How We Lie to Ourselves – Free Ebook

A major obstacle to self-knowledge, and in turn to a flourishing life is the tendency of one part of our minds to lie to the other. We lie for what might initially seem like a very understandable reason, because we want to avoid pain. But in so doing, we hugely damage our chances of happiness. There are four things we particularly like to lie to ourselves about. We lie about all the problematic aspects. It would take so much effort to alter our jobs, our relationships, our friendships, our health, our habits, and ideas. We lie because we need to think well of ourselves, and devoted to imagining that we are essentially normal, without peculiar loves, hates, and deviant thoughts. We lie because we don’t want to feel so inadequate. And yet because we lack so many good things. We lie because we’re furious with certain people we’re supposed to love. And we lie because what we furious about feels so minor and pathetically petty for a grown-up to care about. Given how risky the truth about us can feel, we had to learn to be masters of deception. Our techniques are wide-ranging, devilish, and often hugely imaginative. Here are some of the leading maneuvers we employ to pull the wool over our own eyes. Distraction/Addiction We identify something that can powerfully keep our thoughts away from troubling inner confrontations. Online pornography’s a favorite. The news another. Alcohol, a third. Work, a fourth. We don’t so much like these elements in and of themselves. We like them for their ability to keep us away from what we fear. Manic Cheeriness A sadness we haven’t been able to admit to, is often covered up with exaggerated doses of manic cheeriness. We aren’t happy, so much as incapable of allowing ourselves to feel even the slightest sadness. In case we were to be overwhelmed by our buried grief. We develop a brittle insistent tendency to say that, “All is very well”, “This is lovely, isn’t it?” We might press leaving no room for any ideas to the contrary. Irritability Denied anger with a particular personal situation often seeps out into a generalized irritability. So successful is the lie, we don’t really know what’s up. We just keep losing our tempers. Someone moved the TV remote. There are two eggs in the fridge. The electricity bill is slightly higher than we expected. Anything can set us off. Our brains are so filled with how frustrating, annoying things are. We have cleverly left no space at all for focusing on the true and very sad issue. Denigration We tell ourselves that we simply don’t care about something. Love or politics, career success or intellectual life. That beautiful student or the house we can’t afford. And we are very emphatic about our lack of interest and complete disdain. We go to great lengths to make it very clear to others and ourselves how absolutely unconcerned we are. Censoriousness We grow censorious and deeply disapproving of certain kinds of behavior and people. What we don’t admit is that was so full of condemnation, only because we need to ward off awareness that a part of us in fact really likes the condemned element. We attack certain sexual tastes as utterly deviant and beyond the pale, precisely because we have known that we share them, somewhere inside ourselves. So we’re delighted when particular people are arrested or shamed in the press. What they did was utterly awful, we insist are outraged shielding us from any risks spotting the connection between them and us. Defensiveness When there’s unwelcomed news, we may resort to a highly successful diversionary tactic, taking offense. A colleague tries to give us a bit of feedback. Instantly, we accuse them of rudeness, arrogance in a sense of entitlement. A partner points something out. We get furious that they’re piling pressure on us at a difficult point. Feeling offended takes up all our attention. It muddies the waters. We no longer have to pay attention to information that is it heart correct but challenging. Cynicism, Despair We’re sad about particular things. But confronting them would be so arduous, we generalize and universalize the sadness. We don’t say that X or Y has made us sad. We say that everything is rather terrible and everyone is rather awful. We spread the pain, in order that its particular specific causes can no longer be the focus of attention. Our sadness gets, to put it metaphorically, lost in the crowd. Why is lying to ourselves a problem? We need to tell yourself the truth when we can, for the simple reason that we often pay a very high price for the short-term calm of our lies. We miss key opportunities for growth and learning. We’re not very nice to be around. We develop harmful systems. And not least, the truth will be out. When we don’t let it emerge, it has a tendency to reveal itself through involuntary often physical symptoms. We become insomniac or impotent. An eyelid starts twitching. We acquire a stutter, and scream in our sleep and lose energy. We fall into depression. We owe it to ourselves to dare to start to confront our real nature.

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