Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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We all tell lies, at various times. Or if not outright lies, at least half-truths. We select what we tell people and in doing so omit part of the truth. We tell people what we feel is appropriate for them to know, and we do this all the time. For example, our response to the question “how are you?” can be very different depending on who we are talking to.
I remember, some years ago, bumping into an ex-client in Wokingham. We were actually walking in opposite direction across a pedestrian crossing so there wasn’t really time to stop and talk, but we exchanged “How are yous”. He gave me a standard response : “Fine thanks” and then he realised who I was, and changed his response. “I really am fine thanks”, he said as we passed.
His response changed when he realised that I was not just a passing acquaintance but his ex-counsellor – knowing that, he felt it appropriate to give me different information. We do this all the time, I think – we reveal different parts of ourselves to different people. Friends, work colleagues, parents, children, and our partners might all receive different responses to “how are you?” – there are different aspects of ourselves – different truths – that we will reveal to each of them.
How much of the truth we tell depends no only on who we are talking to but also on ourselves. Some people are much more open than others, some embarrassingly so. Some people manipulate the truth enormously, perhaps thinking that they need to protect their own reputation by doing so, perhaps thinking that they are protecting the listener.
To get away with lying it is necessary to be consistent – and so habitual liars place a great strain on themselves. They need to remember what people “know” – in other words what lies they have been told, so that they can maintain consistency. If they are telling many lies to many people over many years, that is an enormous mental strain to put themselves under.
I have worked with quite a few clients who have found themselves trapped in their own lies – about their past, their addictions, their spending habits, their love lives and other things. Once they have started to tell the truth to people, they have all spoken about the enormous relief they feel. It’s as if they have been carrying a huge weight on their shoulders and, finally relieved of it, they can, at last, relax.
We can also lie to ourselves, of course, about ourselves. And it seems that represents a similar burden. Maintaining a pretence; “I’m not addicted”, “I haven’t got an anger problem”, “I’m fine”; is hard work. How can anyone relax and be completely at ease if they are having to hide stuff away from themselves? And in fact the strain is probably greater than that of lying to someone else, because perhaps you can relax when they’re not around whereas, if you’re lying to yourself, you have to keep the act up all the time.
Telling the truth is much easier than lying!