Saturday, April 24, 2010

True Lies

The other day, as I stood by the sink washing dishes and commenting to Iris on how nice it was just to be at home, not really doing anything in particular, she walked up behind me, wrapped her arms around me and said, "Yes, but all good things must come to an end."

I turned around and looked at her, my expression apparently saying "Say what? Do you believe that?"

She laughed, "Of course not."

We then started talking about all the phrases that we grew up with that we simply accept as truth. We incorporate them into every day situations without a second thought. You can't always get what you want... Divorce is hard on a family... Great relationships take a lot of work... Pride goeth before a fall... It's amazing how much of our lives can be defined by cliches and things we heard as children.

The thing about any truism is that there is always at least a kernel of truth, something that in isolation or under certain circumstances would be construed as true. However, there is always a component that is a lie.

This morning, as I stood again in front of the sink washing dishes, it occurred to me that there are many truisms that we may have learned more recently that have both a truth component and a lie component. I thought it would be fun to look at some of them.

True Lie #1
The true part: I can be happy in any situation.
The lie part: I should be happy in any situation no matter what.

It's amazing how, once we know that we can be happy in any situation, we start judging ourselves in situations where get unhappy; we get unhappy about our being unhappy. There are two aspects of this lie that make it particularly fun. First, the only reason to accept the initial proposition, I can be happy, is its usefulness, not its truthfulness. So, if the very proposition leads to unhappiness, well. Second, a cornerstone to choosing happiness is abandoning judgments that fuel unhappiness.

So, we might amend the true part to read: I can be happy in any situation, if I want to.

True Lie #2
The true part: I cannot make someone else feel something (emotionally), nor can someone else make me feel something.
The lie part: If I do something and someone else feels badly about it, it's their problem.

When someone says something nasty about us, our emotional responses can vary from tears to laughter. The same is the case when we say something hurtful to others. Our responses tend to be proportional to the degree to which we agree with the statement. If someone denigrates your intelligence and you already struggle with not being smart, it plays differently than if you're quite confident about your being a genius.

Nonetheless, if you say something intentionally nasty or hurtful, you're still being an asshole. So, I would modify the true part to read: nothing that anyone says can make me feel anything; what I feel is a reflection on my beliefs about myself, not their statement.

True Lie #3
The true part: Judgments are charged beliefs (good/bad, right/wrong) that strongly color our perceptions
The lie part: One should never judge

When working to eradicate undesired emotions and behaviors, it's really useful to ferret out your charged beliefs (ones that elicit strong emotional responses), and take a look at them. We often refer to these charged beliefs as judgments. By dropping or changing these beliefs, we indirectly change our responses.

When counseling someone regarding their challenges, it's important to suspend judgment of any kind (positive or negative) regarding anything they say, lest we pollute their exploration with our own opinions and biases.

Nonetheless, in many ways it's our judgments (positive and negative) that define who we are. Most of the time, we overcome challenges, not by dropping judgments, but instead, but creating positive judgments to displace them.

True Lie #4
The true part: Everything I do, I do because I want to
The lie part: Saying that I don't want to do something I am doing is a lie

It's incredibly useful to recognize that we always have good reasons for anything we do. If I'm struggling with stage fright, I might say that I don't want to be afraid, but it happens anyway. When we say, "I don't want to be afraid", we shut off an avenue of exploration that could be useful, the one that pursues "how is being afraid helpful to me."

Almost always, the answers to persistent challenges lie behind that door.

Nonetheless, as humans we have this uncanny ability to maintain simultaneous, conflicting wants. We can want to quit smoking while wanting a cigarette. We can want to lose weight while wanting a piece of double-chocolate mousse cake.

True Lie #5
The true part: Whatever I do, I will love first
The lie part: I can do anything, as long as I do it with love

One of the really great tools I've found, especially when dealing with a charged situation, is to love first. Let's say that you're meeting with someone with whom you have great difficulty in getting along. You often end up in arguments that go unresolved. If you adopt a practice of pausing before entering your meeting to actively love the person with whom you're about to meet (picturing them in your mind, considering all their positive attributes, and being grateful for them), you can change everything. Really!

Now, the reason this works is because it dramatically affects how we behave regarding the other person. It changes our actions; it's not just a masturbatory exercise to feel better. The lie comes when we start using "I love him" or "I did it out of love" as an incantation to morph any action into something good or right.

So, we might modify this one to: Love is what I do, not what I feel or say. Whatever I do, I will love before, during and after.

Your True Lies
What are the truisms that you've adopted in your life? How have they shaped who you are and what you do? Are they accompanied by any inherent lies that have piggybacked their way into your life? Can you see them? Do you want to change them?

Happy Saturday!


  1. How did you become so smart? I really love how you have "nailed" some of the greatest lies.

    You forgot
    The true part) all things ends
    The lie part) all good things ends
    Everythings in life comes and goes - dies and get born - but the last part implies that only the good things ends whereas the bad things continues.

    Love you.

  2. Joy, thank you. Must all things end?

  3. Well, can you tell me one thing for sure, that will never end?

    I find it usefull to see everything in life as things that comes and goes. Begins and ends. Just like the rytme of your breath. It origines from a buddhistic training as part of learning to let go of attachments.

    When you know that the good thing will end, you are free to enjoy it rather than clinging to it or trying to prevent it passing by. When you know that your pain is just temporary it becomes easier to relaxe in the pain rather than build fear and tensions around the never ending pain.

    Raun used to believe that we only dies because we believe that we will die. What do you believe?

  4. Hmmm... I'm of two minds here. One is to talk about examples of never ending things. Two is to talk about your logic regarding the absence of proof of something proving the absence of something.

    I think that you nailed it with the question of how does believing things will end or believing things will never end serve you. More to come...

  5. My logic of absent of truth is not a general logic. But I really didn't have an urge to prove that I was rigth - I just new that it was something that worked for me.

  6. Off on stimulated tangents you guys went, with much depth and clarity.

    Taking a moment, skimmed over it seems to me is the relavance of fear being allowed a motivating role.

    Life indeed is only experienced in the present. A moment, to moment, to moment present. Snowflakes in a blizzard. Value each snowflakes' contribution. There is technique behind holding onto and appreciating a snowflake

    I'm often bemuzed by the notions sometimes attached to 'having to let go' in order to fully enjoy anything.

    Isn't the only thing useful to realize we're to 'let go of' really fear?

    It resonated with me when Bears suggested there is but one emotion Love, (trust) everything else represents its absence (fear)



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