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Psych Your Mind: Honesty is a virtue

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | November 14th, 2011



Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
It starts out with a slight exaggeration (typically characterized by the use of superlatives): I would NEVER this, it was the WORST experience of my ENTIRE life, she's COMPLETELY obsessed with me. Then slowly but surely, what was once only a mild embellishment transforms into a fullon alternate reality. The more the story is repeated (to others AND importantly, oneself), the more it seemingly gains "credence" purely due to its imposed familiarity. If one is not careful, this defence mechanism, rooted in an unconscious desire to preserve one's self image (a.k.a. "to save face") and/or avoid punishment could become pathological, wherein the liar him/herself can no longer separate his/her fabrications from the truth.

Therein "lies" (pardon the pun) the problem with lying: it is IMPOSSIBLE, even for the most "honest" people going, to stretch the truth just ONCE… especially once they've gotten caught. Accordingly, whoever came up with the expression "little white lie" obviously wasn't all that acquainted with the act of deceit. In other words, there's a reason the expression "web of lies" is equally well-known.

Now, it's important to point out that even the most objective, scientifically oriented individuals are not immune to living within their own skewed perceptions and exaggerations of life events. However, there's a HUGE difference between merely failing to consider another person's perception and PURPOSEFULLY manipulating the truth. In sum, you CANNOT and DO NOT accidentally lie.

As psychology enthusiast Dr. Raymond Lloyd Richard explains, "When you tell a lie, you make a deliberate, conscious effort to deceive someone, and that deception, at its psychological core, is an act of aggression. This aggression derives from two interrelated unconscious motivations, one about not knowing (i.e. a desire to cover up a 'lack' in order to prevent feelings of inadequacy), and the other about something you do know (i.e. a response to knowing that someone has failed you). Therefore, your lies become cunning weapons of revenge in a psychological battle to inflict pain on those who hurt you. That is, when someone treats you critically, you feel hurt, shamed and afraid; and then, as an angry response to that hurt, you tell lies in a fabricated sense of invulnerability to hide your painful shame, while causing injury to that person." (From guidetopsychology. com.)

Richard makes it sound a lot more vindictive than most of us consider. After all, lying typically begins in our "innocent" childhoods as a means to either avoid punishment or obtain reward: the two drives behind ALL human activity. The thing is, though, as we age and begin to establish adult relationships, particularly of the romantic variety, lying becomes increasingly dangerous because there are considerably higher stakes. While I do not condone conning one's parents in order to gain more recreational time or the like, playing with another person's heart, I think it goes without saying, has a lot more serious consequences.

Despite our ongoing inoculation with the profession "honesty is the best policy" since childhood, lying, for many, has become second nature. The fact that our culture is built on distortions of the truth surely doesn't help. From political promises to airbrushed celebrities and even the very way in which we recount our historical beginnings, if it's not a deliberate INCLUSION of invented facts with which we're contending, we're faced with a calculated EXCLUSION of specific details intended to alter actuality to suit one's own interests or needs. Moreover, we've allotted pretense its own designation as a form of entertainment… reality TV anyone? Finally, the examples of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy prove that lying (at least, via storytelling) is culturally sanctioned – something that makes navigating this subject even more precarious! Though the act/art (depending upon who you ask) of lying seems to teeter the scales of moral ambiguity, from a psychological stance, let me assure you lying is a sign of immaturity and almost certainly an attempt to avoid responsibility.

And so, while there's an ongoing joke among male comedians that one should never tell a woman if she looks "fat" or "unattractive" in a given outfit, from a psychological AND female stance, I have to STRONGLY disagree. As I've relayed to my boyfriend on several occasions, "If you don't think I look fantastic, why would I want to embarrass myself in front of a whole bunch of strangers who are far more likely to judge me negatively given they are not emotionally attached to me?" As Richard states, "If others reject you because you are honest, then you never had their love in the first place." In other words, quite simply, don't lie. It's never honest ;)

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