Is Your Truth A Lie?
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with people’s coping strategies, and ability to manipulate the expectations of others as a key survival trait. Human beings have innate skill at dishonesty – to ‘white lie’ and lie in the extreme to alter reality to their advantage – but at what cost?
There is a phenomenon known among psychologists as the “illusion of truth” effect, wherein a lie is repeated until it becomes the accepted reality. It reminds me of fake news – a subtle repetition and conditioning that makes a fact seem truer, regardless of whether it is or not. It’s the same when we lie to ourselves to hide how we feel and escape the truth of reality. We bury feelings but they never really disappear, especially those born from fear.
We make a lie into a truth in order to survive.
To fully understand our capacity to live in unreality, we must first understand the origin of deceit and that lies are born from trauma, disappointment and betrayal. Put simply, it is always the result of something happening to us.
When I was six years old my dad built a shed in the backyard of our home as a storage space and workshop. I loved that shed because it was a place for us to hangout and make stuff together – painting, crafting, woodwork – where time disappeared in a myriad of creative projects. My dad travelled a lot for work, so for me the shed also represented quality time and connection. What I didn’t enjoy was when dad was away the shed was off limits, and the enormous padlock on the door signalled that it was a no-go zone.
Being six years old and ever curious, overcoming that obstacle consumed every waking moment. One day, my neighbour, Michael, came over to play. He was older and taller than me – a viable solution to above-mentioned padlock challenge. I went about telling an elaborate story of the fun that awaited beyond that locked door AND that we had permission to enter – that my dad had simply forgotten to leave the key before he left. I implored Michael to break the padlock. He repeatedly asked if I was sure it was okay to go in there. I wanted in so badly that I lied, reassuring him everything was fine. An hour passed and our attempts to gain access were in vain.
What I didn’t plan for was my dad’s rage the next day when he discovered the padlock damaged beyond repair, or that he would have to borrow a friend’s bolt cutters to access the shed. I was terrified of his wrath because it was so out of character for him and I received a roasting for my actions. Looking back on that moment, I was more afraid of rejection and of disappointing my dad than of the lie itself – a seemingly justifiable self-protective action to the mind of a six-year old. How often do we do this – fabricate stories or embellish truth to avoid pain or judgment? Instead of ‘fessing-up’ about the fact that I had masterminded what happened, I threw Michael under the bus and said it was all his idea. *Hangs head in shame.
Needless to say, the situation was very traumatic, and I was deeply ashamed of what I had done. That one incident ended my friendship with Michael, and his parents, and it was the moment I can consciously remember that I started lying to my parents – where lying became a strategy to get what I want or to please others.
The truth is a strange thing. You can try to suppress it, but it will always find its way back to the surface. We try to forget, until we can’t anymore.
In psychoanalysis, dissociating from the truth and trauma of one’s experience is called ‘splitting’. For example, we react only with emotion and become irrational about what’s really happening, or we escape into the safe haven of our mind and don’t process any of the feeling. Healing from past trauma requires us to be honest – with ourselves and each other – and being honest requires an ability to think and feel at the same time. In essence, it enables us to integrate the trauma of an experience and resolve any lasting negative energy, so that it doesn’t hurt or undermine us anymore.
There comes a point where living in unreality becomes a serious liability, albeit we often don’t see it that way or experience the true impact of our lies until much later in life, like delayed response. For many years I maintained a life of unreality to hide my fear from the people I love – fear of what I knew deep down to be the truth of my identity – a world of self-created lies that over time became my truth.
Dr Habib Sadeghi, author of The Clarity Cleanse – 12 Steps to Finding Renewed Energy, Spiritual Fulfilment, and Emotional Healing, says that “living in our own little world of self-created lies and avoiding the truth of our life experience takes great energy and produces an even greater amount of stress.” This is definitely true of my experience prior to coming out. Short-circuiting this process creates a second lie – an alternate reality so to speak. The truly sad thing is that we are always the first victims of our deceit because we have to believe our lies in order to convince others to do so.
Take a moment to consider where you’ve buried your true feelings and lied about a situation to survive it, for example:
• to hide pain (“I’m fine”)
• to downplay fear (“I’m not anxious” or “It’s not that scary”)
• to mask loss or disappointment (“It’s no big deal”)
• to hide defeat (“I’m stronger than this” or “It wasn’t really that important”)
• to bury shame (“I’m not like that” or “It didn’t happen”)
Overriding conditioning and coping strategies born of fear is no mean feat, but it is a choice, nonetheless, just as lying and living in unreality is a choice. The good news is human beings have a natural instinct to search for answers and to make sense of things. In essence, we are hard-wired to seek the truth.
Ask yourself what it would take to be fully honest (honesty being the ability to tell yourself the emotional truth in any situation). When we are honest, we uncover the origin of our fear and trauma, remove barriers to true emotional freedom, and confront and resolve the pain we didn’t think we could survive. So, be honest and be brave, you are more resilient than you know.
Until next time...