dissonance

DISSONANCE is a word we know from music. But one can also experience cognitive dissonance, or a dissonance in one’s mind, in one’s thoughts. This happens when, for example, somebody insists on pushing a narrative about your own life, feelings, or experiences, that doesn’t match up with your own memories of them. Imagine, for example, that a long time ago, you went on a trip and you didn’t invite your friend along. The trip happened suddenly, and it wasn’t planned. Your own memories of the trip are that it was interesting and enjoyable. It was an experience in your life. You remember that trip the way that you remember it. Until your friend accuses you of having abandoned him by not inviting him along. Your friend says that you went on the trip to spite him. That the trip was against him in a way. You shouldn’t have gone on that trip, this so-called friend says. You betrayed him when you went on that trip. You don’t remember ever having made this kind of pact with your friend regarding spur-of-the-moment trips and until now, haven’t felt anything resembling guilt for that experience. It was one experience from your life, one that you thought of seldom until now. Now, things are different. To make matters worse, mutual acquaintances have been informed of your betrayal, and will bring it up to you in conversation. “Oh, that was the trip when you betrayed your friend,” they will say. You will no longer have control over your own version of your own life, as there is now a separate official version. If you challenge it, you will be ignored or shot down. “That’s not what I heard.” “But that’s not what happened!” “See how toxic and angry you are.” Now you start to relive that experience from your life, with your friend’s old grudge superimposed on your own memories. You see photos of yourself from that trip, and you think, “That’s a photo of me betraying my friend.” You never had this thought before, and this is not even your own thought. Now your friend is in your mind, telling you how your life was, and telling you how you should feel about your life. This is what dissonance is. If you continue down the path of dissonance, you soon will have none of your own memories of your own life or your own experiences, or will at the very least have to fight for them. You’ll have to fight within your own mind to keep your own memories and experiences alive for your sanity. Otherwise you lose track of who you are. You don’t know yourself anymore. You’re unsure. You once thought you were someone. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding.

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