Cognitive Dissonance | Ep #123

What happens when something you believed as true is challenged? Or when you make up your mind about something and immediately doubt it? Does it mean you made the wrong decision, or is something else happening?

In this episode, you’ll learn all about cognitive dissonance and how it is an indication that something is out of alignment for you. It may be that your beliefs need to be reevaluated or expanded. It may be that you are being led into deeper self-trust and wisdom.

While cognitive dissonance can be quite uncomfortable, it can lead you into a place of deep peace, knowing that your internal values match your external actions.

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Episode Transcript

I’m Andrea Giles and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 123, Cognitive Dissonance.

Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently
living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place.
Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

Hi everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Heal from Infidelity,
episode 123 today. I’m so glad you’re here. Before I dive into today’s
episode, I know my sound might be a little off today. I am traveling. I’ll
tell you a little bit about that in a second, but I’m having trouble
connecting my speaker to my laptop. It’s not working properly, so I’m just
recording through my computer. I suppose you can hear me just fine, but it’s
not going to be the quality you’re used to. I apologize for that. A couple
weeks ago, I decided, very last minute, to take my kids to the Oregon coast.
Not all my kids, in fact, only four of them. I took my girls who are about
to start high school and one of my boys that’s about to start his senior
year, and my little baby girl. And I took which of the kids at home could
go, and we rented a little beach house on the Oregon coast.

It has been absolutely magical, just magical. So I’ve mentioned in past
episodes that I grew up in Oregon, grew up very poor. I lived all through
my junior high years with no electricity, no running water. We added a
porta potty on the side of the road. For any of you who don’t know what
that is, it’s like one of those toilets that you find at fairs, things like
that, a portable toilet that, once a week, somebody would come clean it. And
the school bus came and picked me up, and would pick me up at that porta
potty on the side of the road, so everybody saw it, and just lots of
stories. We were really broke. And to be able to take my children here, and
to be able to rent a place on the beach, it’s just a small little place,
but to be able to rent a house on the beach has been really amazing for me
to share that with my kids.

I have not taken them here in 10 years. My parents moved away right after I
graduated from high school, so I’ve only come back a handful of times, but
it still feels like home. I was able to take my kids to where I graduated
from high school. I was the student body president of that school. I was
the captain of my cross country team. Lots of really important things
happen there for me in my own growth and development. And to be able to
share that with some of my kids has just been really, really special for
me. So I’m so glad that I decided very spontaneously to come. It was a 13
hour drive, long, long drive, especially with a toddler. We’re heading back
starting tomorrow, but it’s been wonderful, and sometimes we just need to
do things like that. So anyway, but I wanted to share a little bit about
that before diving into this podcast.

I hope that when something is calling you, something that feels important,
something that feels like it could be healing for you, that you listen and
go, and honor yourself and honor the things that you need. That’s really
been what this has been for me. I’ve really needed it. I’ve just been
dealing with some tricky things lately, and I just felt the call to go to
the ocean and to share that time before my kids go back to school. And it’s
been remarkable, a really wonderful time. Okay, so now onto the episode,
episode 123 about cognitive dissonance. This has been one that I’ve been
thinking about for a long time. It’s an important episode. It’s one that I
hope that you take your time and listen to. It might be one that you go
back to and listen again. Okay? It’s really important. What is cognitive
dissonance, and why am I covering this topic?

It’s something that I see my clients feeling a lot of the time without
really knowing that that’s what it is. I’m hoping that by defining what it
is, helping you understand what the symptoms are of cognitive dissonance,
you can understand more about yourself, you can know what needs to happen
to stop the discomfort, to ease the discomfort, and you can work through
some of the things that are causing some of the conflict in you, especially
relating to infidelity. So what is cognitive dissonance? It’s a state of
discomfort resulting from conflicting ideals, beliefs, attitudes, or
behaviors. Okay, so let me say that word again. From conflicting,
conflicting ideals, beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. It can create a
feeling of unease, a feeling of being unsettled. It can show up in many
different ways. It can show up as anxiety, embarrassment, shame, stress,
regret, guilt, sadness. Cognitive dissonance was first introduced by man
named Leon Festinger, who taught that it usually shows up around three
different situations, force compliance, decision-making, and new

We’re going to look at all three of these today. Okay? Force compliance
means acting against one’s beliefs. This might mean agreeing to something
on the outside while inwardly screaming about it. Okay? Maybe knowing that
you’re not okay with something and doing it anyway, or saying yes anyway.
Some of you may be in this situation that you still give your spouse or
your partner access to you, but you know that he’s still involved with the
affair partner. You’re not okay with it, but you try to tell yourself a
story about it that kind of helps you to feel a little bit better. You say
you’re giving him time to figure it out. You say you’re awaiting to see if
he changes. So outwardly, you try to look calm and cool, but on the inside,
you’re in turmoil. Okay? I hear this scenario all the time, of knowing that
there’s still in contact with the affair partner and trying to be chill
about it, trying to just kind of hold on. And this can be one of these kind
of forced compliance situations.

Nobody’s actually forcing you. Nobody’s making you. But emotionally, it can
feel that way. You can feel trapped like, what else am I supposed to do
here? So what’s the solution here or what’s creating this problem? The
problem is created because if we slow down enough to look at what our core
values are, let’s say about loyalty or about being completely committed in
a relationship, you’re going to have some cognitive dissonance. You’re
going to have some of that conflict of the conflicting ideas about things.
That what’s going on on the outside, the things that you’re agreeing to do,
not line up with what’s going on on your insides, that will create
cognitive dissonance. Okay? Again, forced compliance, I want you to hold
that a little bit loosely. Okay? It’s not necessarily somebody forcing you,
but we do, as humans, we’re pretty good at manipulating each other. We’re
pretty good at doing things to try to gain control over one another, and it
can feel very forced, even if it’s technically not. Okay?

Now, let’s move on to decision-making. Decision-making can create conflict
because sometimes we might be looking at two seemingly good decisions or
two decisions that both feel bad, and either way, we feel stuck. Either
way, there’s this dissonance inside, this conflict inside of two seemingly
conflicting things like, I can’t win either way. Either way, it’s not good.
Or either way, I think these are both okay, so why doesn’t one feel easier
than the other? So the obvious example of this, because of who you are, my
audience here dealing with infidelity, is the decision about staying or
going after infidelity. My friends, this is such a hugely personal decision
with so much individual nuance. You may have people telling you to leave,
and yet something deep in you says to wait. This can create cognitive
dissonance. Inside, you might feel this calm. You might feel something that
you can’t quite describe in words, but you feel it inside, to hold on, to

And on the outside, there’s dissonance on the outside. People are saying,
“You need to get out. What are you doing? Why are you staying?” And you
might be even judging yourself going, why are you staying? What’s wrong
with you? Where’s your self-respect? But inside, you’re feeling this voice
that’s saying, hold on, hold on. Okay? This can create some cognitive
dissonance. What if you can see that he’s doing all the things he
technically should be doing? Right? He’s remorseful, he’s getting some help,
he’s trying to understand his decisions, and yet deep down that it’s over,
you know deep down that you want to leave. This is going to create some
dissonance. It’s going to create a conflict between your mind and your
heart. Your mind might be saying, but look, look, you can patch this up.
You can fix this. Look, he’s trying. What’s wrong with you? Why isn’t it

And yet inside, your answer is no. That can create some dissonance. Another
area it can come up around decision making is when you’re looking at making
a decision that goes against the beliefs and values you are handed maybe as
a child. I have clients who committed in their marriage vows to never
divorce. They were taught that it is wrong. They were taught that it is a
sin. So they’re looking at a marriage that they know it would create a lot
more pain for them to stay in, but they have this internal conflict of
feeling like they might be sinning against God. They feel this conflict
between doing what feels best for them inside and what has been socially or
religiously taught to them. To go deeper into this, sometimes when we are
making decisions, as religious people especially, we might be thinking
about doing something.

And when we think about actually following through with the decision, it
might feel really uncomfortable. It might feel yucky. It might feel dark
and scary. And as religious people, we may interpret this discomfort around
this decision as a wrong decision. We may feel that discomfort and go, “Oh
my gosh, look, I must be getting this wrong. See, I shouldn’t feel bad. If
it were a right decision, I should feel good.” And we can use that feeling
of it being uncomfortable as being wrong. That’s dangerous. It’s dangerous
because sometimes making decisions, a lot of the time, making decisions is
very uncomfortable. It’s very, very uncomfortable, because inevitably when
we make any decision, to decide is to cut off the thing that we’re not
deciding on. It’s to go all in on the thing that we’re deciding, and we’re
cutting off the thing that we’re not. There will inevitably be some
discomfort, some loss at saying no to the thing that we’re saying no to.

And if we are interpreting that as, “Oh my gosh, look, I feel bad, so I
must be getting it wrong. This must be a bad decision. I must be sinning.
It must be a bad decision,” is to keep ourselves stuck in this endless
cycle of indecision. So I’m going to talk a little bit more about this
later and how to help yourself through that. Okay? Now, I’ve mentioned this
before, but when I was going through divorce, I was really stuck in this
cognitive dissonance. I remember being so confused about how divorce could
be the right answer. And I was and am a person that prays. And my faith has
evolved over the years into a different faith than it was 10 years ago, but
I still consider myself somebody who is spiritual. And at that time, I
prayed a lot. I really was seeking guidance. I was seeking direction. And
it was so confusing to me that when I thought about staying in my marriage,
it was a no. You need to go.

You need to go. I knew it. I knew I needed to go. I knew it was no longer a
good place for me or my children, and yet I had this cognitive dissonance
because I was taught so much about families and about the significance of
family, the significance of marriage, how sacred marriage was. And how
could divorcing my husband be the best thing? It was such a conflict in my
mind and my heart that took some time to resolve. And I had to ground myself
over and over again in the bigger picture of what it was that I was doing,
of what it was that I was protecting my kids from. And it was in doing
that, that I was able to follow through with it. And I will touch back on
what I mean by that later in this episode. Okay.

So the third thing that can often bring up cognitive dissonance is new
information. I am guessing that every single one of you listening to this
episode can relate to this one. Let’s say that you have deeply held beliefs
about something or someone, and then something happens one day that
contradicts what you believed. You may have believed that you’ve had some
things to work on in the marriage, but that the person you are with would
never in a million years be unfaithful, and yet he did, or she did. And so
there’s this new information that challenges your belief. And for many of
you, it challenges a lot of your beliefs. It kind of rocks your world,
right? Now, you may have a deeply held belief based on a lot of the things
that we’re taught in society, that once a cheater always a cheater, and
that if you get cheated on, you should leave immediately, and yet it’s not
quite the experience you’re having with the new information you have about
your spouse. You now have some conflicting beliefs because maybe you see
some really good, amazing things that may just be worth fighting for.

So there’s this internal conflict between the first belief about cheaters,
always a cheater, and what is actually real for you now, what your actual
experience is with this person that you’re with. Okay? I’m sure some of you
have had this experience in a more neutral setting. For example, when you
have a schoolteacher that you really like or idolize in some way, and then
you learn about their humanity, you see who they are outside of school. And
I remember things like that happening, where you see this other side of
this person, and it can create this cognitive dissonance of, wait, what?
They’re more than one person? They’re this and they’re that? Wait. Or when
you have somebody on a pedestal, and then you learn some things about them
that take them off that pedestal, that can create cognitive dissonance too,
this new information. We can believe in something as being really solidly
true, and then we can find out information that challenges that truth
claim, and that can create cognitive dissonance.

There’s lots of things about new information that can show up and create
this cognitive dissonance. Okay? In the end, what this means is that the
things that you thought were true may not stand up against what new
information you have, and it is creating an enormous discomfort within you.
Okay, so what do we do with this dissonance? We can interpret this cognitive
dissonance in a very black and white way, like I said before. Like, oh my
gosh, I feel really uncomfortable with this, so I must need to go back. I
need to go back to what’s comfortable. That is our actual natural
inclination, but I don’t recommend it. It’s so easy to use our old
reasoning, our old biases, to make conclusions about our situation. We may
uphold the divorce is never an option narrative because there is some
comfort in that. It takes the responsibility off of us to really have to
dig in deep.

Someone else has already made the decision for us, so we can just hang our
hat on that and not go any further, and just be the long suffering patient
person that just sucks it up and deals with it. We can tell ourselves how
loving we are. Okay? That may sound harsh. I hope that those of you
listening don’t feel judged by that statement, because guess who was there
for quite some time? This girl right here. I just did not think it was an
option for a long time, and so I would just kind of put myself on this
little pedestal of how long suffering and all of those things until I just
couldn’t do it anymore, and it was no longer in anyone’s best interest for
me to do that. So please know that there’s no judgment there. Okay? Now,
the problem with some of that kind of thinking is that in moments of
stillness and calm, we may feel something completely different internally.

We may feel a sense of self betrayal. And that sense of self betrayal can
lead to intense dissonance. If the decision was a good one, why does it
feel so bad, right? Again, sometimes we make decisions when we don’t have
all the information. We may get more information, and then hold ourselves
to our old decision, saying I made the decision. I’m sticking with that
decision, and this creates dissonance. We may make a decision, and then
feel the discomfort come up and interpret it as having made the wrong
decision, when in reality, what we’re doing is we’re just stepping out into
some unknown and allowing the emotions that come from that choice. And it
can be so tempting at this point to turn back, assuming we will feel
better, and that will feel better if it was truly the right decision,
right? That if that was the right decision, it shouldn’t be so hard.

Again, I do not recommend this, turning back. Rather than going back to
what felt safer and more comfortable, I recommend digging deeper. Okay, so
let’s talk about that. What does that mean? The opposite of cognitive
dissonance is cognitive consonance. Again, Leon Festinger, who first came up
with the term cognitive dissonance, also defined cognitive consonance. He
describes it as a state of mind in which the person’s conscious, knowledge,
attitudes, and awareness are congruent and in harmony with their
unconscious, emotional, or innate beliefs. Okay? In other words, when our
thoughts and actions are lined up with what we say and do, it creates
cognitive consonance. Our insides match our outsides. The things we feel
inside are congruent with what we are doing on the outside. Okay? I’m going
to give you an example of this. When I was dating my now husband…

We’ve been married for seven years. We dated for two. So we’ve been
together for nine years now. It was rocky. It was a rocky two years. And
towards the end of it, I knew inside that it was no longer a healthy
relationship for me to be in, because we both had been deeply hurt,
different situations. His wife died of cancer. You know my story. And he
had a lot of things that he needed to sort through, some things about
loyalty, and could he really move forward? And of course, taking on six
children and a new wife and all of these things, right? There was a lot,
lot that both of us needed to navigate. But I really struggled with some
hot and cold kind of behavior for a while, and it was really getting to the
point where it was becoming quite destructive for me and not great for my
kids either to kind of wonder what was going on. By this time, they had met
his kids, and we had talked about joining our families, but it was never
like a, all right, it’s time to pull the trigger, right?

And so I got to the point where I was heartbroken at the thought of really,
really letting go. I was crushed, really, really crushed at the thought of
really letting go of the relationship, but I knew that I needed to be
willing to. And I remember that phone call, when I called him up and I
broke up. And I said, “I love you. I know that I love you, but this is no
longer working for me. It’s no longer a good place for me to be. It’s
hurting me.” And I broke up with him. And we both cried, and I remember
feeling a lot of grief, feeling really sad. But you know what? There was a
peace in my sadness. There was a congruence within myself because my
insides matched my outsides, my outside actions of saying, “No, this is no
longer working for me,” matched how I was feeling on the inside, matched
the pain that I was feeling. And I honored it, and I grew my self-trust
that day, and I was willing to walk away from it all to honor myself, and
what I wanted and what I needed.

Yes, I felt grief. I felt lost. I felt sadness, but there was this sense of
peace in it because I knew that it was necessary grief and sadness to honor
this brave thing that I did. So there was congruence consonance. Okay?
Obviously, we figured it out. He literally showed up on my door, came from
Montana and showed up on my door. And this was, I don’t even know how much
later from that conversation, but he worked through some things. I was
totally willing to walk away. And then we figured it out, and we’ve been
married for seven years now. So anyway, that’s just one example of what it
looks like for me to follow through, to match my actions with what was going
on in the inside. It took a lot of courage. I was really scared. I was
really sad, but there was peace in it.

Okay? How we get to this place is by grounding into the big picture,
grounding into our values. We can sure get in our head and into our current
circumstances and get really spun out in what to do when we can ground down
into the bigger picture, into our values, into what we want the most and
really ground into that, really align with that. That’s what’s going to
direct our path. Okay? One thing that I want you to try out is rather than
trying to hurry out of dissonance by going back to what you used to believe,
I invite you to stay in the dissonance for a while. You can teach your
brain that you don’t need to have it figured out right away. You can remind
yourself that you’re in the in-between and that you’ll figure this out. You
don’t need to rush it. The consonance will come when you’re ready to take
the actions that line up with what is most true for you on the inside.
Moving through the dissonance, rather than running back to the comfort of
what is known and sure will create growth and emotional resilience in you.

You’ll redefine what truth is for you. Your idea of what truth was before
can change, and it’s okay. When we get more information, we get to change
what is true. We can decide what is true based on what we know. And then
when we get more information, we can broaden our definition of truth. It’s
pretty remarkable, right? Doing this help prepare you for upcoming
decisions, upcoming actions that will require strength and mental toughness
from you. My friends, this dissonance that you’re feeling is a sign that you
are thinking in a more critical way, that you are opening up to more
critical thinking, that you are leaning into listening to what you have to
say. Don’t rush it away because it feels bad. Lean in. Lean in and listen
to your deeper wisdom of what is true for you, and let that truth lead your
path forward into cognitive consonance.

It’s coming. Okay? It’s coming. What are your values? What do you value?
What do you want for your marriage, for your relationships? How do you want
to be treated? What do you want your life to be like? Go there, and let
that be your guide of what actions to take moving forward. That will create
this cognitive consonance. That will bring the calm. That will bring the
insides, matching your outsides, and vice versa. Okay? That’s the episode I
have for you today. Before I wrap this up, by the time this comes out, I
will have taught a class about getting your life back after infidelity. I
am just opening the doors to a brand new program called Get Your Life Back
After Infidelity.

And in this program, one of the things that I go deep on with my clients is
really designing their life after infidelity, really designing it with the
foundations built on your values, your personal standard that you create
for yourself inside the program, where you build this life on the most
crucial, critical things that you want to have in it, where you move
forward from the deepest place within you, and you invite those around you
to join you in creating something really amazing that you want to be in. If
this sounds like something that you want support with, I invite you to go
grab a spot, a consult spot, consultation. It’s free. You come talk with
me, get your questions answered. It’s pretty amazing. I’m taking pieces
that were the best pieces of my No and 90 program, and I’ve added to it.
And it’s a pretty amazing, amazing program. We start in September. I’d love
to have you join.

All right, thank you, my friends. As always, it’s a delight to be here.
Keep going. Keep going. You will not be in this spot of pain and hurt
forever. Keep going. All right, so much love to you. See you next time.

Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
email. You can subscribe at Again,
it’s I will see you next time.

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Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.

Why was I not enough?

Does this question torment you? It did me too until I learned that the actions of my spouse had nothing to do with me, my worth, or my lovability. Click on the link below for a free guide that will teach you the 3 biggest lies about infidelity and why they are keeping you stuck.

Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.