Gotye, Cognitive Dissonance, and How To Keep The Girl

It’s unusual these days for me to get really enthused over new music but a few weeks ago I caught Gotye on Saturday Night Live singing “Somebody That I Used to Know” and I was intrigued. A little world music vibe, a little bit Sting, a little bit Peter Gabriel, and very cute. So, I got the DVD, played it a few dozen times, saw the video (VERY Peter Gabriel) and he’s got a fan in me. They also play him in every spin class I take so now I associate the song with the agony and ecstasy of that final hill……

The melody of the song is haunting and the lyrics are quite poetic, however, what really caught my attention is the very haunting line… “….you can get addicted to a certain type of sadness…..” It speaks volumes.

We live our lives as life occurs to us and if we believe we’re supposed to be sad, if we understand in a visceral way, that sadness is normal and familiar, it becomes an addiction. We crave it, we bask in it, we seek it and invite it in, all the while deploring it. Feeling light and bright and hopeful is a dessert barely digestible. The theory of cognitive dissonance basically states that there is an emotional equilibrium that we seek to maintain. When a new thought or feeling comes in that is contrary or opposed, it causes a disruption or dissonance that we handle by overriding it with proof that the old way of feeling is really the truth so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable anymore.

Poor Gotye. This girl really might have been the future Mrs. Gotye but his need to be in despair won out. When the relationship hit the rocks and it was over, he sang, “But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over.” Did she ever have a chance with someone who couldn’t allow himself to fathom something more for himself than sadness? And then, when she leaves he objects to how she did it and “I don’t even need your love” and feels victimized. Yes, that’s a pretty sad place to be.

I’ve worked with so many clients whose negative tapes, aka gremlins keep them so stuck in believing that they just can’t get out of their own way to create a new life filled with anticipation and meaning and connection. When you’re addicted to something, you have no control, no choice. The need for the substance (sadness) is a safe, familiar friend who wants nothing more for you or from you. What would life be like if the pull to be sad was replaced with the newness and belief that you’re entitled and capable of a lot more?

Coaching helps individuals recognize the gremlins and gives them tools, encouragement, and motivation to create small, incremental changes. These steady successes drone out the cognitive dissonance and help create new perspectives and real change moving forward.

There’s a lot of energy in dissonance. Try recognizing in your own life when what you always believed to be true gets broad-sided by new information, or people, or experiences, or possibility and how the battle begins. For starters, just the noticing, the awareness, is an opening for change and that energy can be harnessed for good outcomes.

And then, get a coach! If Gotye had, he might still have had the girl!