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Cognitive Dissonance in the Narcissist: How You Can Be His or Her Next Victim

gaslightingCognitive Dissonance in the Narcissist
By Tigress Luv,


Cognitive Dissonance and the Narcissist: How You Can Be His or Her Next Victim

To understand this article you have to understand cognitive dissonance. It is the discomfort one feels when what they feel strongly, or believe in deeply, is challenged by an opposing opinion. When we are suddenly faced with two opposing beliefs, we get uncomfortable.


This discomfort may be felt in such things as mild guilt, such as smoking when we know that it is dangerous, or it may be felt in something much greater... For instance, one may feel a strong self-loathing when they find out a beloved uncle – one who they think very highly of – is actually a very bad criminal. The person may not want to believe it because they want to hold tightly to their overruling emotion or belief that he is a great person, and so they may begin to hate themselves for thinking dearly of him.

When our beliefs are challenged, most of us will…

a. Change our behavior. "I'm going to stop smoking now!"

b. Justify our behavior by challenging the conflicting cognition. "Those surveys on cigarette smoke are all slanted. My grandmother lived to be 97 and smoked a pack a day!"

c. Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions. "Yes, cigarettes may be dangerous, but the stress I feel when I don't smoke is far more dangerous."

However, the more the opposing opinion is personal to us and affects our self-image, the higher our discomfort is when we are faced with the dissonance.


Now, just imagine being a narcissist in a cognitive dissonance situation!


The narcissist is driven and motivated to create and maintain his or her grandiloquent self-perception. The narcissist's ego rules his or her daily life. Above all this, once the ego has been created, his or her main mission in life is to protect and maintain this ego's existence. Therefore, narcissists tend to seek out individuals, jobs, careers, hobbies and/or recreational activities that will cultivate, promote, and validate their grandiose self-perceptions and self-beliefs.

When faced with an outside discordance (let's just say it's from 'you') between how he or she feels or believes about him or herself and an opposing view, the narcissist chooses one of three avenues. 1) They must change the discordance, 2) they must override it, or 3) if they cannot override it or change it then they must reduce the importance of it by devaluing it or lowering its importance and worth – thereby eliminating it all together as a viable, feasible or valid belief. These actions are often referred to as behaving with cognitive dissonance.

1) Change it: the narcissist will attempt to alter the existing cognition. He or she may try brainwashing or gaslighting you in an attempt to change or alter your belief – a belief that doesn't agree with his or hers, or that causes him narcissistic injury. He or she may also try punishing you, as by the silent treatment and/or ostracizing, rejection, desertion (narcissistic-reasoning believes that if the narcissist eliminates you, he also eliminates your opinions), or bullying you and/or threatening something or someone you hold dear. These are all attempts to coerce you into changing your faith in yourself and your beliefs, and to doubt your own ability to think rationally.

* Among these tactics are narcissistic raging. If you haven't experienced the narcissistic rage, brace yourself.

* Crying is a weapon of manipulation some narcissists use, too. "See how badly you've hurt me with your opinions? Now don't you feel bad enough to want to take those things you said to me back?"

* Also, among these tactics – and usually only early on in the relationship – the narcissist may attempt to restore your previous (positive) opinions and sweeten his or her image by romancing you, flattering you, or pretending to be perfect… as if your (negative) opinion was just all one big misunderstanding.

That is to say, if your opinions of the narcissist doesn't match his or her high grandiose self-opinions, or the opinions he think you should have, he or she will experience cognitive dissonance. And if that dissonance is not reduced by changing your belief, the narcissist can save his or her ego by simply twisting the opinion into a 'misperception'.

2) Override: the narcissist will attempt to supersede the negative belief by seeking 'new' narcissistic supply. If the narcissist can't change or manipulate how you think of him or her, as he or she did in the beginning stages of the relationship (when they were still in your good graces), then he or she may simply look for a new narcissistic supplier. By receiving new and 'positive' narcissistic supply, the narcissist is able to maintain his or her grandiose self-belief system. Overriding your negative opinions or comments with positive feedback can involve many different sources, such as cheating or socializing … wherever the narcissist can find and elicit a strong, positive self-feedback.

Seeking narcissistic supply by eliciting support from others who share his or her grandiose beliefs is very common with narcissists. They may choose to abandon you, preferring the company of his or her followers (The Duped), or engaging in infidelious affairs. The narcissist may attempt to persuade others to take his or her side by telling others how horrible you are, or how wonderful he or she has been to you and how badly you treat them in response. The more narcissistic supply the narcissist can derive from an outside source – and the more adulation, admiration and applause he or she receives as a result – the easier it is for him or her to override and supersede the negative belief you hold. "See, everybody else in the world thinks I'm great ... so I must be great!"

3) Lower its importance: the narcissist may attempt to reduce the importance of the source (let's just say 'you' again) of his or her threatened narcissistic supply…thereby reducing the importance, validity or truth of the belief. This is often referred to as demonizing or devaluing, and, if you've ever been the source of the opinion that contradicts that of the narcissist, be prepared to pay – and pay big. Punishing payback and revenge are popular in this stage. Raging and revenge are part of narcissistic injury that oftentimes results from the cognitive dissonance.

If the narcissist experiencing cognitive dissonance can devalue or demote the source, he or she can also eliminate the value of the opinion and thereby dismiss it from having any truth or reasoning. Unfortunately, this means that the source (probably you) will be purposefully demonized beyond your wildest imagination. In order to lower the importance of your opinions and beliefs the narcissist must lower the importance of you. "She is so backwoods .... just a worthless, crazy idiot that doesn't know what she is talking about. I'm surprised she can feed herself!" (Please read our article, Devalued by a Narcissist, for more)

Gaslighting may occur in this route, too. It is the narcissist's effort to make you appear crazy, incapable of harboring a valid opinion.

To sum it all up, the narcissist experiences cognitive dissonance when confronted with an opinion or a situation that differs from his mighty important and wonderful self. (And, yes, that was sarcasm.) For more articles on narcissism please review our other articles here at When Things Go Wrong, or please check out my site, Breaking Up With Your Narcissist. You will find a link to the articles near the bottom of the main page.


For help in recovering please read my new Daily Breakup Inspirations for those Recovering from a Narcissist


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