About Adoptee Rage

Statistics Identify large populations of Adoptees in prisons, mental hospitals and committed suicide.
Fifty years of scientific studies on child adoption resulting in psychological harm to the child and
poor outcomes for a child's future.
Medical and psychological attempts to heal the broken bonds of adoption, promote reunions of biological parents and adult children. The other half of attempting to repair a severed Identity is counselling therapy to rebuild the self.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cognitive Dissonance Emotional Conflict and Ambivalence in Adopted Children and Adult Adoptees

Adoptee Rage!

Cognitive Dissonance, Emotional Conflict and Ambivalence in Adopted Children and Adult Adoptees

Cognitive Dissonance

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. As in a five year old child being told by his parents that he is adopted.
 Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals tend to become psychologically uncomfortable and they are motivated to attempt to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoiding situations and information which are likely to increase it.

Relationship between cognitions

Individuals can adjust their attitudes or actions in various ways. Adjustments result in one of three relationships between two cognitions or between a cognition and a behavior.
Consonant relationship – Two cognitions/actions that are consistent with one another (e.g., not wanting to get intoxicated while out, then ordering water instead of alcohol)
Irrelevant relationship – Two cognitions/actions that are unrelated to one another (e.g., not wanting to get intoxicated while out, then tying your shoes)
Dissonant relationship – Two cognitions/actions that are inconsistent with one another (e.g., not wanting to get intoxicated while out, then consuming six tequila shots)

Magnitude of dissonance

The amount of dissonance produced by two conflicting cognitions or actions (as well as the subsequent psychological distress) depends on two factors:
  1. The importance of cognitions: The more elements that are personally valued, the greater the magnitude of the dissonant relationship will be.
  2. Ratio of cognitions: The proportion of dissonant to consonant elements
The pressure to reduce cognitive dissonance is a function of the magnitude of said dissonance.


Cognitive dissonance theory is founded on the assumption that individuals seek consistency between their expectations and their reality. Because of this, people engage in a process called dissonance reduction to bring their cognitions and actions in line with one another. This creation of uniformity allows for a lessening of psychological tension and distress. According to Festinger, dissonance reduction can be achieved in four ways. In an example case where a person has adopted the attitude that they will no longer eat high fat food, but is eating a high-fat doughnut, the four methods of reduction would be:
  1. Change behavior or cognition ("I will not eat any more of this doughnut")
  2. Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition ("I'm allowed to cheat every once in a while")
  3. Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions ("I'll spend 30 extra minutes at the gym to work this off")
  4. Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs ("This doughnut is not high fat")

Theory and research

Most of the research on cognitive dissonance takes the form of one of four major paradigms. Important research generated by the theory has been concerned with the consequences of exposure to information inconsistent with a prior belief, what happens after individuals act in ways that are inconsistent with their prior attitudes, what happens after individuals make decisions, and the effects of effort expenditure. Researchers James Wessgert and Elliot Aronson theorized that those who have heavily invested in a position will go to greater lengths to justify their position.

Belief disconfirmation paradigm

Dissonance is felt when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one's belief, the dissonance can result in restoring consonance through misperception, rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others.

Induced-compliance paradigm

In Festinger and Carlsmith's classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to spend an hour on boring and tedious tasks (e.g., turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. Once the subjects had done this, the experimenters asked some of them to do a simple favour. They were asked to talk to another subject (actually an actor) and persuade the impostor that the tasks were interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 (equivalent to $162 in present day terms) for this favour, another group was paid $1 (equivalent to $8 in present day terms), and a control group was not asked to perform the favour. 


Research and understanding of cognitive dissonance in consumers reveals potential for developing marketing practices. Existing literature suggests that three main conditions exist for arousal of dissonance in purchases: the decision involved in the purchase must be important, such as involvement of a lot of money or psychological cost and be personally relevant to the consumer, the consumer has freedom in selecting among the alternatives, and finally, the decision involvement must be irreversible.
A study performed by Lindsay Mallikin shows that when consumers experience an unexpected price encounter, they adopt three methods to reduce dissonance: Consumers may employ a strategy of constant information, they may have a change in attitude, or they may engage in trivialation. Consumers employ the strategy of constant information by engaging in bias and searching for information that will support their prior beliefs. Consumers might search for information about other retailers and substitute products consistent with their belief states. Alternatively, consumers may show change in attitude such as reevaluating price in relation to external reference prices or associating high or low prices with quality. Lastly, trivialization may occur and the importance of the elements of the dissonant relationship is reduced; consumers tend to trivialize importance of money, and thus of shopping around, saving, and receiving a better deal.
Cognitive dissonance is also useful to explain and manage post-purchase concerns. If a consumer feels that an alternate purchase would have been better, it is likely he/she will not buy the product again. To counter this, marketers have to convince buyers constantly that the product satisfies their need and thereby helps reduce their cognitive dissonance, ensuring repurchase of the same brand in the future.
At times cognitive resonance is induced, rather than resolved, to market products. The Hallmark Cards tag line "When you care enough to send the very best" is an example of a marketing strategy that creates guilt in the buyer if he or she goes for a less expensive card. Such aggressive marketing ensures that the recipient also is aware that the product has a premium price. This encourages the consumer to buy the expensive cards on special occasions.

Emotional conflict

Emotional conflict is the presence of different and opposing emotions relating to a situation that has recently taken place or is in the process of being unfolded. They may be accompanied at times by a physical discomfort, especially when 'a functional disturbance has become associated with an emotional conflict in childhood', and in particular by tension headaches 'expressing a state of inner tension...[or] caused by an unconscious conflict'.
For C. G. Jung "emotional conflicts and the intervention of the unconscious are the classical features of...medical psychology Equally, 'Freud's concept of emotional conflict as amplified by Anna freud...Erickson and others is central in contemporary theories of mental disorder in children, particularly with respect to the development of psychoneurosis.

In childhood development

'The early stages of emotional development are full of potential conflict and disruption'. Infancy and childhood are a time when 'everything is polarised into extremes of love and hate' and when 'totally opposite, extreme feelings about them must be getting put together too. Which must be pretty confusing and painful. It's very difficult to discover you hate someone you love'. Development involves integrating such primitive emotional conflicts, so that 'in the process of integration, impulses to attack and destroy, and impulses to give and share are related, the one lessening the effect of the other', until the point is reached at which 'the child may have made a satisfactory fusion of the idea of destroying the object with the fact of loving the same object'.
Once such primitive relations to the mother[er] have been at least partially resolved, 'in the age period two to five or seven, each normal infant is experiencing the most intense conflicts' relating to wider relationships: 'ideas of love are followed by ideas of hate, by jealousy and painful emotional conflict and by personal suffering; and where conflict is too great there follows loss of full capacity, inhibitions...symptom formation'.


Defenses against emotional conflict include 'splitting and projection. They deal with intrapsychic conflict not by addressing it, but by sidestepping it'. Displacement too can help resolve such conflicts: 'If an individual no longer feels threatened by his father but by a horse, he can avoid hating his father; here the distortion way a way out of the conflict of ambivalence. The father, who had been hated and loved simultaneously, is loved only, and the hatred is displaced onto the bad horse'.

Physical symptoms

Inner emotional conflicts can result in physical discomfort or pain often in the form of tension headaches, which can be episodic or chronic, and may last from a few minutes or hours, to days - associated pain being mild, moderate, or severe.
'The physiology of nervous headaches still presents many unsolved problems', as in general do all such 'physical alterations...rooted in unconscious instinctual conflicts'. However physical discomfort or pain without apparent cause may be the way our body is telling us of an underlying emotional turmoil and anxiety triggered by some recent event. Thus for example a woman 'may be busy in her office, apparently in good health and spirits. A moment later she develops a blinding headache and shows other signs of distress. Without consciously noticing it, she has heard the foghorn of a distant ship, and this has unconsciously reminded her of an unhappy parting'.
While it is not easy, by relaxing, calming down, and trying to become aware of what recent experience or event could have been the cause of the inner conflict, and then rationally looking at and dealing with the conflicting desires and needs, a gradual dissipation and relief of the pain may be possible.



Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components. The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness.
Although attitudes tend to guide attitude-relevant behavior, those held with ambivalence tend to do so to a lesser extent. The less certain an individual is in their attitude, the more impressionable it becomes, hence making future actions less predictable and/or less decisive. Ambivalent attitudes are also more susceptible to transient information (e.g., mood), which can result in a more malleable evaluation. However, since ambivalent people think more about attitude-relevant information, they also tend to be more persuaded by (compelling) attitude relevant information than less ambivalent people.
Ambivalence is experienced as psychologically unpleasant when the positive and negative aspects of a subject are both present in a person's mind at the same time. This state can lead to avoidance, procrastination or to deliberate attempts to resolve the ambivalence. People experience the greatest discomfort from their ambivalence at the time when the situation requires a decision to be made. People are aware of their ambivalence to varying degrees, so the effects of an ambivalent state vary across individuals and situations. For this reason, researchers have considered two forms of ambivalence, only one of which is subjectively experienced as a state of conflict