I recently heard that cognitive dissonance occurs when you act in a way that’s at odds with your values. I’ve also heard that cognitive dissonance happens when, in order to function, you have to hold in your consciousness two totally different ideas or realities at the same time. Some of us experience this kind of thing when we’re kids, if we come from abusive places, where, out in the world or at school, we were met as giving or smart or creative, and at home we were met as stupid or selfish or bad. We had to hold both of these realities of ourselves at the same time — we had to somehow understand that different people could interact with us in completely different ways, opposing ways, even if we thought we assumed it seemed as though we were the same person (weren’t we?) when we moved from one situation to the next.
That experience of cognitive dissonance doesn’t lessen as I get older — when I come to understand that someone has a completely different understanding of a situation than I do, or when I come to understand that someone I thought knew me, saw me, actually sees someone very different — and I have to wonder if I am that person that they see, as well as the person I understand myself to be (who is, in this case, the opposite of, or at least quite different from, their vision — or at least, so I’d imagined).
It’s too heady, trying to explain this, too much in my head — the bodily experience is that I’ve been nauseous for a week. I wrote somewhere else that I wished others could throw up for me: maybe if I explained clearly enough the awfulness of the situation I was in when I was a kid, my listener could get sick and throw up and then we’d both be relieved. I’m not good at that sort of release. All I can do is let the stories go. So I’m swallowing the bile and drinking lots of peppermint and/or ginger tea, which helps a little.