Cognitive Dissonance in Family Relationships

Blackbackground with a small boy hiding his face to the far right. Words that have been said to him by parents are written in white. They are negative and hateful, and surround the larger phrase of "Of course I love you!"

Childhood adversity manifests in many ways from family trials and challenges to emotional dysregulation of parents and conflicting messages given out of frustration.

When a child doesn’t get what he or she needs from nurturing, safety, and supportive encouragement, it creates a deep pain and scars their identity.

These doubts and struggles create confusion and cognitive dissonance in how a person remembers their childhood and their personal identity.

Being told “Of course we love you” but experiencing behaviors that don’t confirm that love, creates cognitive dissonance which the child internalizes as their problem.

Being told that you are loved, and hearing negative feedback in greater quantities than positive feedback, leads a child to question their worth, and their right to be loved, cared for, and cherished.

The child assumes and trusts that they are loved and a part of the family, but doesn’t feel that love, and when compared to other siblings, feels worthless and will have no self-confidence. This will lead to destructive behaviors as children acting out but not knowing how to express their frustrations, or teens who engage in self-destructive behaviors.

As adults, they will attract other people around them who will confirm what they believe about themselves in worth, whether they are people who feel the same, or people who will abuse in the same manner as the family culture in which the person was raised.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi


Cognitive dissonance is believing two opposing beliefs at the same time. This creates disconnection and confusion. The person will struggle with feeling pulled in two different directions until they finally decide which belief to embrace, just to experience peace. Unfortunately “peace” may be resignation, and not peace. The deep-seated fear of punishment for what they truly need is present and that program is running in their subconscious.

A woman is holding two masks in each of her hands. The masks are of her face, each with a different expression. She is frustrated as she looks at one of them.

One of the most common behaviors of every human on Earth is the natural tendency to set expectations of others and events. Before lovers marry, they imagine what life will be like for them and hope the other will fill the voids in their hearts. The same is true when they discover that a much-desired baby is coming. The baby is born into a family with pre-conceived expectations looming over their head. 

If the baby has a personality type, or special needs that are unexpected from the parents, they face a challenge in being heard, seen, and loved for who they are, not what they require from the parents. The result is that the parents love the baby because it is a part of them both, but they may not like, or understand the unique needs of a personality type that is not like them.

The parents end up with a love/hate relationship they are unsure of navigating and a child that will receive conflicting messages as they grow and experience personality and behavior clashes.

How a Life Coach Helps

A professional Life Coach is trained to listen deeply while identifying underlying beliefs and biases that hinder a client’s desired progress.

Many people say what is on their mind without realizing how revealing their words are. A coach will hear these beliefs as well as observe repeating patterns of behaviors that may be causing self-sabotage or mental and/or emotional blockages.

By asking questions that are beneficial to self-discovery, together progress can be made each step of the way resulting in progress and growth. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.