It is one of the most heartbreaking experience anyone can face. They see their loved one, be it a family member, friend, or coworker, struggling against their mental health. Whether there is a mental health condition like depression, bipolar, borderline, or anxiety; a substance use disorder like addiction or alcoholism; or a behavioral compulsion like sex, internet, gambling, and gaming addiction; they see their loved one suffering. Despite making obvious cases to exemplify, with neon lights, how problematic the struggle is, a loved one just won’t see it. The situation can feel mind-boggling. Why can’t we just change their minds? How can they not see how severe the problem is? What is going on in their heads which prevents them from fully admitting that their lives have become unmanageable and that they are in need of help? It can feel like talking to a wall or speaking in a foreign language. Everything gets lost in translation and there is nothing we can do to change it back.
Leon Festinger developed the psychological theory which explains why it is even the most obvious of indisputable arguments cannot be taken seriously by someone who doesn’t want to see the truth: cognitive dissonance. In recovery we use terms like being unwilling, not having the willingness to get sober, thus we ignore the fact that we should get sober. We also use terms like not “being ready yet” which often refers to the idea that we have to hit “rock bottom” in our lives in order to be abruptly woken up to the reality of our situation. Dissonance is actually a musical term which refers to a lack of harmony among notes, creating noise and sound. Cognitive dissonance is a lack of harmony in the way the mind is working- the various bits and pieces of fact and information simply don’t come together to form a harmonious truth. “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,” Festinger writes in When Prophecy Fails. “Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.”
The real truth is that only your loved one is going to be able to change their own mind about whether or not they believe that they have a problem that necessitates treatment.
You don’t have to give up. LEAD Recovery Center is a multiphase transitional care program encouraging clients to grow through intensive clinical and adventure learning experiences by celebrating accomplishments and challenges. Developing mentorship and leadership skills, our clients develop the life skills they need to thrive in recovery. Call us today for information: 800-380-0012