“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. “ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Level II in the Integrity Recovery Workbook (IRW) focuses on honesty. Dishonesty can be seen as a survival charade that is a form of self-protection learned early in life. It will often come up below the level of conscious awareness and eventually becomes counter productive.
We see all new experiences through the lens of previous experiences, which tend to color our perception of events. Being able to recognize the difference between our truth and The Truth is challenging. And not to invalidate our truth – it is valuable to know and speak our truths, even if they differ from others. However, in order to move back to integrity and wholeness it will be necessary to see where the truths we believe are shaded by the past and how shining the light of The Truth on them can help to bring clarity about what is working in our lives and what isn’t.
How does lying (such a harsh sounding word in itself – attached to so much judgment of self and others!) hurt or serve us? Lying to ourselves (denial) is a defense mechanism. It protects us from information that we fear. But lying about these things does not make them go away. Denial is like a three-year-old playing hide and seek by covering his eyes. Just because he can’t see the boogey-man, doesn’t mean it is not there. Everyone else can see it, but with our eyes covered in this way we can’t.
This type of denial results in things like codependency and addiction, or becoming a chameleon that blends into the background or the group we are around. These are acts of dishonesty.
Telling “little white lies” to “protect” someone else, in reality is a self-protection act. It protects us from witnessing or experiencing the other person’s anger, pain, disapproval or rejection.
Telling half-truths can also protect us from consequences of our own actions. “She was so mean to me and threw me out” might garner sympathy, but if we include the part about “I was drinking and had thrown a couple plates at her” – not so much.
So, with all of this “protecting” of ourselves and others, where does real life happen? Dishonesty adds drama and confusion or avoids conflict. All of these are survival charades learned long ago and all designed to protect us, but from what? Again, the fear that if someone knows our “real selves” they will leave/not like us/get angry?
If we become aware that our behaviors would lead to others not liking us, perhaps it is time to change some of those behaviors, rather than continuing to try to cover them up. Honesty allows us to differentiate ourselves from our actions. Once we recognize that these actions are separate from our core selves and that they are no longer serving us, or those that we love, we can begin to make changes.
Honesty is difficult. Seeing ourselves honestly is certainly another step on the “hero’s journey” of self-discovery and change. It often helps to have a safe place to dig through some of the protective masks to find out core selves. This can be found in a therapeutic setting. The Evolution Group works with individuals and with groups who choose this journey back to integrity.