggle with differing core beliefs from money, parenting, religion, and politics all the time, as both try to be right and show the other the error of their ways. Again, both are in ego.  Rather than determining to be right, both need to try and seek understanding.  In the end, e-go has to be let-go.

Killing the ego is very difficult work, because it takes humility and admitting you might be wrong, as new information is received which forces one to change a belief or a number of beliefs.  It takes a desire to seek understanding rather than being “right” or “winning,” as well as breaking denial and embracing new information that is true and/or contradictory to what one thought to be true.  Understanding we all have blind spots that we cannot see but others can, takes humility.  Our blind spots are deceptive. We all have them, but together we can overcome them.  To think otherwise is a delusion.  The problem is that we attach very strong emotions, even our identity, to our life traumas which can create Lima or Stockholm-like symptoms.

Most will ignore, deny, shut down or shut out the new information to keep their old beliefs.  Some isolate themselves or surround themselves with people who validate and support their reality [Read When Your Reality is an Illusion] regardless if the new information would bring them great freedom. Many individuals quit pursuing therapy or recovery, fire their therapist, or go find someone else who will validate their ego to get rid of cognitive dissonance. If they were to embrace an uncomfortable truth, the impact it would have on them personally and professionally is far too great as well as the impact on friends, finances, religious or scientific beliefs which is too much to bear.  Change would be required, and change is uncertain and scary most of the time.

It is so true – it is easier to learn new things than it is to unlearn old things.  Some call it a process of un-indoctrination. Most people would rather be told comforting lies than hear the unpleasant truth.



Cory Schortzman, Executive Director

Cory Schortzman, Executive Director

Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.

Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.

Kerry’s books include: Ashes to Beauty the Book and Ashes to Beauty the Workbook

Co-authored books include: 101 Blogs to Transform your Life, Volume I and Offended Deceived Addicted

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