Day 637: The Psychology of Self Deception

Sound familiar? Why do people respond with so much more interest and positivity when it's a psychologist talking about self responsibility, self honesty and reactions compared to when a destonian talks about it? It's so funny, but really not. It's funny how preconceived ideas will completely block someone's willingness to listen to a message. We see this in the history of humanity over and over but never seem to learn to get over our prejudices. It is the epitome of self sabotage - the legacy of humanity.

Now, on with the point of this post: what the hell does self deception even mean? Cortney Warren gives a number of examples in her Talk in the link above, although most of them are rather shallow. On the one hand, considering the state of mind of most people that's a smart move since most people wouldn't be able to comprehend much more than the most obvious and superficial of examples. So yes, while the Talk is a good starting point it is far (far, far, far, far, far......) from the full extent of self deception. Essentially self deception is the tendency of people to not see themselves or the world for what it/they is/are. It is the tendency of seeing things through different shades of colour, ranging from just a slight tint to a complete smudging and discolouration of reality.

So yes, you could use something like lying to yourself about how much you really ate as an example; but at some point you should challenge yourself to go deeper. Challenge yourself to be truly objective and to develop critical thinking - start looking at all the things you take for granted in your life, all the things you automatically assume to be true, right and unchangeable (your religious beliefs, cultural norms, your reoccurring thought patterns, common ways in which you react emotionally).

One of the biggest forms of self deception in our society is our absolute unwillingness to take responsibility for ourselves. Most people find it incredibly easy and even ideal to point fingers at everyone but themselves. This shows its face in all aspects of life: politics, relationships, family, work, religion, economics. Let's look at each of these points, I'll give an example for each:
  • Politics: I'm not responsible - the government is responsible! Here we feel content to abdicate our power to act in favour of grumbling and complaining about the ineptitude of our elected leaders.
  • Relationships: How many arguments have you had where you believed that your partner is the only one at fault, that you are absolutely innocent and made no contribution whatsoever to the situation you find yourselves in...? 
  • Family: You blame your parents for how you turned out. It's not my fault that I don't know how to cook and clean - my parents did everything for me!
  • Work: Pinning your oversights on some poor unsuspecting colleague - and then convincing yourself that they were actually at fault all along.
  • Religion: God did it.
  • Economics: Those damn bankers and the stupid government that bailed them out. Completely avoiding considering that each and every one of us contributed to the current state of the economy. 
Even these examples are superficial, but Cortney gave some really good advice for when you're dealing with  reactions and developing your self awareness and self responsibility (and therefore self honesty): PAUSE. When you see yourself reacting, participating in specific thought patterns, being inconsistent (your thoughts, words and behaviour is all different) - PAUSE. Take a good look at yourself and choose to change.