Reframing My Cognitive Dissonance by Using Psychodynamic Theory

Updated on October 24, 2019
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Finnegan is interested in social issues, finding new places to travel to and enjoys writing


As a social worker, one must be aware of issues that come up during a client interview and I find myself citing a situation that involved one of the more serious transgressions that a social worker could commit. Countertransference. At least that is what I think it is. I find myself questioning how I could let this happen to me. How I could let my emotions get the better of me, from a situation that was really nothing. Particularly when the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics specially states that you are not to be influenced by your emotions and you are supposed to advocate for members of vulnerable populations, not retaliate or wish them any ill will.

I attempted to examine my Person In Environment and sought out the wisdom of systems theory when this event happened. And I discovered only that the Sun was in Capricorn and that moon was either waxing or waning - because that is what the moon does. It certain would have alleviated my anxiety were I able to attribute this unsettling feeling that I found myself experiencing, to forces of an astrological nature because that would have made more sense. Even though I do not really care for any of that zodiac flotsam.

All of this happened because of a response to a closed question I asked an eleven-year-old girl during an attempted process recording interview.

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All of this happened because of a response to a closed question I asked an eleven-year-old girl during an attempted process recording interview.

Me: “So, tell me what are you going to do this summer?”

Her: “Go to Camp blah blah blah” (she did not really say blah blah blah. I just did not understand her).

Me: “Camp blah…?”

Her: “No…”

Me: “Oh. That sounds fun!”

Her: “No, it’s boring.”

Me: “Camp is boring?”

Her: “No.” and then she made a hissing sound.

I realized after a longer than necessary delay that she wasn’t talking about camp. Is this what they call a Freudian slip I wondered? My feelings were hurt for a nanosecond and a half after which I used some reframing techniques in order to clarify the cognitive dissonance, which I suddenly discovered was filling my brain.

At the same time, I found it a bit interesting how she expressed herself rather bluntly and managed to tell me off so she could continue the use of her I pad.

A Little Kid Again

And then I found myself suddenly regressing into that kid in the fourth seat back, in the right hand row by the bulletin board with the larger than life map of the United States on it; the water fountain behind me; the flag sticking out of the wall above the door at the front of the row. I am tapping my foot to some imaginary program with a soundtrack that I composed myself in my head.

The teacher was calling my name. But I didn’t hear. Not at first. This was all because I was exercising my daydreaming skills, which at 8 years old, were well pass the Eriksonian and Piagetesque stages of development. Although at that time, I wasn’t aware any stages concerning the cognitive capacities of the 8 year old.

And even as I write this, I am not sure if Eriksonian and Piagetesuqe are the correct adjectives.

In short, I was embarrassed. And I paused and turned around. I could feel the warm sensations in my head and the slightly bitter herbal taste that fills my mouth when I feel like people are staring at me for some social faux pas I engaged in, unaware.

This little girl had basically told me to jump in a lake in using her own, creative colloquialisms. Myself, I do not think I could have inserted a direct message to someone in that way. I didn’t have the imagination, I certainly didn’t have the intestinal fortitude, and I am the sort of person who would gain negative feedback from the community were I to speak to someone in that way.

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Getting to the Root of the Problem

In short, I was insulted and the numerous double standards I found myself in were confusing. Then I remembered the Code of Ethics from the NASW which we all live by. And then thankfully I thought about countertransference. I was not even sure whether this was an accurate diagnosis. I also considered what they say about lawyers and wondered if this were applicable to Social Workers or anyone else in the psychological oriented profession: “Any lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client”.

But back to Freud.

It hit me like the mothering morning flower and a shovel full of almost Lego-type bricks – not quite sure, where that came from! I realized that to these kids, I am another nosy adult, with a clipboard and pencil (I actually carry a notepad) who asks the same questions over and over. While I am certainly not there to entertain anyone, I could make an effort to be more engaging.

I looked through the social work toolbox and considered some object relations and psychodynamic theories. I looked back to my childhood again; past the classroom with the overbearing teacher who caught me daydreaming and went back to one of the most essential relationships that anyone individual can have – the family. Family systems, PIE, all these dynamics play a part in our development. And before I digress too much, let me get to the point: I have mommy and daddy issues.

My parents were not really very amusing and didn’t like to joke around too much, particularly when it came to dealing with children. They were quite serious. While my friends at school were watching Happy Days and Jaws on Television; in my household we had on Lawrence Welk. I had friends who talked about going to the ballpark with their dad on Sunday. I was going to church and taking violin lessons.

My parents were very serious and straightforward when relating to me. They didn’t mince words, beat around the bush, or come at me sideways. When they spoke to kids, when it wasn’t a lecture, it was always flat and lacked any sense of color.

In short, they were boring.

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This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        5 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        I enjoyed this interesting piece very much. I guess I'm too tender-hearted for the guidelines set up for a social worker. I can understand why it's necessary not to get involved but I'm afraid I would to a degree. Thanks for this article.


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