We spend a lot of our lives lying to someone very close to home: ourselves. We lie because so many of the things we feel are humiliating, challenging, strange and unflattering. We don’t just forget to aknowledge our feelings One part of the mind actively shields the other from uncomfortable truths, but the cost of our denial is high because emotions that have not been properly confronted lead to a psychological impoverishment, brittleness, rage and deceit. it is deeply uncomfortable to want something that one can’t have. So, a standard form of denial is to reinvent how much one ever really wanted the elusive element in the first place. We reevaluate what a thing means to us, it might be a job, a holiday or a person. When it becomes clear it can never be ours it takes exceptional maturity to hold onto the idea that something might be at once precious and yet forever, and maddeningly, out of reach. Perhaps you were 14 and entering a new class, when you noticed an extraordinary new student, taller than you, with grey green eyes, thick auburn hair and an intelligent wry smile. They were one of the most charming people you’d ever encountered and also utterly beyond you. You were pimply and immature, you couldn’t do sports, you weren’t great at languages. Of course, you might have tried to become their friend, you might have shed jokes and chitchat, but this kind of compromise would have hurt too much. So, to reduce the pain, you became nasty, you started to hate the person you liked, you sought to spoil because you could not have, you became mean where you would, at one level, have wanted to worship. You called the a stuck-up idiot, and worse. You organized a group to torment them, one time you stole their scarf. You escaped your feeling through a denigration that hid, not hatred, but at base, a passionate secret love. Sometimes our meanness takes drier, more intellectual forms. Perhaps at the office, you recently sent a random memo headed: “Recruitment Policies for Q4 Sales Team”. In it you argued in sober prose with numbered paragraphs that the company shouldn’t, in the future, seek to recruit any more recent university graduates, on the grounds that they tended not to meet the expectations of clients. The need for this kind of high-flown self deception began the day you first laid eyes on the new recruit, who seemed astonishingly young, enthusiastic, endearing and desirable. The emotions you felt were a piece of madness for a married, middle-aged person. The target of your desire was 23 with coltish energy and innocent friendliness. On the second week they tried to ask what you’d done on the weekend, and mentioned that they’d tried wind surfing for the first time. You responded by being rather stern, with collegues you judged their performance in a critical way that seemed just about fair, at the commettee meeting you damned them with faint praise and at the earliest opportunity you made sure their contract was not renewed. Of course, being honest about our real feelings doesn’t mean we should always act on them. It’s not a good idea to make every feeling known to those it concerns. The choice we face isn’t between denial and inaction, or honesty followed by a brusk move on the people around us. We can accept many of our desires without needing to think we should do anything about them. The best way to overcome denial of some of our more impossible desires for people is to accept who we are, what we want and then sometimes just sit with our hands firmly tied, reflecting sadly on the deep strangeness and unsatisfactoriness of the human condition, but that will be a lot better than self deception and meanness.