Tag: cognitive dissonance

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

Just now I was typing a text message to my friend to say thank you for a good catch up that we had a couple of days ago. Like most Android phones now (I think – dodo alert!) it not only has predictive text in terms of suggesting the word you are currently typing, it also predicts the following words (so for example, if I type “hello how” it will prompt “are” then “you” “?” and so on). Sometimes it is rather over zealous in that function and inserts words you don’t want. Or, as I said, possibly dodo alert again.

So there I am starting to write “It really was good to see you” and my phone changes it to “it really hurts”. Then tries to do it again the next time, too.

It’s not just me you see – now it’s official, my cell phone is depressed too. It’s going for all the sad options!

This made me laugh and also realise that I must whinge a lot more than I realise if it has learnt that word combination. Then it reminded me of the time a while back when I had to send numerous messages about the choir arrangements over  Holy Week* and Easter at my church, so frequently that come Easter Sunday my phone’s predictive text learnt how to spell “Triduum”* and  “Attende Domine”*. So I’ve got a Catholic phone too 😉 .

On a more serious note, this got me thinking that my cell phone mirrors what the cells in our brains – y’all see what I did there 😉 – what the cells in our brains do as we have our life’s range of emotional and interpersonal experiences. Like my phone literally expecting “hurt”, the more hurts and pains we experience, the more we can readily expect this, the more we feel it and the harder it may be to feel anything else. Perhaps the longer we’ve suffered in an abusive or otherwise harmful relationship, the more we are only able to see ourselves and others only in the light of how our reality and our identity and our relationships were in that abusive trap. It’s somehow sadly a lot easier to continue to believe a very painful belief about ourselves that we’ve always held, than to be able to dare to adopt a new belief and to tolerate the cognitive dissonance we need to go through in order to begin to switch our beliefs. It’s easier to continue to believe rubbish about ourselves that our abuser(s) indoctrinated to us, than to accept any good. We long for care and help but we may be unable to receive it. Which sounds bizarre and I hope that it does not sound offensive.

To give an example, in therapy this week I identified that I have lots of rigid and entrenched beliefs along the lines of: “if N. wanted to be my friend, s/he would do xyz” “if N. cared about me, s/he would have [replied straight away to this message because I said abc in it] and because s/he didn’t it shows s/he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to be in touch and couldn’t stand me anyway, what an idiot I was to think s/he’d want me around anyway” or “if you’re someone’s friend and they are upset you do xyz, it’s just obvious, and N. didn’t so it just shows they really think abc [negative thing / opinion that I’m evil] about me”. The thoughts that spiral from these beliefs mean that if they aren’t fulfilled and someone doesn’t do one of these things that I have set as absolutes in my mind (and which, incidentally, I would hold myself to in relationships as well, as rules I must follow as a friend) then very quickly I use them to confirm an even deeper-seated view of myself which stems from things my abuser told me. Such as that I’m evil really, I manipulate people, everyone will think it isn’t my fault but she and I will always know it’s because of how evil I am, xyz person I care about will die or be taken away because of the harm I’ve caused, I’m disgusting and ugly, etc, etc. It’s impossible for me to get past these beliefs and they are a big block in therapy and in everyday life. It’s impossible to believe that my beliefs and motivations are what I think they are and impossible to believe anyone could really want me. My cell’s predictive text is set to “hurt”.

I’m not sure how to get around this at all. I’m not sure if my psychiatrist is either. I met with her yesterday. It was a very helpful meeting and was about a lot of things other than this as well. However, I think to this there isn’t a short answer. How do I go through this? How do I learn a new setting, a setting in my mind that is open to a different belief? How do I dare to actually feel differently? I can try to explore other possibilities cognitively, but I cannot link it up to the emotions and what I really feel and believe about myself and others. I just cannot reach that. What the psychiatrist did help me identify is that only with repetition can we learn something new (as with my cell phone’s expanding Catholic vocabulary). I need to try to continue in relationships long enough to get past the point at which my default beliefs about myself as evil are (or so it seems) absolutely confirmed. Currently I don’t. Like my cell phone I go into “predictive” mode and I pull away from the interaction or even end the relationship at that point.

That’s the one thing I can change, though with a great deal of help from what I think would have to be incredibly supportive and understanding friends. That’s almost too much to ask. This is going to be a long road.

Ginny xx

*Quick (hopefully simple) explanation of Catholic terms: Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The Triduum is a term which refers to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday immediately before Easter Sunday: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. “Attende Domine” is a piece of chant music often used during Lent at one of the churches I attend – “Attende Domine et miserere” or “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy”. I find it quite beautiful and relaxing to listen to.

https://youtu.be/t7Glyu7tEWU – Attende Domine – with thanks to Petrus Josephus for the video

Image from Gilmore Girls (sorry I am not sure which Season) – Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson – Gilmore Girls produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. All rights belong to respective artists.