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The relationship between Cognitive Dissonance, Gaslighting and Trauma Bonding when in a relationship with a Sociopath or Psychopath.

You need to be able to think straight and to have ownership and possession of your own thoughts, if you are to fully heal and recover from any abusive relationship. This is particularly so if your partner displayed Sociopathic or Psychopathic behaviour traits.

Many people say that they have difficulty moving on, and to be able to reintegrate back into their normal lives, at least the life that they knew as normal, prior to the relationship. People say how they can struggle with this, long after the relationship has ended. Many others say that they have forgotten what normal life looks like. Or that they feel forever changed, and unable to remember, or would be unable to fit in with what was once normality for them.

Many more say how they struggle to get out of the relationship, to get free, and to stay free.

Cognitive Dissonance

cognitive dissonance

I would say that pretty much everybody that has been involved with a Psychopath or a Sociopath has experienced Cognitive Dissonance. If you see the picture above, you can see why. Both the Sociopath and the Psychopath work hard on grooming their victims, and manipulating them to get what they want. They are also pathological liars, so good at lying that they can almost convince themselves that their lies are the truth. I know that the one that I was involved with, would once moved on, go so far into a new character that his accent, interests, everything about him, would change. This is because he was in character to mirror the next victim. Not me.

Can you remember this post? About how the Sociopath feeds your comfort zone? Almost everything that they do is well thought out. To own, control and manipulate you.

Victims can experience Cognitive dissonance

  1. While still in the relationship
  2. Long after the relationship has ended

The truth can be painful. The truth can also be very unbelievable. When you are with this type of abuser, the lie, can appear to be ‘normal’ and ‘the truth’ your abuser will work hard to encourage you to believe the lie.

Once you know the truth, why is it so difficult to accept?

While still in the relationship, you want to continue to believe the lie. As the lie is far easier to process. You want to believe that

  • It was all a mistake
  • It won’t happen again
  • You misunderstood (gaslighting)
  • That things will get better
  • That you haven’t wasted your time/ruined your reputation/lost all your money – for nothing
  • That the person that you are with, isn’t REALLY a Psychopath or Sociopath
  • You really believe that you NEED this person


So, it is understandable that when in the relationship, as you are still being abused on a daily basis (even if you do not SEE THIS ABUSE). It is understandable why you continue to live in cognitive dissonance. Nobody is better at keeping you in this state than the Psychopath or the Sociopath.

What about when the relationship has ended? Why do you struggle to move on? You know the truth, so why are you finding it so difficult to accept it?

I have written so many posts on this topic. I experienced similar. Even when I was free. It had taken considerable time for my mind to also be free.

My thoughts would fluctuate. For quite some time, I thought that we:

  • Could still be friends
  • That he genuinely cared about me
  • I told myself that it ‘wasn’t that bad’
  • Refused to believe the extent that I had been gaslighted
  • Believed that I still needed this person
  • I thought I missed him
  • I seemed to have a ‘filter’ where I would forget the bad, and remember the good

The last part is an important one. When in the relationship with the Sociopath you would have been kept in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. They do this deliberately. The outcome is to question your own mind, and indeed sanity.

Cognitive dissonance is where we know the truth. Yet we continue to lie to ourselves.


Gaslighting is another reason why people ARE in cognitive dissonance in the relationship and why you could remain in cognitive dissonance for long AFTER the relationship has ended.

The truth is that most likely you will NEVER know all that was done to you. I know that I never will. You will only expose snippets of what was done to you. The rest will remain ‘hidden’ and ‘silent’.

Example of gas lighting that happened to me. I had no idea that it had happened,it was discovered by accident a few years later. Likely, if i had discovered the truth when I was with him, I would have been further persuaded that what I had discovered, was not true, that it was all in my head.

In early 2012, I was just coming to the end of EMDR sessions for PTSD. My PTSD therapist had said that it was important for me to get the ‘left/right’ action of my brain working. The more that I got the left- right action of my brain working, the faster I could work through PTSD, as my brain was still frozen in shock from the death of my baby daughter at birth a couple of years earlier.

I told him this. I had a bike that I had owned from years earlier. Being the ‘helpful’ person that he was, he offered to run with me, while I went on my bike (walking, cycling, reading, all of those things get the left right action of the brain moving).  I felt guilty that he didn’t have a bike. So I bought him one so that we could go out together.

To cut a long story short, his bike was ‘stolen’ (probably sold), and then he stole my bike from the garage. Still living in cognitive dissonance and forgetting all of the bad, I loved our bike adventures and would later buy two more bikes. One for me, and one for him to use.

From first getting my brand new bike, I couldn’t understand why the tyres would continually go flat. It seemed every single time I used the bike, my tyres would go down after use. Each time I went to the garage to use the bike again, my tyres would be flat. This happened, even if days had passed since venturing out on the bikes, sometimes only one day had passed.  He even changed the tyres and inner tubes. The same thing kept happening.

OUTCOME: I lost faith in the bike, would only go out on the bike with him, where I would be ‘safe’. Each time I thought how great he was, as he would always fix my tyres and blow them up. He was so useful, and so helpful (or so I thought), how would I manage without him?

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE – I thought he was a great guy as he was helping me.

TRUTH – Last summer I moved home. I took my bike from the garage, with the flat tyres, and took it to my new place. Someone blew up the tyres, that was almost a year ago. Guess what? The tyres are still up. Not once have they gone down. You see, he was deliberately letting down the tyres, so that I would be dependent on him, and not have confidence to go on my bike on my own. It worked. I lost confidence in going anywhere on my own. I really did believe that I needed him.

Faux memory: My memory was of us having wonderful bike rides together. How patient he was with me. How helpful and kind he was to continually blow up my bike tyres when they kept repeatedly going down, seemingly after every use.

My memory filtered out that he had stolen one bike from me, and sold two behind my back. Instead, my mind focused on the GOOD, the fun we had on the bikes, and how helpful he was to me. I at one time struggled to think how I could cope without him.

Filtering out the memory of the truth of the bike theft – is cognitive dissonance. I knew it happened. Yet I chose not to remember. Instead (with his help) I would only remember how helpful and useful he was.

Cognitive dissonance can go almost hand in hand with gas lighting. Although sometimes there doesn’t need to be gas lighting. We can just filter out the bad, as it is too painful for us to process. Nobody likes to think that they have been duped or conned. Our brains can naturally filter out what is bad, if we have a comforting truth to hold onto.

Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonding is where you feel connected to somebody, as you have mutually been through a lot of trauma together. This can happen to two individuals who have experienced mutual trauma. Each understands the other. You feel close together, and set apart from the world. Your co-experience of trauma, and mutual understanding and experiences, keep you together. Truth is, the only person that experienced trauma was you. The rest was manufactured by them to keep you captive and controlled in their ivory tower.

Likely other people will not understand the trauma that you have been through. It can be an isolating feeling.

Being around a Sociopath or Psychopath is dramatic. It is dramatic for one reason only BECAUSE THEY DELIBERATELY CREATE DRAMA.

Nobody else understands what you have been through, as you only went through it with that person. This creates a bond. With cognitive dissonance filtering out the horrible truth, and gas lighting further hiding reality from you, making you feel like YOU are the bad and mad one. There is only one conclusion that your mind makes….

The lie you tell yourself 

You know this person was bad. But you had some good times together. Some amazing exciting times. You miss those good times. Your mind further filters out the bad, and instead retains the good, and comforting memories that both the Psychopath and Sociopath are so good at giving.

You feel a close, deep connection to this person. It might even feel spiritual. A connection that perhaps you had not felt with anyone else. So, your mind begins to play tricks again. This is made worse, if you have been left with your life in ruins, and isolated, while seemingly your ex rides off into the sunset to live a brilliant life.

Cognitive dissonance, Gaslighting, trauma bonding are all at play here. Reality, is not. The only real reality, is that you were in a very controlling, abusive relationship.

The truth is. Once you are REALLY free (I mean mentally and psychologically free, not just physically). Once that person is nothing but a long distance memory to you. You wouldn’t ever want to return anyway. Simply because that person represents LOSS. You want growth in your life, not loss. We will begin to work on this in my next post.

 In my next post, I will write about the process that holds you back and keeps you stuck. Yes it is partially our own thinking. Yes, it is partially trauma bonding. But I think that it is far more than that. The truth is, once this person is gone, the only person holding you back – is YOU.

I will write about this further in the next post. Perhaps work through some exercises to do, to bring back your own life.

The next post will be a follow on from this one

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