Possibly one of the most damaging things we do to ourselves that serve only to stunt our growth is tell ourselves lies. We lie to ourselves constantly, every day. We do it to make ourselves feel better. We do it to justify what we want to do, what we think we want to do, or what we have already done.
Essentially, we make decisions based almost exclusively on our emotional responses. We then use rationale to justify those decisions already made. We use our past experiences also, whether good or bad. We use what we’ve learned, or what we think we’ve learned. But always it’s an emotional response followed by a reasoned justification, not the other way around. We use denial. I didn’t do it, I had to do it, it was my duty to do it, I can justify it, I was told to do it, it wasn’t my fault etc.
If you tell a lie often enough, some people will believe you. If you tell yourself a lie often enough, it will become your story, your identity.
You will own it as your truth. But it is still a lie. What happens if we are exposed to the bare truth? Cognitive dissonance. We rebel against it. If you can have awareness of the way that you lie to yourself, and of your defensive reactions if confronted with an alternative truth, you can begin to address those lies and begin to find your true story, your truth. The work could for some, begin with addressing cognitive dissonance, but that’s only the beginning.
Let’s look at an example. A man grew up not receiving the attention he needed from his parents. Perhaps his father worked away all the time. His bored mother, lacking attention while his father is away, found solace in alcohol abuse. Now as an adult, the man keeps moving from one relationship to another. He can’t seem to make it work, no matter how hard he tries. What’s going on with this man, what lies does he tell himself, what’s his story?
His story might be: “my parents weren’t there for me as a child, why would anyone be there for me now? Who can I trust? It’s always going to go south!”
This man hasn’t recovered from abandonment issues he experienced as a child, as neither parent devoted the attention he needed. There are a variety of issues he might experience. He may not have the confidence to pursue healthy relationships, and instead attracts partners more likely to abuse his boundaries. He may become abusive himself or may be prone to or attract narcissism within his relationships.
If someone tries to help this man by confronting him with his reality, he won’t be able to deal with it, as his truth is based on very early childhood experiences that have become his identity, his story, ever since. He can’t address his issues until he can address the root of them. That requires him facing his pain. But will he?
The irony in all this is that while we think the lies, we tell ourselves makes life easier for us, in fact the opposite is true, as so many damaged lives and relationships can attest to. Our awareness of this and the defence mechanisms within us, empowers us to deal with them.
This is a universal phenomenon from a human perspective, meaning we all experience it, and all must manage our response to it when it happens to us.
While some of our oldest memories can and do have a massive impact on our view of life, every new experience brings a previously unknown concept or idea, and opportunity to integrate these into our personal knowledge and experience base. Understanding our natural defence mechanisms and how they work for, and sometimes sabotage us helps us to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of a better life for ourselves.
But we must be willing to do the work and it doesn’t happen overnight. Being willing to face the source of pain can be difficult, but it is a necessary step towards arrival in that place where you can honestly say to yourself and others, that your story, your identity, your truth reflects the best that you can become. That you are becoming the best version of yourself.