“This is the way the story has to be told”

Convincing yourself that what you don’t have is something that you don’t really want in the first place is a coping mechanism. Aesop called it sour grapes. We all do it. That house that I can’t afford? Well it’s too big for me to take care of, too expensive to heat, too far from Ron’s office. Having to find a home for my dog that I’ve had since she was two weeks old because I can’t take care of her after Aubrey leaves for college? She needs more room, more walks, more attention, and this will be better for her. It can be a positive or a negative, but either way, it’s rationalization.

I’ve always referred to myself as the queen of rationalization. If you need a reason, a lie, an excuse, or just need someone to say something to make you feel better, I’m your woman. Aubrey calls it looking for the loophole. However, no matter how you frame it, it all comes back down to the same thing: cognitive dissonance.

While I normally don’t like to quote Wikipedia, I think this one is worth it.

“One desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one’s dissonance by criticizing it.  In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.”

Ah, finally an explanation for the recent heartbreak drama. You might think it would make me feel better to know that there’s a psychological reason underlying the entire event, however I already knew it, I just didn’t realize it had its own term. Instead of making things better, now I can’t get those two words out of my head…cognitive dissonance.

It’s much easier to not think about complex things. With something complicated, it requires a bit of effort to concentrate on it. But when you boil it down to a phrase, that phrase can haunt your every waking moment. Before, I spent time mulling over emails, looking at pictures, reading old posts. It took effort, and I held out hope that eventually, that effort would slowly fade. Now, however…cognitive dissonance.

How did I find this? It was a link on the heartbreaker’s FB page. Yes, yes, I know lurking isn’t healthy. Yes, I know I never would have found this if I hadn’t been lurking. Now I know lurking is its own punishment. All the grief and anger that I felt last Thursday has been replaced with this single thought…cognitive dissonance. Those two words wiped out all the anger, and brought back all the grief. Where I was livid that this ass had dared to hurt my daughter, now I am once again heartbroken by the senselessness of it all, made all the worse by the fact that he knows what’s going on in his head, but still can’t get past the fear, shame, and guilt, can’t admit that he was wrong, can’t just come back where he belongs.

It’s incredibly sad how much damage a child can sustain and still manage to fake their way through life. As I said, it’s a great coping mechanism. I’ve suspected for years that this is how the heartbreaker managed to survive. I remember at Christmas, he was excited to be going to see his dad, whom he hadn’t seen in several months. However, Christmas break came and went, but he didn’t. When asked why, there was the excuse, “My stepmom was sick and now my dad can’t afford the tickets. But I’ll get to see him at Spring Break, instead.” At the time, my heart hurt for this baby, who desperately needed a family. I recognized the rationalization of it, and at the same time, I recognized the pain behind the smile. Beneath the acceptance, I could hear the same thought that used to go through my head as a kid; why don’t they love me enough? That thought that, when I was younger, seemed to place the blame on THEM, but that I later discovered actually placed the blame on myself. I wasn’t good enough for them to love me. I wasn’t good enough for them to put me first every once in a while. I wasn’t perfect, or beautiful, or a high achiever. All I had was smart, and in that world, smart is what gets you through, whichever way it can…cognitive dissonance.

So I can forgive the lies. I can forgive the “I never loved you.” I can forgive the “stay the fuck out of my life.” I can even forgive the hurt, because I know exactly what is going through his head. He’s terrified. Aubrey is not the kind of girl that one can lose easily. That one great love is devastating when it is gone, and it sometimes seems that being the one to push it away will make it less painful, because then at least we are the ones in control. With her beauty, brilliance, humor, love, intensity, loyalty, and just the expansiveness of her soul, having her 2000 miles away would be unbearable. Ah, those two words again…cognitive dissonance.

Translating the wiki quote, what he was saying is, “You’re amazing. I’m not good enough for you, and at some point you’re going to realize it. Before you notice, I’m going to pretend that I can’t stand you and I want you out of my life.” Am I being presumptive? I don’t think so. I’m pretty good at reading people (another survival mechanism that one develops when growing up in that sort of world). Even more so, I’ve done the same thing.

Love, real love, true love, unending love is so rare. Yes, I know the world is full of people who get married, and stay married, and have kids, and grow old together. But that’s committment. Is it love? Sometimes, but not always. Being faced with such terrible greatness is hard to do as an adult, but nearly impossible as a child, especially when 18 years of low self-esteem is telling you that you don’t deserve such greatness.

Cognitive dissonance. Survival. What we do to make it through…we change the story. Remember all the fun we had in Houston, raiding the executive lounge of dr. pepper and sprite? Nope, I hated it. Remember snuggling on the sofa watching Fringe until we fell asleep? Remember how you posted that it was Amazing!? I was lying. Remember all the time you spent at our house because you didn’t want to go home? I was bored. Remember how my mom made you sign up for the SAT, made you study, took you to get your license when you turned 18, went and picked you up in the middle of the night because you had a fight with your parents? Your mother’s an overbearing hen. Remember how you said that you loved me? I was just pretending. Change the story. Survive.

Cognitive dissonance.

“It never will be that way again, maybe it wasn’t way back when, but to my heart and soul, this is the way the story has to be told. That’s the way I remember it, I remember it that way. From the day I was living it, I remember it that way. Some of our stories fade as we grow older, some get sweeter every time they’re told. That’s the way I remember it, that way.”


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