Why and how do we deceive ourselves?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

When we lie to others, it is in an effort to protect ourselves, gain something that we would not otherwise have, increase in the esteem and admiration of others or avoid being judged or condemned. If lying to others will relieve our own pain or anxiety, a lie is likely to be forthcoming.

And we deceive ourselves for exactly the same reasons.

We do this quite easily and perhaps without even being aware of the process. We do so when we “rationalize” a behavior such as downloading copyrighted music or other material and justify it by saying to ourselves, “Its ok, everybody does it.” By extension, we rationalize every time we “justify” any behavior that we know to be illegal or against our own moral standards.

If I think more highly of myself than is warranted, I am lying to myself. In one study, 90% of the college professors surveyed considered themselves to be in the top half of their profession. Mathematically, 40% had to be lying to themselves! If I considered myself to be God’s gift to women, I would not only be lying to myself, I would be out and out delusional! (Not about being so attractive to women, but about there being a God who dispenses favors.)

When a court of justice calls a defendant to account, it is expected that one guilty of the crime allegedly committed will lie, so proof is required in order to render judgment. The same is true of the individual faced with judgment from family, friends, society…or self! Lying will become the name of the game. I can easily convince myself that it was the other guys fault when an impartial observer would conclude that it was actually my own behavior that caused the accident.

Corporations lie all the time through advertising and an annual reports in order to attract new customers, improve the bottom line and increase the value of their stock. Don’t we do essentially the same thing if we attempt to improve our self-concept by donating to charity, helping a friend in need or writing a letter to the editor denouncing the latest example of governmental graft and dishonesty?

A friend of mine once had a severe pain in her toe. The pain developed suddenly in the situation in which she found herself: she had to walk around all day to accomplish errands that she did not want to do, so her toe developed a severe pain (a very real pain) to tell her to stop walking. The toe pain was a lie to herself in an effort to relieve a stressful situation. The instant she realized what was going on, the pain stopped and she completed her tasks, efficiently if not happily.

Why is it problematic to lie to ones’ self when there are so many reasons for doing so?

What would happen in society if everyone always told the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

This entry was posted on January 8, 2012 at Sunday, January 08, 2012 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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