You may have heard about cognitive dissonance when it comes to attitudes, beliefs, or thoughts.
Cognitive dissonance can occur when you listen to a podcast, and the podcast doesn’t line up with your values or beliefs.
There is a mismatch or inconsistency of your beliefs and what you heard on the podcast, which causes cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance can be uncomfortable because you are holding two opposing thoughts at once.
Dissonance can also occur with your emotions. When you have a mismatch or inconsistency with your emotional state, this is called emotional dissonance.
Emotional dissonance is defined as the feeling experienced when you fake an emotion. There is a lack of harmony between your emotional display and your internal feeling, according to Collins’ Thesaurus.
Examples of emotional dissonance may include saying I love you when you don’t love the person, going through the motions of a relationship with no emotion, acting upbeat when you feel depressed, working in a meat factory while being a vegetarian.
Emotional dissonance can occur at work or in your partnerships and can be harmful to your relationships.
When you are not able to authentically communicate your needs and wants, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
Emotional dissonance may lead to resentment, unnecessary emotional suffering, and even physical health issues.
It can be tempting to please a partner at the expense of yourself, present a performative version of yourself at work, and dismiss negativity all together.
By keeping the peace, you may feel in conflict with yourself.
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This is a sign of emotional dissonance and can be addressed with the help of a therapist.
Toxic positivity can be a common side effect of emotional dissonance because you may be dismissing valid emotions in order to show sympathy.
A toxic relationship at work or home can lead to burnout more quickly because you aren’t able to show up as your true self.
Here are 5 warning signs that you may be experiencing emotional suffering due to emotional dissonance in relationships:
1. You sleep often.
Emotional labor can be exhausting. Sleep is reparative, and when you are going through times of grief or feeling disconnected with your authentic self, sleep can be a tool to escape.
It can also be a warning sign of emotional exhaustion.
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You may need more sleep when you are performative in your behavior. This is a maladaptive way to use a helpful tool.
Rather than blaming yourself, accept that you may need to shift away from a survival trait that has kept you safe in the past.
Sleep may feel restorative, and you can honor that for yourself while working on ways to show up more authentically in your life like allowing yourself to feel emotions as well as talking to a trusted support system.
2. You resent people.
When your unstated expectations don’t match up with someone else’s explicit actions, resentment can occur.
Normally, resentment happens when you have unmet expectations in a relationship.
Relying on someone to read your mind can result in resentment and other challenging emotions.
It can be difficult to state a need with a loved one, a friend, or someone in between, and it may save you from unnecessary emotional dissonance and suffering.
Presume positive intent with the people in your life, and you can be discerning when it comes to the people you prioritize in your interpersonal relationships.
3. Your appetite changes.
Food fluctuations are normal, and if they begin to feel extreme, you may be experiencing emotional dissonance.
Stuffing your feelings with food or experiencing hunger on purpose can both be warning signs that you may not feel like your authentic self.
You may have old tools to solve new problems, and that is okay.
A therapist can help you to navigate difficulty with eating habits.
Body image therapy, anxiety therapy, and depression therapy are all options for you.
4. Frequent Outbursts.
When you are not honoring your true self by feeling emotions that are coming up for you, you may have an outburst.
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You may rage, cry, or begin a shame spiral. Emotional dissonance occurs when there is a mismatch happening, and a way to deal with the difficulty is to fight, flight, or freeze.
This may result in an outburst at work or with your partner.
The safer a person feels the more you may feel comfortable expressing volatile emotions.
Think about how you can honor your emotions in a safe way for yourself and others.
5. You Feel Physically Sick More Often.
When you are constantly feeling two or more opposing emotions and don’t have healthy coping skills developed, you may feel physically sick more often.
This means that you could have a stomachache, headache, increased heart rate, or sweaty palms.
Emotions can show up as physical symptoms when they get stuck in your body. A way to help yourself through an emotion is to feel it.
It may seem simple, and emotions often have bodily responses that are linked to them. You have permission to explore how you feel different emotions in your body.
Emotional dissonance in relationships can occur when you feel multiple emotions and aren’t able to identify them for yourself.
You can improve your mental health when you show up as your authentic self in safe places.
Sometimes, a masked version of yourself exists for protection, and that is okay.
One of the most important parts of emotions is validating them for yourself, and when you aren’t able to do that yet, there are professionals like a therapist who can help you.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC