(My old psych professor might tell me this isn’t quite the exact interpretation of the phenomenon, but hey, it’s close enough for a blog.)
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.
In other words, it’s when something doesn’t jive. I’m having major cognitive dissonance because my head and my body are telling me two different things. My worst fear is that my body will win.
In my head I’m still strong, still an athlete, still the woman that can strap a 30lb dumbbell around her waist and knock out a chin-up with (relative) ease. The mirror tells me that too — I look fit and strong, and the stress-and-pain induced weight loss means I look leaner and harder than ever, and even the honest-to-god six pack I always wanted is showing up, no doubt about it.
But my body tells a different story. It moves gingerly, constantly poised to react to pain. It doesn’t bend or move with freedom or agility. It requires assistance with everything from tying shoes to getting out of bed. It’s a betrayal to the athlete my mind knows I am.
A house divided can’t stand, as we all know, and these two opposing beliefs can’t continue to fight. One has to win out, to crush the other, according to the theory of cognitive dissonance. It’s a fierce battle to be sure. My mind helps me to brace myself as I’m getting ready to do something I know is painful, just like it used to help me get ready to go under a heavy weight. And my mind wins then. Then out of nowhere, I’ll just be walking into another room or even simply lying down and a lightning bolt of pain so severe I collapse or scream strikes and then this new, traitorous body has won.
I made my body strong through my training, but I have to remember it was my mind that allowed me to do everything I did. Lifting convinced me I was fearless but it’s harder and harder to hold on to that thought when I fear getting out of bed in the morning or rolling over at night. But I will not let that take over. I can’t let this temporarily debilitated body become who I really am. I am not that scared, whimpering victim. I kicked ass at the first sport I ever tried, and now it’s time to kick ass mentally. And just like nobody could move that weight but me, nobody can win this fight for me. I have to do it. So I will just do it.