The Bipolar Bum

Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.

The Wednesday Word – “Cognitive Dissonance”

I understand that it isn’t exactly great form to start a feature by cheating and having two words – but this is a good starting point with plenty of mileage for us to share and discuss our experiences of it.

 

Cognitive Dissonance as defined by Wikipedia:

 

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort[1] experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction.[2]

Leon Festinger‘s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed. His basic hypotheses are listed below:

  1. “The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance”
  2. “When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance”[1]

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

 

 

Have you ever been proud?  I really enjoy helping people.  Offering aid is the best incentive I have for keeping to this blog.  I am proud that I behave in a way that is good for others, if not always myself.  I often do things for others without expecting anything in return.  Helping often is its own reward.  I worship my family and would do anything for them. I make them laugh and help them with whatever they need from me.  We are close and love each other dearly.  I’m a good brother and son to have and my family long for the day when I see them again.  Often I will come to the defence of my friends and in the past I have shown exceptional courage when faced with confrontation as a result of doing so.  If my friends needed money or support – it’s theirs, in a moment’s notice.  I trust people.  I have hope in people.  I see the good in them.

 

 

Who among us hasn’t felt guilt?  Crippling guilt is one of the primary feature’s of my illness(es?).  Guilt is my worst adversary and against it I am defenceless.  This comes from the knowledge that I am, or rather have been and could continue to be, an immoral person.  I’ve lied, cheated, stolen and betrayed confidences.  I periodically have ‘attacks’ of guilty memories.  I physically shudder and cringe and for those moments I feel as though someone’s nails are scraping down the chalk board of my mind.  There are things that I cannot fix or make amends for, there are people out there to whom I am nothing but a vile person.  I have done a disservice to the memory of my father, wasted every opportunity I’ve been given and aged my mother.  My brother and sister grew up without the protection that an elder brother should have afforded them.  I am a terrible boyfriend and cannot offer a lasting commitment.  I poison all tenderness with the promise of regret and future pain, in an effort to “Hedge my bets” and avoid guilt much later.  I am prone to this kind of cowardice.

 

In an effort to avoid future guilt, I often cause it by behaving in a brutal or needlessly cutting way.

 

I’m proud for being a good person and I feel guilty for being a bad guy.  I BELIEVE that I’m essentially good, yet I behave often in a way that fits my definition of bad, I also know that I am a very flawed human being and that I hurt as much as help those I love because I can be abusive and manipulative.  I believe that Bipolarity allows such incongruences to germinate into much stronger, load-bearing beliefs than is possible in the healthy mind.  Both of these ‘versions’ of myself have existed and I have switched between them very quickly.  There have been times that I have been a bit of both all at once.

 

Being unaware of Hypomania for what it is has allowed belief in my talent, intellect and strength of character to become entrenched.  When Hypomanic in the past I have strived to achieve, achieved and built a temple of ego from the fruits of my labours.The depressions that follow Hypomanic episodes immediately and violently come up to co-exist with these beliefs before assimilating them.

 

Unlike a thought being challenged by new evidence or logic, and gradually dismantled as a healthy brain would do  – When I have cycled in the past I have gone from KNOWING that I was beautiful, intelligent and destined for greatness to KNOWING that I was a weak, pretentious failure who thinks he is a lot smarter than is the case and behaves in a reprehensible way to those around him.  Someone who doesn’t deserve love.  Logically I can argue against either case and when I am at my healthiest I can occasionally enjoy the view that I’m somewhere between these two extremes.  When I’m not at my healthiest – I am manufacturing bombs for cognitive dissonance to drop on me later.

 

With Bipolar Disorder we create memories whilst particularly ill that we shudder (literally in my case) to take ownership of.  We think, say and do things that “just aren’t us”.  We cannot believe the way we behaved, yet we know that it definitely happened and it was definitely us in the driver’s seat.  We remember the thought processes that led to our actions, this isn’t split personalities – it’s always us.  Someone with Bipolar Disorder who doesn’t know it can think that they’re the greatest hero and the most wicked villain in the world at the same time and be right.  The constant war being waged in my head before my diagnosis was partly because I couldn’t clearly identify who I was.  I didn’t behave like one person.  I behaved like two or three at various intervals.

 

Dealing with the aftermath of this and trying to unpick the illogical stitching resulting from years of ignorance about my illness is where I often find myself now.  I am largely asymptomatic but I have accrued a lifetime of jarring beliefs and opinions about life, love, morality but especially of myself.  I still believe that I have the capacity to do significant and fulfilling work but I also suspect that, given my track record – I’ll never achieve or feel like I’ve achieved anything for very long.

 
This is the macro-example in my case – some micro examples could be, in my case : Knowing what to eat and not eat to maintain healthy prospects for the future and eating shit, regardless.  or Having a job to do, knowing I need to do it and procrastinating until the time for doing the job has been and gone. or Being hypocritical by giving advice on WordPress and not following my own directions.

 

As my optimism about life cycles to pessimism and my confidence turns to lethargic nervousness I feel confused by my own world view.  It is this dissonance that prevents me from making what I would consider to be lasting progress or FEELING as though I’ve made any progress.  Logically I can look at myself and see the progress of diagnosis and medication, of my understanding of WHY my brain does the things it does – logic rarely trumps emotions for me, I’m not Spock.  Combating the FEELING that I never make lasting progress is taking some time to do.  When depressed it is the cause of much of the hopelessness that prompts suicidal ideation.

 

So how about you?  When do you feel most guilty – is it cognitive dissonance that prompts this?  You know what ‘good’ is, you strive to be good and yet you do things which are definitely bad.  Do you struggle with feelings that you (sometimes) KNOW have little to no basis in your present reality.  How have you moved on from the broken beliefs of your life pre-diagnosis?  Has all of this post been nonsense – if so, come and take me to pieces.  I want to hear from you.  We’ve got a good basis of followers now – it’s time to start thrashing out these ideas and making progress.

 

All the best,
H&J

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24 comments on “The Wednesday Word – “Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. Kitt O'Malley
    25/06/2014

    Bipolar type II with mixed states is living in a state of cognitive dissonance. How can we be both worthless and mystic, both suicidal and grandiose? Learning moderation is key. Still working on it. Helps to have a self-deprecating sense of humor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jaklumen
    25/06/2014

    Ah, the best term that I can think of, something I coined during my recovery work but that I doubt I can claim sole ownership of: “toxic security blanket”. I found it was easy to find comfort in certain sorts of coping behavior that really was detrimental, but on some level… yep, I kept coming back to it.

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      25/06/2014

      I can empathise. My behaviour usually was to drink myself stupid or play computer games until I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I’ve wasted so much time AVOIDING things rather than dealing with them it’s unreal.

      My toxic security blanket could also realistically be called hypomania. I’m only now coming to terms with not being in that state ever again. It’s a depressing thought but hey – this is why the best way to beat an addiction to something dangerous is to never start. I just wish I’d had the choice :p

      Thanks for the comment.

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

  3. Maybe you’ve blogged about it already, but what do relationships, especially committed romantic/intimate ones, look like when one partner is bi-polar? What are some of the patterns, the pitfalls? Thanks for your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      26/06/2014

      It’s something that I haven’t blogged about yet because though my experience is probably vast – I had no idea I was Bipolar through my last relationship.

      The experience is guaranteed to be markedly different depending on whether the bipolar party KNOWS IT or not.

      My ex rarely came partying with my and my boys, I suspect in retrospect because she simply couldn’t handle my behaviour on a high. Speaking to the lads present day has revealed that most of them couldn’t handle me on a high. Indeed the nights when I was intent on having ‘The best night ever’ were invariably the worst nights for everyone else, and stressful.

      Being in a relationship with someone who is Bipolar and doesn’t know it I suspect is in a single word – exhausting. My ex would have been on the front line of seeing me start projects, decide on the spot that we would do things and she would have been privvy to the crashes sometimes. She often knew when I was irritable and likely to flair up because I would be stone silent and snappy.

      My present relationship, diagnosed and medicated, looks pretty good. I am largely asymptomatic but prone to the odd bout of mild depression. I don’t take out any moods I have on my girlfriend and she is incredibly understanding, having experience depression herself.

      I’ve asked another blogger to come and give you a better answer than I can here. She was married to a man with bipolar disorder for 30 years. Hopefully she’ll be along some time soon.

      All the best,
      H&J

      Liked by 1 person

  4. glenn2point0
    26/06/2014

    One of the problems with people affected by mental illness is that lack the insight to realise that something is wrong with them. It’s that distorted perception that I was right and everyone else was wrong, yet in reality all the evidence that others saw was that I was the one with the mental illness. I started to perceive this and it triggered a breakdown and sent me to seek help. Unfortunately the wrong diagnosis resulted in the wrong meds that exacerbated my symptoms. When I finally was prescribed seroquel the cognitive dissonance started to clear. The delusional thinking has been almost completely resolved by the now higher dose seroquel. My beliefs in the the paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific that had affected so much of my life were now gone.

    When my perception was skewed I blamed those who were not to blame. I to an interview with a neuroscientist and was asked if people with mental illness lack self pity and she commented that it was perhaps due to the lack of insight. I wonder if your “ignorance” about your BiPolar could have been a lack of insight? The interview is here http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/05/28/4014031.htm

    I been able to make sense of my screwed up past as a result of being on seroquel. I have realised that the denial was actually delusion, the anger was frustration, the originally diagnoses of neurosis was psychosis.

    The positive symptoms of delusions, disordered thinking and suicidal ideation are all things of the past. I still have trouble with the negative symptoms of daily functioning but I am slowly moving forward.

    Sure I have done some shitty and stupid things in the past but I keep them in the context of the untreated BiPolar. That those decisions seemed logical and rational, when they weren’t, is a result of my distorted perceptions and cognitive dissonance.

    There are many things in my past that I would have done differently had I been medicated back then but I can’t change the past. All I can do is ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again. And I don’t think I will as I no longer think the way I used to and I no longer have the delusional beliefs of the past.

    As for that distorted overwhelming sense of guilt that may well come from the cognitive dissonance, I have none anymore. I have spoken to those who were affected by my actions and gained their understanding of why I did the things I did.

    Like you, I have been generous in the past, often to my own detriment. These days I will still help others where I can but I first need to look after myself. I was often duped out of money but I am no longer drawn into the finances of friends. I can’t afford to support anyone else.

    Also like you, I was always better at helping others yet never applied those actions and suggestions to myself. Like my father before me I am a “do as I say and not as I do” person. I think that inability came from my lack of insight that I was unwell and needed help. I think my Dad was BiPolar too and that he self medicated with alcohol.

    So with my cognitive dissonance and delusions now in check thanks to seroquel I am moving forward. There is still quite a way to go before I become a normally functioning person, but things are moving forward, in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      26/06/2014

      On my part it was a complete absence of self-awareness and behaving in a purely reactionary way to most things.

      Was the understanding of the folk that you’d upset a big part in moving on from it? Have you managed to avoid the guilt surrounding events that you haven’t had a chance to be forgiven for?

      I still have attacks of guilt and embarrassment about things I’ve done. My house mates also have them. I fucking hate it if I’m honest and I feel helpless whenever I have them. It feels as though certain things I’ve done still continue to shape my chances of feeling good.

      I can’t play the interview for some reason and trying to download it tells me that the video won’t work. (Video?).

      Thanks for giving a comprehensive reply, Glenn. I really appreciate the insight and that you’re sharing yourself freely on here. Great stuff.

      Like

      • glenn2point0
        26/06/2014

        Hey H&J, gaining my own understanding (because of the effects of the seroquel) was the biggest part for me as it allowed me to reconnect with people. I will never be able to gain everyones understanding, as some are gone and others don’t want to discuss it. The ones that do understand agree with me that it makes sense. I have been completely honest, sharing things I was previously secretive about. They understand the severity of mental illness and how my distorted perceptions and delusions affected how I interacted with the world.. It’s curious that those who are not interested in understanding also seem to lack empathy. I have left the door open for these people and in the meantime send emails for birthdays and just to touch base. I used to feel guilt and embarrassment, hence my secretiveness. But sharing those deep, dark former secrets is what gains understanding, which in turn brings support and love. Now I laugh at how out of touch I was with reality and happily acknowledge how screwed up I was. Coincidentally, as I wrote those words, Out of Touch by Hall & Oates started playing on the radio. I don’t think we can blame ourselves for the actions of our faulty brains. Pre serouel I felt like a victim and the therapy reinforced that victim mode. No surprise the day I got seroquel was the day I quit therapy and the day I stopped being a victim.

        Like

        • drheckleandmrjibe
          26/06/2014

          I’ve got a lot of forgiving of myself to do I think. It’s tough because with a lot of the wrong I’ve done I know I’ve got a snowball in hells chance of them speaking to me. Other people – I’ve wronged them, but they’re disgraceful human beings anyway so I’d rather not speak to them. I’ve moved half a world away and this shit still comes up in my mental conversation.

          Deleting Facebook at the weekend once I’ve got a few e-mail addresses for people. It might help a little. I’ll shelf the forgiveness session for now.

          Cheers for sharing and getting stuck in on here Glenn! Hero
          H&J

          Like

          • glenn2point0
            26/06/2014

            Hey H&J, just start with keeping things in the context of the BiPolar. I look back on the stupid and really wreckless things I did in the past and go “fuck it, not guilty by reason of insanity”!!! Of course, I also over inflated the “damage” I did, but that was all part of the delusions; thinking my actions and inactions had greater effect than they really did. I had to change my perceptions (thanks seroquel) and let others also carry some, or their share, of the responsibility for their actions and inactions. I was really gullible and easily manipulated up until the seroquel was prescribed last year and there are a few arseholes in my past who have a lot to answer for. But I can’t change that either so I just move on.
            Go easy on yourself and cheers, Glenn

            Like

            • drheckleandmrjibe
              27/06/2014

              Cheers Glenn. It’s a big help to have a perspective from someone further down the Bipolar road than me. Brilliant.

              H&J

              Like

  5. valleygrail
    26/06/2014

    To wish I could touch or soothe the brow of anyone dealing with Bipolar Disorder is a statement matched only by my wish to touch or soothe the brow of the person who loves the one with that condition. Having been married for thirty years to a man who was Bipolar, I know the difficulty and challenges backwards and forwards. What I learned over time was Bipolar Disorder does not just affect the person who has it; the entire family is affected. The highs and lows become a multi-seated roller coaster ride for everyone. I found, as the spouse, another duality rose up and had to be battled continuously; “Get out while you can…You can’t leave; he needs you…this is not a healthy lifestyle for me or our children…we can do this as long as we stand together”. On and on it goes. Yes, victory today, failure, doubt, confusion tomorrow. Certainly the complexities of this condition are legion; and I have been to heaven and hell in the course of one day. And the next, and the next. My brief point here is, when one is in a relationship, or considering a relationship, with someone whose life is mercurial, it means your life, too, will be, by association and involvement, mercurial. I do not see this as hopeless nor impossible. Having been there, I see it as a path one should take with eyes wide open, and an inner will to stay the course come what may.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Johnson
      15/08/2014

      I have friends and relatives with Bipolar Disease, and YES it can be a mercurial ride much like the bumpy roads of the Safari. Hang on!

      Like

    • Beth Johnson
      18/08/2014

      Will you allow me to post this comment as an article or part of an article on my blog? I don’t think there is a way to reblog a comment.

      Like

      • drheckleandmrjibe
        23/02/2015

        edit : Misread – sorry! 🙂

        Like

        • Beth
          23/02/2015

          Not a problem! Obviously I make mistakes too–like forgetting what I had in mind to do with the comment–or maybe it was the original article. Hmmmm!

          Like

      • Valleygrail
        23/02/2015

        Of course. Thank you for sharing it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Beth
          23/02/2015

          I got an inspiration and wanted to do something with the article right then, but several months have passed and I have forgotten what that was. 😉 Now that I have permission to repost, maybe I can scratch my memory and unearth something.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. transcendbipolar
    26/06/2014

    Oh, yes. The memories, followed by the cringe and then the shudder. I know that feeling. Memories of the many things I’ve been and done cause lots of guilt and the desire to change my name and move to another country.

    Cognitive dissonance seems in my case seems to be the result of holding multiple and contradicting views of myself in my head at the same time. I am one self, but I am many. And none of them like each other.

    Pre-diagnosis, I learned not to trust myself and I didn’t know why I couldn’t. Post-diagnosis, I do know why. It’s because I never know who’s going to show up as me. I don’t know what that “I” of the moment is going to say or do that I, in another state at another time, am not going to be able to think about without that cringing guilt.

    With meds, the highs don’t get so high anymore that I can’t catch myself before I do something really crazy, like invite French people I’ve never met and who speak very little English to come spend a week with me in New York City, but I’m still afraid of making commitments when I’m feeling good that I later won’t be able to keep because my mood has shifted.

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      26/06/2014

      We are kindred spirits, united in our wealth of cringeworthy moments. I’m lucky in that I’m in another country now, I just need to decide on a name. Thoughts? 🙂

      The more people I speak to on here the more disgusted I become at the stigma surrounding not only these illnesses – but especially the medication to deal with them. Most of us were in pieces before we managed to find the drugs that work.

      Thanks so much for commenting and getting involved in the discussion. I’m glad you did and hope you carry on long into the future! 🙂

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

  7. Gator Woman
    26/06/2014

    Yes to all.
    Great writing, great thinking!

    Like

  8. istralouise
    28/06/2014

    I think to some extent there is never a time that we won’t be susceptible to some form of Cognitive Dissonance. There will always be things that we know we could do better.. things that we know we didn’t do the best.

    I mean at first we have to face what we’ve done because of our diagnosis versus where our insight takes us after treatment or therapy begins, but I think there’s a certain level of dissonance common even to relatively “normal” people who are undiagnosed.

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      28/06/2014

      I think you’re right. A lot of the things I’ve written about are difficult to separate from just my personality. This is one of the biggest hurdles to learning to live with the illness. It’s almost impossible to separate symptomatic thoughts from opinions and ideas a lot of the time. I wish Bipolarity was as interesting as the mass media makes it out to be. It’s tedious beyond believe to me.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

  9. Beth Johnson
    15/08/2014

    Many times the doctors will teach those affected by this disorder to blame and hate. One poor lady I know seems to blame everyone and thus hates them all. I hope that has not happened in your case.

    Like

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