Heart, Spirit & Mind

What is self-deception?

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true. ~Demosthenes

self deceptionWhat is self-deception? How can you deceive yourself? Simply stated, self-deception is about unawareness. It is the thoughts that we hide from ourselves. If there is something we don’t like about ourselves instead of admitting it and confronting it to resolve it, we would rather gloss over it and move on to nicer things that make us feel good. We are uncomfortable dwelling on things that might make us question ourselves and our choices. We do this because if we are aware of it, it may require us to take action.

The problem with self deception is that we aren’t as perfect as we desire to be. We dare not admit that, especially to ourselves. Instead we live out our lives in a ‘manufactured’ way. We have trouble letting things fall as they may, and accepting and being responsible for the consequences.

If we were more comfortable with ourselves we would not feel the need to hide our true nature from ourselves or other, nor would we need to act or be something that we are not. The longer we do it, the harder it is to extract ourselves from it for fear of humiliation. It forces us to continue to lie, and we dig ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole spiraling out of control.

The person being hurt and being deceived the most is our self. In some cases, others see through our games while others do not. The problem with these games is that over time it will effect us in ways we did not realize.  After all, if we are not truly being ourselves how can we expect to experience life to its fullest and realize our true potential.

How do we get “deceived?”

Deception is seldom a conscious choice. No one makes a conscious decision to violate their boundaries or values. But some of us do lie, or become addicts, have affairs or abuse others.

When we compromise our beliefs and values, we lose track of what is really important to us and then we wonder how life got a way from us. This does not happen to us overnight.  Instead it happens slowly, in small ways over a sustained period of time. It is only in hindsight that we can see where we got off track. Often however, we aren’t aware of it so everything looks blurry.

Self-deception is an unintentional common problem. Sometimes it is employed as a from of self-protection resulting in many small steps in the wrong direction. We only start to be aware of it when we feel a growing awareness of pain, unhappiness, unmet needs or some other negative feeling that begin to spiral away from our deeply held values.

Life can be pain and struggle. However, life is also full of promise and purpose.  It wants us to give an honest estimate of ourselves and speak truth in love to ourselves and others.  When we deceive ourselves, we often feel no pain, but we also do not grow.  Without risk, without pain, one cannot experience transformation.

Self-deception is when we bend our values and beliefs in order to fill our deeply felt needs and wants. Self deception seemingly offers a cure for our weaknesses and fears. But it doesn’t cure us and instead leaves us numb because it strikes at the very core of who we are, what we feel, and what we want from life.

Here are some elements we employ to deceive ourselves.

Selective attention

Instead of taking the world as it is, we often take in the world with selection bias.  We are selective about the things we notice, the things that grab our attention and the facts we retain.  We will pay attention to certain facts while ignoring others. Our reality is highly influenced by what we pay attention to.

This happens in all relationships, but most especially in our romantic ones.  If you are the kind of person who is looking for problems in your relationship, you will find them.  In contrast, if your loved one can do no wrong, you will miss the signs that things have gone array. Some people are so fearful of rejection, they will see signs their partner is cheating, that they are going to leave them etc.  This rejection sensitivity can be so difficult to deal with that it influences how their partners interact with them increasing the chance that their fears will come true.

The most important thing to realize is that we never see the world how it truly is. We ignore much of what happens around us because our attention is limited to a very narrow range of input.

Our beliefs are our world around us

Our confirmation bias has such a strong impact on our world that it’s impossible for us to experience a situation as “it is.”  Instead our beliefs influence what we experience and our reality. Our interpretation of a situation may be so highly biased, we lose objectivity. This is why an outsider my see the situation completely differently, and why our truths may seem like fiction from another’s point of view.  Not only does our bias influence our reality, but it also influences our assumptions about what happened.  Our beliefs may be right, or they may be wrong, or they may be a little of both. 

When feelings are strong, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Other people may lie about what happened, and if those lies align with our biases and assumptions, we may miss interpret an entire situation. Most of the events that we experience on a daily basis are ambiguous and are open to more than one interpretation. Very few of us go through life acknowledging this.

When we impose our beliefs on the world it gives us a sense of reassurance. Making the effort to discover the truth, challenge our assumptions, is difficult, complicated, and confusing. For most of us, it is far easier to impose our beliefs on events rather than explore situations from another’s point of view.

And the idea that “beliefs” influence experience is particularly true when it comes to love and romance.

 

People Discount Evidence

Confirmation bias makes it very difficult to assimilate information which contradicts what we already believe.  Instead of weighing it on its merits, we usually dismiss or discount the evidence.  We aren’t always by reason and logic.  People often engage in irrational thinking. We dismiss evidence that contradicts our point of view in order to maintain a version of the world and themselves which suits them. Our beliefs often are more important, than the actual evidence one encounters.

The pros and cons of Self Deception

Some degree of self deception is important when it comes to maintaining a romantic relationship. When people put the best possible spin on things, they are able to handle problems better. It allows people to ignore everyday mistakes. It allows people to see “the best” in their partner.  Holding such positive illusions helps make a relationship work. Self deception helps couples cope with life’s problems and helps romantic partners get along better.

The downside of self-deception is that it can prevent us from dealing with important issues.  This is where it can create more harm than good because it leads people to overlook serious problems which can be detrimental to one’s emotional, mental or physical health (e.g., infidelity, abuse, inconsiderate behavior, a lack of love, and so on). The trick is to engage in self-deception in order to see the best in a partner without letting self-deception create too much vulnerability.

Consequences

When we live a life of self deception, it robs us of the experience of expressing who we really are. When we deceive ourselves, we become an actor in our own play. That inauthenticity to ourselves and our partner never ends well.  We end up not liking ourselves. We disdain our behavior. We lose our confidence and esteem. We lose focus on our self-care and the things that motivate us in life. We neglect our personal development and dismiss our accomplishments. When we are actors in our own play, we forget how to genuinely enjoy life.

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