Fooling Yourself

“You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

Do you know anyone who  is an expert at pretending to be something he’s not? Amazingly enough, some people can look you straight in the eye, and give nothing away while they’re lying. Just turn on the TV and listen to any politician. They’re the champs. How do people learn to lie so effectively? Does it just come naturally? Is it a learned behavior?

From early childhood, children learn a lot about how to stay out of trouble. For example, any time something goes wrong, they have figured out that they have the option to be honest or to be dishonest. Through the years, they may see other people being honest and dishonest. They see and hear people deceiving one another. They see and hear hypocrisy. And in dysfunctional families, they see and hear family members deceiving not only other people, but also deceiving themselves. A vivid example is when one of them makes bad choices: addiction, over-spending, ditching school, compulsive behaviors and so on.

In these situations, the person who makes the bad choice usually looks for a defense. “Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t judge me!” “Yeah, I know I drink too much. Don’t hassle me, I can quit anytime.” “If it wasn’t for my lousy bosses, I wouldn’t have lost my last three jobs.”

Blaming others is just one way we fool ourselves. Among the others:  living in a world of fantasy; believing that your life is out of your ability to control; adhering to beliefs that lead to failure, such as, ‘All I need is one more trip to the casino. I know I can beat this game’; trusting that other people or institutions can provide security and happiness; lying to yourself about what you’re really feeling and what you think is right.

One of the most damaging forms of self-deception lies in the belief that an emotional problem will go away, if we ignore it and assume that time will heal it. This is especially true for people who have experienced emotional trauma. ‘That’s in the past, it was a long time ago, it doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t want to dig it up again.’ And yet, this person has life-long struggles which she does not connect to her traumatic past. To be fair, some problems only require the passage of time in order to be resolved, but that does not apply to all problems.

Whether or not you have experienced psychological trauma, if this article speaks to you, and if you suspect that you’re kidding yourself or avoiding facing a hard truth … and if it’s affecting your quality of life … maybe it’s time to seek help. You have lots of options: podcasts, books, videos, etc. But if you prefer to sort this out with another person, it might be worth contacting a professional. If so, please feel free to reach out, by calling (219) 309-3928. It would be an honor to be of service.

For more thoughts click No Time? Really?

Thanks for reading!