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ToysoldierXIII

Sansa and Cognitive Dissonance

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Let's preface this with a disclaimer – no one cares about your love or hate for her. There are plenty of threads to beat that dead horse; this is simply an analysis. Second, use strictly direct knowledge. Yes, we know that Tyrion's early kindness was to help Jaime and Garlan's comparison/upselling Tyrion is because Loras is gay, but Sansa does not.


‘All she wanted was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs.’


Naïve? Young and innocent? No. Sansa Stark is the Queen of cognitive dissonance.


CD is when your brain can't reconcile your beliefs with reality (see Mandela effect or Sinbad Shazam for minor examples). It is often a defense mechanism and with someone who has been through as much as Sansa it is needed to not completely break down.


The unkiss and the “I don't know" at Arya’s trial have had plenty of individual analysis so I won't rehash them. Especially since they are merely the tip of the iceberg and frankly pale in comparison to other examples:


“Poor Jon,” she said. “He gets jealous because he's a bastard.”


We've followed Jon, has it every struck you that he was jealous of his siblings?

Go ahead and reach or pretend something happened in the past that would make that true, it doesn't help this:


“She hates that I'm going to marry the prince.” 


Any case you can make for the Jon quote goes out the window here. We absolutely know Arya, could there be anyone LESS likely to be jealous of a royal wedding!?!


“No, no, stop it, stop it, both of you, YOU'RE SPOILING IT”


Emphasis added. A reminder that this line happens after Joff tries to kill Mycah, then Arya tries to kill Joff, and Joff is currently trying to kill Arya. Martin chooses his lines and words carefully – she was more concerned that her date was being ruined than the health and safety of those involved. Follows it up with:


“Look what they did to you"


Not are you okay, what most of us would ask if someone was laying on the ground bleeding from the head. Some of this can be explained in point two (shallow) later on, but the big part of it is that her brain is incapable of understanding death:


‘She had never seen a man die before. She ought to be crying too, she thought, but the tears would not come’


‘Alyn was handsomer than Jory had been…it made Sansa feel ever so proud.’ Reminder that Jory had just been killed trying to save her father's life.


‘In the songs, the knights never screamed nor begged for mercy.’ As her father's bannermen are being hacked to pieces just outside her window.


She basically says it herself when Tyrion asks her if she wants to know how Robb and Cat died – it will give her bad dreams. Easier for her to live in her fantasy world, with her sweet Prince.


“I don't want someone brave and gentle, I want him (Joff)!”


Battered wife is often a form of dissonance. Many times they genuinely believe the lies they tell about their abuser, who can do no wrong in their eyes:


For a split second in Thrones (pb 298) she almost considers blaming Joff for Lady, but quickly shakes it off to blame Arya instead.


Ned tries over and over to make it clear they are in danger and must leave, as he limps around and his men lay dead. Sansa doesn't have a care about that at all, only Joffrey matters (AGOT 478-479). Even going so far as to betray him, we'll get into that later.


She blames Payne (AGOT 742) and Slynt (746) for her father's death, not once does she EVER get Joff any credit for it.


But, but, but…she got better! Did she?


‘Every time Joffrey looked at her, her tummy got so fluttery that she felt as though she swallowed a bat.’


‘At least Joffrey was of sound body.’


These are LONG after he had her father killed, LONG after her hourly beatings at his hands, and yet she still reminisces fondly – never an ill word thought.


I get it I guess, he is supposed to be pretty dreamy. And that is the root of her CD; in her mind pretty will always be good, ugly will always be bad. She is incapable of reconciling that dangerous shallowness:


‘The sight of him (Mycah) was enough to make Sansa feel sick.’


‘He (Joff) was too beautiful to hate.’


Looks down on noble profession of NW because of looks (AGOT 474)


‘Though no proper knight would wear those patched brown breeches and scuffed boots…” About Lothor, who saved her from being raped.


Nowhere is this on display as blatantly as it is with Tyrion vs Littlefinger (Hound too, but as I said there are plenty of threads on that). I've been doing one character at a time re-reads and holy hell do things stand out far more when you see them back to back in minutes rather than broken up by days or weeks of side arcs and real life. Tyrion is UNQUESTIONABLY the greatest, most chivalrous, most kind, flat out hero in her life. By MILES. But with no credit given.


Her first real encounter with him is in Kings, pb pgs 49-51. Tommen and Myrcella adore him, giddy as hell as they rush him to say hi. His first words to Sansa are kindness, followed up with jabs (that could be punishable by death) to her enemy Joff, and capped off with even more kind words for Sansa. This is basically the pattern for all their time together.


Next time he sees her he saves he from the brutal naked beatings and committed more treasons/threats against her enemy. Walks her to safety and showed empathy, understood the tough spot she was in, promised to keep her safe, offered her guards, promised to get her back home, showed empathy for her family despite them currently warring against the throne and kidnapping him, etc.


He (and Hound via actions) was the only one who was worried after the mob attack. (Read preface, we know he was primarily worried about Jaime, she does not).


More kindness (K 812)


At the wedding he tells her he is a victim in it too. He can't change it but does offer her another Lannister of her choosing instead of him, which is above and beyond what 99.999% of the men in this universe would do.


‘Why should I spare his feelings, when no one cares about mine?’ doesn't quite work because one (and only one) person does care about your feelings – the very guy you are screwing over.


Garlan (one of Tyrells she loves so much) sings Tyrion's praises to her. (read preface, she doesn't know Loras would only take her from behind)


He spares her from the embarrassment of the group bedding and puts his life on the line for her yet again to protect her from Joff.


No pressure, everything in his power to keep her calm, doesn't force (don't poo-poo that fact in this universe, it does deserve credit), and says he'll wait as long as she wants. Even never.


And she responds to that kindness by betraying him and putting both their lives in jeopardy by telling people they hadn't fucked.


He started wearing PJs for her, perfect gentleman always. Wants to learn more about her, asks her how her days are, wants to learn about her religion, reminds her to dress warm when it is chilly, gives her absolute freedom, gets her out of the castle and away from her enemies, etc.


Page after page after page is kindness like she has never seen (Storm 712, 808, 812, 813, 821, 828). Seriously do a character read and patterns like this get very noticeable.


Caps it off with the fourth treason vs her enemy, like three pages worth of tearing into Joff.


Not a seconds thought or care about his arrest. Worse – ‘“Widowhood will become you, Sansa.” The thought made her tummy flutter. She might never need to share a bed with Tyrion again.’ Yes, the greatest person in her life and she is beyond happy he is about to die. Contrast that with LF:


He organized the Joff murder…and her blame for it – he is why she will die immediately if anyone finds out who she is. He is also very clear that he was just playing the game.


Rape-y kiss here, rape-y kiss there.


Lysa spills all the beans before her death. Sansa now knows LF is behind basically everything shitty that has happened to her and her entire family. 


And more rape-y kisses.


Tells her some of his long-term goals and that he is pretty much using her for her claim to Winterfell.


Yet, ‘No true friend but Petyr.’ Yikes. 

Have you come around? Good. The reason I bring I up is because I believe it will come into play again, in a major way. I didn't mention her betrayal in the body here but *puts on tinfoil hat* what if it was intentional?


‘It (Ned) upset her more than she could tell.’


‘but she (Lady) was dead, father had killed her' 


I don't say intentional meaning evil, but in her damaged mind Dad = bad guy, Joff = good guy. Arya also fell under bad guy to her after the Joff incident and Sansa betrays her too. Tyrion = bad guy to her, yup you guessed it - betrayal.

And that makes me wonder who the next “bad guy" will be standing against her LF “good guy.” I don't watch the show but seeing Sophie Turner saying Sansa will be betraying Jon fits in quite nicely as a next (later) step in the books as well. Sansa haters shouldn't blame her when it happens, she cannot help it. Sansa lovers need to accept that she is an unwittingly dangerous foil to the “heroes" of this story.
 

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We know Sansa is young and shallow as she matures. She is what men in that world want, or think they do. She is also a stand in for the conventional norms, meaning her agency is limited, and her efforts are disastrous in a way she could not anticipate and was not trained to deal with. Arya is an interesting contrast for her, because Arya is being trained to read lies, while Sansa has been lying from the get go.

Thanks for pointing out her problems with cognitive dissonance. I live in the United States right now, so I can say it’s not unusual.

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This format is hard to follow as a lot of the quotes aren't recognizable and not sourced. And are you only examining early Sansa? You say she doesn't think/do certain things, but a lot of the text conflicts with some of your claims.

Sansa does have significant problems with real world vs imaginary world and she does freeze up when they conflict, but your not giving the whole story and the presentation makes it difficult to discuss.

And if Sophie Turner said the sky was blue and the grass was green, I'd go outside to double check. Not worth paying attention to at all about anything.

 

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3 minutes ago, HoodedCrow said:

I live in the United States right now, so I can say it’s not unusual.

Exactly why I noticed it!!!

Common in our real lives (especially if you've ever helped battered women or even just spoken to a millennial woman) but rare to see in fiction without turning extreme or cartoony.

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2 minutes ago, HoodedCrow said:

Thanks for pointing out her problems with cognitive dissonance. I live in the United States right now, so I can say it’s not unusual.

I didn't realize it until you said it. Explains a lot.

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5 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

Sansa does have significant problems with real world vs imaginary world and she does freeze up when they conflict,

That's really all I'm pointing out, just with way more words. Just a bit of a psychoanalysis since CD is a pretty rare occurrence in fiction and cool to see. Stuff like narcissism and sociopaths are easy but this is trickier.

No real point though I suppose. I guess we could discuss if she will get better (super rare irl) or will it creep up again?

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Personally I think it would've been a much more interesting story arc if Sansa had thrown in fully with the Lannisters with Sansa living in her imaginary world whilst ignoring the real one. She seemed to be going that way in the first novel, which is why she gave a terrible first impression to a lot of people, myself included. However the combined cruelty of Joffrey and Cersei pretty much slapped her out of it. 

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Just now, ToysoldierXIII said:

That's really all I'm pointing out, just with way more words. Just a bit of a psychoanalysis since CD is a pretty rare occurrence in fiction and cool to see. Stuff like narcissism and sociopaths are easy but this is trickier.

No real point though I suppose. I guess we could discuss if she will get better (super rare irl) or will it creep up again?

I think she does get better, but I think new forms pop up, too. Part of it is from her lack of agency. She knows LF is "no friend of hers" but she can't do anything about that so she doesn't fully process the implications of that. Quite a few characters get this treatment where they can't do something about whatever, so they brush it off and pretend it's not there, tell themselves it's not important, or that it's not as dangerous as it really is.

One thing I'd like to point out is that Sansa's cognitive dissonance isn't complete, or rather it oscillates. She keeps making excuses for Joff, but at the same time she goes through phases where he's ugly (fish lips) and if not for the Hound, she'd have killed Joff (and herself).

In some ways, it has gotten better: she fantasizes about the Hound, thinks she'd rather stay married to Tyrion, and distrusts Harry (compares him to Joff). She's also gone method in AFFC/TWOW which is maybe another form of cognitive dissonance?

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21 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

I think she does get better, but I think new forms pop up, too. Part of it is from her lack of agency. She knows LF is "no friend of hers" but she can't do anything about that so she doesn't fully process the implications of that. Quite a few characters get this treatment where they can't do something about whatever, so they brush it off and pretend it's not there, tell themselves it's not important, or that it's not as dangerous as it really is.

One thing I'd like to point out is that Sansa's cognitive dissonance isn't complete, or rather it oscillates. She keeps making excuses for Joff, but at the same time she goes through phases where he's ugly (fish lips) and if not for the Hound, she'd have killed Joff (and herself).

In some ways, it has gotten better: she fantasizes about the Hound, thinks she'd rather stay married to Tyrion, and distrusts Harry (compares him to Joff). She's also gone method in AFFC/TWOW which is maybe another form of cognitive dissonance?

Agreed, all parts.

The Alayne persona is an interesting thing I never considered and yes, it can absolutely become her reality. I'll have to re-read the sample with this in mind actually since prior to it she was pretty good at reminding herself often that she is Sansa - the key to not letting it take you over. 

My worry is with all the new Vale arcs popping up she will be kept in her background pawn status for quite a while longer and we may never see a payoff/capstone of it.

Edited by ToysoldierXIII

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1 hour ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

“Poor Jon,” she said. “He gets jealous because he's a bastard.”

We've followed Jon, has it every struck you that he was jealous of his siblings?

“She hates that I'm going to marry the prince.” 

Any case you can make for the Jon quote goes out the window here. We absolutely know Arya, could there be anyone LESS likely to be jealous of a royal wedding!?!

I guess if Sansa had been allowed to read the books and witness the internal dialogue of Jon and if Arya, then she would would understand them as we do. Sadly, she hasn't been able to read them. I suggest that you beware of making judgments of characters who are not privy to the same information that we are.

 

1 hour ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

Not are you okay, what most of us would ask if someone was laying on the ground bleeding from the head. Some of this can be explained in point two (shallow) later on, but the big part of it is that her brain is incapable of understanding death:

‘She had never seen a man die before. She ought to be crying too, she thought, but the tears would not come’

How many 11-year-olds are capable of understanding death? It says right there in the quote that she had never seen a man die before. How could she possibly understand it, then?

There are lots of things that childish and adolescent brains simply cannot understand and it isn't because of cognitive dissonance. It's because the neural pathways and wiring takes a significant amount of time to complete.

I think your characterization of Sansa is very one-sided.

 

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4 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

Poor Jon,” she said. “He gets jealous because he's a bastard.”

Joffrey was subject at that moment.

 

4 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

She blames Payne (AGOT 742) and Slynt (746) for her father's death, not once does she EVER get Joff any credit for it.

She said Joff in face "I hate you"

 

4 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

fluttery that she felt as though she swallowed a bat.’

She was disgusted by him.

[offensive comment deleted]

Edited by Stubby
Offensive comment deleted.

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Well, can we agree that Sansa has many moments of cognitive dissonance, and sometimes she does get what’s going on, and she’s a very confused early teen, with limited options.

i have to pity a preteen who is expecting an arranged marriage, is probably over the moon that she is going to marry a good looking guy, a prince, and go off to be a future queen in the big smoke. With that kind of crush going on, it’s not hard to understand that it takes her a while and serious tragedies to find the holes in that plan.

She can’t be expected not to like the dashing Loras, and likely doesn’t have a clue about sexual orientation.

Tyrion was forced on her while she was a hostage and grieving..not conducive to appreciating his good qualities.

It took time, but she caught on to The Hound. It takes the reader time, as well!

Cant see Sansa really wanting to be with the Great Jon, or one of her Dads worthy vassals, or yearning to be the next Lady Frey.

I suppose Catelyn should have tried to teach her some savvy, or about Ned vs Brandon, but Sansa was young. People get on Lyanna for trying to get out of a bad marriage. Sansa was expected to fall in line. Can you imagine the Starks turning Joff down? King Robert would have had a meltdown and Cersei... Brrr. Joff might have sent an assassin.

 

 

 

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Thanks!     Alone, these moments are headshakers you then forget, or you file under, 'She's a brat, and that's that.'    Or 'this is how a young mind deals with trauma.'    A look at the full pattern, though!   Wow.   The real disturbing pattern you pointed out is the lack of empathy for all the non- princesses suffering around her.   

 We should hedge a lil bit by remembering Sansa's unique case of being a huge Barbie Girl who has the real life doll house dream within reach.  So that's all-consuming and real instead of the delusional playtime problem you'd usually snap someone out of by pointing out how they're not really a princess.  ....well Sansa sorta is. 

Playing princess has always been her over- indulged lifestyle, and has retarded her emotional growth, BUT it worked out so well for her, to the extent she won the lottery and got the actual gig!  Barbie reinforcement, to the max.  So when that dream is threatened,  not surprisingly she doubles down on the dream, taking things right into delusional territory rather than sell out to a reality that doesn't include a throne.   Dissonance fits. 

From her perspective we're asking her to grow up by defying a prince/king.  why would turning traitor to the crown ever be the 'grown- up' path? she'd wonder,  Daddy taught me that was the worst.  Being queen is a better way to grow up than any alternative you could present her with.  So she's holding on to the dream in an irresponsible way, which is what the average young brain does.  It holds on to irresponsible actions while building a case against the parents that consists of "you guys are dumb!"   The average youth just doesn't have the opportunity to apply their poor judgment to a nation state. 

 ...A neighbor kid well into middle school could be heard tantrum screaming like a person in real deadly panic at her parents , always sparked over everyday arguments of small consequence.   Why hold on to that behavior after you'd expect someone to grow out of it?   Insistence on her reality.  And sounding the fire alarm every time outside reality intruded.   Unhealthy coping.

Ha.  What if the moment comes for Alayne to reveal she's Sansa Stark, and she's like, "what? I'm Alayne!  You guys are nuts!"

I do get the feeling that she won't repeat mistakes of betrayal, though.  Maybe some all new mistakes , but the KL lesson seems learned.

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From the perspective of a teacher, I would add that cognitive dissonance isn't a disorder or necessarily permanent. We've all felt it. Whenever you learn something new that contradicts wut something you already know, that uncomfortable feeling is cognitive dissonance. We've seen Sansa experience this with Joffrey: her preconceived notions eventually gave way to her certainty that he was a monster. But this took a long time; she struggled to let go of her ideals. I'm not sure she has entirely. 

I don't get the sense that she idolized Petyr the same way. That doesn't mean her bs detector is working at full strength, but it would be reading something into to the text to say she's doing the same thing with Little finger as she did with her father and joffrey in kings landing. 

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5 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

Agreed, all parts.

The Alayne persona is an interesting thing I never considered and yes, it can absolutely become her reality. I'll have to re-read the sample with this in mind actually since prior to it she was pretty good at reminding herself often that she is Sansa - the key to not letting it take you over. 

My worry is with all the new Vale arcs popping up she will be kept in her background pawn status for quite a while longer and we may never see a payoff/capstone of it.

I have a different take on Alayne and also Arya's faces. Septa Mordane drilled into the girls the perfect Southern Lady thing. Sansa wholly accepted and Arya wholly rejected. Except no one fits so cleanly into social roles which means both girls repressed parts of their personality to conform/rebel. I think Alayne and Arya's faces allow the repressed parts of their personalities to rise to the surface.

TWOW Alayne Spoilers

Spoiler

"Now, a dog can herd a flock of sheep," the King-Beyond-the-Wall had said, "but free folk, well, some are shadowcats and some are stones. One kind prowls where they please and will tear your dogs to pieces. The other will not move at all unless you kick them."

My feeling is that Sansa is a Stone about to get a major kick to the backside and she'll have to make some tough decisions. Don't really have a feel for things beyond that.

 

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Meh IMO a good portion of the blame for how Sansa saw the world and acted in the first book is because of how Cat, Mordane and even Ned raised her in Winterfell. That southern princes, princess, highborn lord, ladies and knights were all honorable, chivalrous  and good by nature. That if a bastard Jon Snow wasn't that bad then all others would surly be even nicer and better people. Ned and Cat knew this wasn't true but let her believe it anyway.

They basically through her to a pack of vipers while having her believe life was a fairy tale  

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I do have an idea on this topic, but this is a hate thread, isn't it?

Quote

Naïve? Young and innocent? No

Why the hell not?

Quote

The unkiss and the “I don't know" at Arya’s trial have had plenty of individual analysis so I won't rehash them.

Constantly debated, and honestly, the insanity argument appears in the minority.

13 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

“Poor Jon,” she said. “He gets jealous because he's a bastard.”


We've followed Jon, has it every struck you that he was jealous of his siblings?

He does. Of course he does! He has a crisis because he doesn't get to sit at dinner close to the king and queen of Westeros. He's enraged when Robb reminds him that he can't be Lord of Winterfell. There's a whole theme running on Jon wanting to surpass Robb.

13 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

“She hates that I'm going to marry the prince.” 

She absolutely does. She hates Joff; she doesn't want Sansa to marry him.

13 hours ago, ToysoldierXIII said:

“No, no, stop it, stop it, both of you, YOU'RE SPOILING IT” ...
“Look what they did to you"

You genuinely consider these a sign of cognitive dissonance? I don't think so.

And so on. What's the point?

Edited by Springwatch
Problems with quoting

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1 hour ago, Springwatch said:

I do have an idea on this topic, but this is a hate thread, isn't it?

Why the hell not?

Constantly debated, and honestly, the insanity argument appears in the minority.

He does. Of course he does! He has a crisis because he doesn't get to sit at dinner close to the king and queen of Westeros. He's enraged when Robb reminds him that he can't be Lord of Winterfell. There's a whole theme running on Jon wanting to surpass Robb.

She absolutely does. She hates Joff; she doesn't want Sansa to marry him.

You genuinely consider these a sign of cognitive dissonance? I don't think so.

And so on. What's the point?

Agreed with all of this. Sansa is out of touch with reality in AGOT but not psychotically so....in the same way any preteen raised in a sheltered and privileged environment could be. I also agree that a lot of Sansa's statements in GOT after moving South reveal her childish selfishness. (Not hating: she is a child!) Not necessarily unusual in a preteen. 

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Santa's mindset at the beginning of GOT:

"Sansa already looked her best. She had brushed out her long auburn hair until it shone, and picked her nicest blue silks. She had been looking forward to today for more than a week. It was a great honor to ride with the queen, and besides, Prince Joffrey might be there. Her betrothed. Just thinking it made her feel a strange fluttering inside, even though they were not to marry for years and years. Sansa did not really know Joffrey yet, but she was already in love with him. He was all she ever dreamt her prince should be, tall and handsome and strong, with hair like gold. She treasured every chance to spend time with him, few as they were."

Anyone who has known a young teenage girl knows that this is very believable. I hear young, annoying, middle school Bitterblooms in her voice. 

She recognizes when things are not what she wants when it's already something she's familiar with, like Arya: 

"She was almost in tears. All she wanted was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs." (context: she was upset that Arya wouldn't ride in the wheelhouse)

 

 

 

****arg, crying toddler!! I'll try to come back to finish this in a couple of hours at work. My plan is to show that she DOES eventually reconcile the dissonance and reach equilibrium.****

 

 

edited to add:

Wow that addition never happened! Today was one of those days, sorry.

Edited by Bitterblooms

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