Why You Lie (to yourself)

Can I Be Honest With Me?

An extraordinarily helpful attribute, if you’re on a path of healing and growth, is self-honesty. It’s also one of the most difficult. In fact, it’s nearly impossible, especially at first, to look at ourselves honestly.

I know what you’re thinking. Why, I’m honest with myself, definitely. No, you’re really not. None of us are, a lot of the time. People don’t generally have the kind of self honesty I’m talking about, even me, and even you.

So why is that? Doesn’t it seem like human beings, with the intellect to build computers, compose symphonies and perform microsurgery, would be able to think clearly about ourselves?

Strange as it may seem, it’s actually our intellect that keeps us from being self honest. Oh sure, we can be honest about some things. We can admit to ourselves that we have ten toes, live in Pasadena, and drive a Ford. We can be honest about those things because we probably don’t feel too bad about them.

But when it comes to things we might be ashamed of, things we might not want other people to know, things that might frighten us or make us sad, we’re super good at hiding the truth from ourselves. One word for it is denial. You know, that thing that isn’t a river in Egypt.

In order to be in denial, we have to have at least considered or touched on what we’re hiding from ourselves. If you haven’t, you’re not in denial. You might be in avoidance though. Perhaps you’re avoiding asking yourself some difficult, and potentially troubling questions. You may have never made the effort to ask yourself the question, “why”. Why am I repeatedly getting into trouble in the same way? Why do people seem upset with me so often? Why do I feel upset with myself? These are the kinds of questions that would be asked by someone on the path to becoming conscious. Someone ready to explore self honesty.

The thing these good questions have in common, is the “I”. Not why are they such a pill, why are they so angry, why are they always giving me a hard time. They questions are OK, and can be informative. They questions can be interesting, and can make you feel better, mostly because they questions take your mind off of yourself and your own discomfort. But “they” questions are what you might call “psychology lite”, and don’t get us very far when it comes to our own deeper healing and growth.

And that leads us to the reason our intellect keeps us from being self honest. It’s the discomfort. We humans hate being uncomfortable, and will devise any way possible to try and avoid it. It’s a built in part of our nature, and it helps us survive. All forms of intelligent life are designed to avoid discomfort, and seek comfort. And we humans evolved the best equipment ever for doing that – our ego.

Our ego goes to extraordinary lengths to help us gain comfort in a multitude of ways. And it works in conjunction with our creative intelligence — our intellect — to help us avoid the uncomfortable. It does this on an automatic basis, a little like the thermostat on your air conditioning system. When things get too warm, it kicks in. Unless of course we do something intentional, something conscious, to override it.

When your thermostat kicks in, it can employ a variety of strategies. Denial, which we already spoke about, is one of them. Avoidance, distraction, making up stories, shifting blame, getting spacey, having a tantrum, dramatization, additive patterns of all kinds, pretending not to care, becoming stoic, getting angry, being analytical or staying in our head, becoming catatonic… all of these are examples of the things we can do, when something inside of us is uncomfortable to face.

Our ego will help us avoid looking at uncomfortable stuff, or worse, feeling it, and even find ways of walling it off inside of us, until that stuff goes completely unconscious, and we forget what was uncomfortable in the first place. At that point, we find ourselves stuck in addictive or compulsive patterns of behavior, and can’t seem to figure out what’s keeping us stuck.

It’s a pickle. And once you’re in that particular kind of pickle brine, it’s pretty much impossible to get out by yourself.

That’s one of the best reasons to see counselors and therapists. A counselor or therapist, if they are skillful and talented, can help you discover what it is within you that you’ve been avoiding seeing and feeling. If they’re on the ball, they will create an atmosphere for you where you feel safe enough to begin to explore those areas. Not to intellectualize about them, not even so much to understand them. But to look at them and begin to let them go. That’s where true self-honesty begins.

Once we get in the habit of looking at the uncomfortable stuff inside of us, and letting it go, it gets a little easier to do. Also, once we let some of it to, there’s less of it, so we get a little less uncomfortable. Also, we start to get into trouble less often. Life gets better, when we get self honest. But it does take some time and effort, and we do have to go through some uncomfortable feelings along the way. But if those are inside of us, we might as well deal with them, and get free.

The uncomfortable stuff within us doesn’t really need to be analyzed much. It just needs to be looked at, made OK, and let go. But we can’t do that without first becoming self honest, and that often means asking ourselves some difficult questions. Those questions can often begin with the words, “What is it within me”. Those are really good questions to ask.

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