Do you lie to yourself?
If your answer is any of the following:
1 – an emphatic NO!
2 – No, I don’t think so.
3 – I would never do that.
4 – I am committed to telling the truth at all costs.
5 – I am an honest person.
6 – I could never tell a lie even to save my own life.
7 – I am a follower of Radical Honesty and will tell the truth even if it ends up being harmful to me or others
8 – I am honest to a fault
9 – I tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth
10 – I sometimes wish I could lie but I am incapable of lying
or any variation of the above which expresses that you are certain that you do not lie to yourself, then this post is not for you. Go away.
If you’re sticking around even though you’re one of those people who never lies to themselves because you’re waiting for:
1 – an apology from me for being rude to you.
2 – a “Please” from me before you can go away – Please go away.
I have a bizarre anecdote about the difference between – Go away – and – Please go away – which I have told more than once on this blog.
I once told it to a woman who thought she was a goddess, and was always going on about how empathic, caring and compassionate she was, and even though she also thought that she was the smartest person on the planet, hence always being condescending to people while offering them pearls of healing advice on social media (she may still have the account), when I related this story to her she freaked out over a stupid detail, then treated me like freaky shit afterwards (although to be fair to her, she was already treating me and everyone else like shit, it’s just that after telling her the story I noticed it mindfully).
Why did she freak out? Because she took what I told her, edited out the relevant points and only heard what she wanted to hear which was not something she wanted to hear. She took it too seriously, too literally, and frightened herself away.
Come to think of it, hmmm… maybe that’s why I told her the story. It wasn’t a conscious action, but… wow, I sometimes miss the ways in which my inner allies protect me from… myself.
Decades ago I almost let myself die. I had been telling myself that lie of – you’d be better off dead – also known as – everyone else would be better off if I was dead. I was deeply depressed at the time (but I was not allowed to call it that), had been for many years, but I had kept telling myself that other lie which you will find in the quote below:
The version of – But I didn’t have it as bad as some people – which I told myself was – you don’t have it as bad as other people – and it meant – everyone else has it worse than you, you are lucky, you have no right to cry, whine, complain, ever claim to be a victim.
It was drummed into me by my mother, and her drumming was confirmed by my father, my extended family, my parents’ friends and social circle, by society, by the news.
To be fair to everyone, it was true.
I was born into what is known as White Privilege.
My father was not considered ‘white’ by white people. My mother’s father made that point loud and clear when he objected to their engagement when my mother introduced him to her fiance (My father had spent all his money to travel to visit my mother in London and convince her to marry him. She had been keeping her relationship with him as a dirty little secret).
My grandfather also had other objections to the match – my father was poor, had no prospects, had no background, no education, no manners, didn’t speak English.
My grandfather didn’t realise that his objections are what pushed my mother to marry my father. According to her she was not so sure she wanted to be the wife of a starving artist, she’d been offered the role of wife of a peer of the realm who had a lovely country pile (her father was very keen on this union as it would up his social status, just as marrying my grandmother had done, and he could go pheasant hunting with his new son-in-law on the estate every weekend).
She wasn’t sure that she wanted to get married at all as she wanted to be an opera singer (she met my father while she was studying opera in Rome) or a stage actress (like her mother had wanted to be before she had her heart broken and was forced into a marriage of convenience with my grandfather), or both. Other women in my mother’s family had chosen a career before marriage, and while the family had not approved, my mother did.
She wanted to be a rebel.
But then again…
My father was looked down upon for being an artist. In those days saying you wanted to be an artist was akin to saying you wanted to be a heroine addict or die of consumption in a garret. All artists were viewed as being insane, deranged, and ended up badly, tragically, even if they were very talented.
Even my father’s mother was horrified by his choice of career and vocation, she wanted him to be a respectable bus driver. The fact that my father had paid for food and other amenities for his family when he was a teenager by sketching Allied soldiers stationed in Rome during the latter part of WWII, keeping his mother and younger siblings provided for while his father was in jail (he’d been arrested for not being a Fascist, then to get out of jail he agreed to become a Fascist just as that became a reason to end up in jail). My grandmother never forgave my father for becoming an artist even after he became rich and successful and paid for her to live comfortably, and always made sure his siblings had his support (they were not happy when I was born, because they saw themselves as his real children and rightful heirs, and to them I wasn’t one of them).
My father was also looked down upon for coming from the urban slums of Rome. His father had moved the family there when my father was about 5 years old during the great migration North from the South. Other members of the extended family moved to South America and North America. But my grandfather wanted to stay in Italy. He hoped one day to return to his tiny rural home town (in which he came from the wrong side of the tracks and had married up), he didn’t want to leave but he couldn’t stay there and allow his family to starve to death.
My father was looked down upon in his own country for coming from South of Naples – basically anything further south than that was the land of the uncivilised, the uncouth, the ugly brutes, dangerous rebels, brigands, bandits, bastards of the mixed and spilled blood of centuries of invasions by different invaders wanting to grab a pied-a-terre foothold in Europe, swarthy men and women who would stand in front of you warmly smiling while coldly stabbing you in the back, the vengeful and the murderous. Brains boiled by the scorching sun.
When my father made it from rags to riches, he was looked down upon for being Nouveau Riche. High society was the on their high horse high and mightily mighty righteous society. They were doing him a favour for allowing him to breathe their rarefied air, but their delicate pinched noses found his raw stench to be almost unbearable. They liked his work though, through his paintings they could vicariously experience vibrant passion unleashed yet contained safely over the mantelpiece, or above the couch with cushions which elegantly matched the colours.
In the art community, my father was looked down upon for being:
1 – too commercial = people could understand his paintings without needing an art critic to explain what the artist meant when he painted this to them before they could like it.
2 – too prolific = he painted too many paintings which devalued them in the art market, how are the art dealers going to make a profit if the demand isn’t much higher than the supply (the only good artist is a dead one – you may have heard this saying).
When he decided to not paint as much as he used to and to paint different subjects, try out new techniques, my father was exiled from the community for being a maverick, dismissed, discarded and replaced with a couple of artists who would paint on demand in the same style as my father, and these new artists were said to be part of the ‘school of my father’. Later on when my father had been wiped out of existence as far as the art community were concerned, the ‘school of my father’ part was dropped because it was no longer necessary to tell that lie, another truth could replace it.
When I was born, my father’s star had almost reached its apex where it would shine incredibly brightly before shooting off and crashing into a hole in the ground, and then his star became his scar.
I was born into a wealthy family, but it was fashionable then as it has become again now (after that hiatus in the middle during the Greed is Good and Wealth is Good no matter how you get it phase of our times) to look down on people who are born that way. It was very weird during the Greed is Good/Wealth is Good phase to watch the children of rich people becoming celebrities who were admired and celebrated just for being born rich, they were applauded for flaunting it and being proud of it, and for a while the profitable career known as being a rich kid was hot and trendy.
I have to admit that I kind of hated them, I envied them in a grudging admiration manner, for doing what I could not do. I was also rather smug about my not being able to do it.
It was drummed into me by my parents, my extended family, my parents’ friends and social circle, random strangers, by the news, and by the society of the time of my growing up that I should be ashamed of being a rich kid.
My cousin once told me that he hated me so much for being born rich that it inspired him to become a lawyer – my cousin’s father worked in finance and was well-off, and my father helped to pay for my cousin’s education because as always he made sure his family, his siblings and their children had his support.
My father cut me off when I was about 15 years old, and refused to pay for my education. He told me that it was for my own good, he didn’t want me to grow up spoiled and useless, I needed to learn how to fend for myself just as he had.
That was one version of the truth.
Another version of the truth was…
My mother told me that my father had cut my mother (and me as an extension of her) off because he wanted to force her to move back to the family home and be his wife the way he wanted her to be his wife, but she refused to do that until he did what he was never going to do, which included:
1 – being grateful to her for everything she had done to help him become rich and famous,
2 – acknowledge all the sacrifices she had made for his career’s sake (such as giving up her own hopes, dreams, ambitions, and opportunities for a career of her own),
3 – apologise for every affair he had had and get rid of his current mistress (my mother was not moving back into the family home until my father moved his current mistress out of it for good, and moving his current mistress to his other house, or to the mistress’s flat in Rome which my mother was certain he was paying for even though the mistress claimed it was paid for with her own money was not acceptable to my mother,
4 – stop living as though he was legally single and childless when it suited him,
5 – repay her for all of her own personal savings which she had used to cover the expenses of tidying up after his legal messes (such as lawyers’ fees which my father refused to pay with his money because he’d lost the cases because he refused to cooperate with his lawyers because they were all out to get him and his money and everyone is the world was a leach)
6 – bow down to her superiority because even though he was a lying, cheating, terrible husband and awful father who accused her of trying to poison him, spread that story to his family who hated her for being foreign and for stealing him away from them, and he threatened to call the men in white to take her away, have her committed and leave her there to rot all because he fell into a ditch the workmen fixing the drainage of the family home had dug and left uncovered, cutting his leg open then refused to have it cleaned and stitched up because he was in a temper and in a hurry to get to the foundry when his sculptures were being cast, and he got blood poisoning due to chemicals from the foundry getting into his open, dirty and bleeding leg wound, and he passed out while driving home, was found by a hitchhiker who drove him to the hospital, and was on death’s door but the doctors saved him, and while recuperating at home he had many hallucinations which the doctors had warned her about, and she cared for him like Florence Nightingale even though she also had a young child sick with measles at the time who had to be handed off to the housekeeper’s family (who lived in a tiny house at the top of a very steep hill) and… even after all of that and so much more horrible stuff, she still loved him, thought he was a great artist, a genius, supported him and his career, was loyal to him and would never give up on their unique, special and passionate partnership.
7 – thank my mother for being so stoic, never complaining, never whining, never being a victim, never crying, never blaming, always helping, always healing, always doing for others what no one ever did for her, doing more for others than she ever did for herself, giving, always giving, never taking, the epitome of compassion, empathy, and selflessness. All she wanted was the occasional thank you, was that too much to ask for, did she not at least deserve that. Yet she was always settling for less than she deserved because she understood that others could not be as good as she was.
I lived for art, I lived for love,
I never harmed a living soul!
With a discreet hand
I relieved all misfortunes I encountered.
Always with sincere faith
rose to the holy tabernacles.
Always with sincere faith
I decorated the altars with flowers.
In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
why do you reward me thus?
I donated jewels to the Madonna’s mantle,
and offered songs to the stars and to heaven,
which thus did shine with more beauty.
In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
ah, why do you reward me thus?
– Vissi D’Arte (translated lyrics) from the opera Tosca (my mother’s favourite opera, and favourite role on stage and in life). Tosca sings this aria just before she gets stabby and kills Scarpia (as shown in the scene in the video in this post).
It was true…
that others had it worse than I did.
I was lucky, privileged, born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn’t even have to struggle to be born – I was cut out. And when I was cut off by my father, I was being given the opportunity to prove that I wasn’t a total waste of space, air, food, time, flesh and blood.
I had no justifiable reason to cry, whine, complain, I was not and never would be allowed to be a victim, and if I did do any of those things… then I only had myself to blame.
Just as it was true that when I flew over the handlebars of my bicycle and didn’t keep flying thanks to gravity, broke my fall with my chin, scraped the skin off of my arms, elbows, knees – it could have been so much worse, don’t cry, don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t be a victim you only have yourself to blame. Which was very true in that instance – I was speeding down from the top of a very steep hill and the front wheel hit a tiny immovable object.
To be fair to my mother, she did blame my father as well as me, but it wasn’t his fault that he was there when it happened, or that he had egged me on as I was afraid of that hill, it was similar to a ski jump slope, and I usually got off my bike to get down it. I needed to confront my fears, feel the fear and do it anyway. But he didn’t force me to do what I did on that day – I forced myself to do it.
It was super fun until it wasn’t super fun.
I was very angry with myself for doing it. I didn’t actually cry, whine, complain, nor did I think of myself as a victim. I blamed myself as it was my fault. I just stood there in the kitchen as my mother told me off, told my father off, told me to get the Mercurochrome, and as I put it on she told me it could have been worse and I was lucky. Don’t cry, don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t be a victim you only have yourself to blame.
Then I went back out and checked to see if my bike was okay. It was a bit bruised like I was, but we were both lucky. I got back on the bike.
But on that day when I almost let myself die… I was very tired of getting back on the bike. But I did it anyway.
I told myself it was in large part because the person who would find my body really didn’t need me to add that to the difficulties which they already had and had had. It wasn’t my mother or my father who would find me. It was someone whose story I knew in quite a lot of detail because they told me about it every time they came over. They’d get in the door, sigh heavily, and that was my cue to ask them how they were, if I missed the cue they’d sigh heavily and then tut. They told me their story over and over partly to let me know how lucky I was and that I should never cry, complain, whine, as they didn’t and they had it worse than I did. They deserved better. I couldn’t give them the better which they deserved but I could refrain from giving them something bad, something they did not deserve.
I told myself other truths about why, and they kept me going for a short while afterwards, but then I forgot again how lucky I was, and the inner voices which were never allowed out, cried, complained, whined, told me stories of being a victim, of always accepting the blame. But I wouldn’t listen to their story. I wanted to get away from them and their story which I didn’t want to hear. There was only one way to do that.
That’s when I had a dream.
A very vivid nightmare.
I was tricked into summoning a demon. I invited it to take possession of my body. I could feel it entering my body from somewhere within, beneath my paralysed form. It was grumbling and growling deeply.
I pleaded with it: Please go away! Please, please, please go away!
It laughed, a rumbling sound echoing in cavernous depths. I kept pleading. It shushed me and told me that pleading with it was useless, if I wanted it to go away I had to mean it.
PLEASE GO AWAY! – I shouted at it.
It laughed, with anger, irritation. I hadn’t understood a damn thing!
I had a moment of giving up…
Go away – I said it calmly.
I meant it.
The demon left. Ebbing away slowly, leaving me with the parting words: Don’t summon me again, next time I won’t go away.
As I woke up there was a sound and sensation behind my head of my pillow being plumped up. But no one was there. I was alone in the flat. And it wasn’t my hands doing it because they were still crossed heavily over my chest.
For those who believe in demons – I don’t believe in demons. I don’t have to believe in demons just because you do, and you don’t have to not believe in demons just because I don’t believe in them. And just because you believe in demons does not make my demon a real demon. It’s my demon and not your demon. That demon saved my life. And that demon was just a dream symbol for something very human.
It was just a dream.
I had that dream a couple of times separated by years afterwards. Not like I had it the first time. The other times I dreamed of myself dreaming that dream. Those were reminders of the pact I made with myself, as the original dream was, when I did not let myself die. Whenever I got close to the edge, was about to jump, it stopped me.
Unfortunately it didn’t stop me from jumping over other kinds of edges.
Something I read the other day reminded me of someone I once was for too long. That someone I once was for too long was (somewhere in my 20’s) suffering from a condition which I labeled after I noticed it – Initiate’s Disease.
The easiest way to describe it without offending more people than is absolutely necessary (there is nothing I can do about those who use anything you do or say to get offended because they like be feel the way they feel after they get offended, but they’ll tell you that’s an absolute lie), is to use myself as an example.
I called it – Initiate’s Disease – because at the time that I noticed it and labeled it for myself as a personal reference point, I had been reading many New Age spiritual self-help books and participating in quite a few workshops which went along with the methods described in the books for healing yourself.
‘Initiate’ was a word which was used fairly often by the New Age spiritual self-help gurus who wrote those books and created those methods of healing, as was the word ‘Disease’ which was usually written as ‘Dis-ease’ because they were doing that to a lot of words and it was very clever of them to do that, it was one of the many ways they were enlightening the masses.
Mostly I couldn’t understand those books or their methods. Thankfully the New Age spiritual self-help gurus enlightened me about why I couldn’t understand them by telling me that I was part of the walking dead (I can’t recall the catchy term they used for it then, I think it was something about being asleep and needing to wake up).
However there was some good news – I wasn’t completely dead, and if I walked over to their kiosk and signed up for their at a very reasonably high priced healing method (this one is the basic course, you don’t want that, this one is the silver course, you could take that one but it’ll only get you so far and you want to go further than that don’t you, you want to be completely free of your lowly human self and its crippled and crippling ego, rise up the kundalini stairs to reach the kingdom of the open fourth eye which is higher up the hierarchy than the third eye, you want the golden course, it’s not that much to pay, don’t you think you’re worth it, if your higher self could get through to you which it could if you buy the platinum course…), then I would become an Initiate, and this would allow me to have all my human dis-eases revealed to me by a clean and clear non-human human guru (but probably not THE guru who created the method because the enlightened one was too busy and important to do such lowly work and mingle with such dis-eased humans).
I did buy into a few of the methods – one was a cult (I only paid for a trial and got out after 3 or 4 sessions, they tried to bully me to go back which only convinced me to tell them to Go Away), another one was a life-coach (his method was actually rather good, I liked his idea of shocking yourself out of habitual patterns, and using it to shock others out of behaving with you in a certain way), the third one was a best-selling self-published author whose popularity made him turn a good book (well… I thought it was a good book until I read the books he’d got most of his ideas from) into a system he offered to pass on, but when I took him up on the offer he proved to me that he probably hadn’t read his own book, and was not following his own teachings.
At some point I probably should have given up, but I kept getting on that bike.
While on one ride or another, during my Initiate phase, I would lie to myself and tell myself how healed I was compared to how dis-eased I had been. Usually that happened during the ‘honeymoon’ phase of being in a relationship with a teaching and healing method. And during that honeymoon phase I would become really teachy-preachy to others.
When you think you’ve figured some life problem out, you may decide that now you must go forth and helpfully share with the world what you’ve figured out so that all those others out there who have this life problem can be healed as you have been healed.
But you don’t do it in a helpful and healing way. In fact you might try to break people first so that then you can heal and help them – not dissimilar to that ‘joke’ when a friend pretends to push you off of a bridge or balcony then pulls you back saying: I saved you!
You tell yourself that you’re being helpful and healing (and why is everyone being so defensive, angry, aggressive towards you, you should be getting applause, gratitude, love for this – those people are seriously messed up and accruing lots of bad karma no wonder they’re so messed up, unlike you).
And you’re probably informing them that you have come to save them from themselves, that you are healing lightness and helpful goodness, but before they can be healed and helped they must be told in great detail what their problem is, what’s wrong with them, and how they are being, living, all wrong. Lucky them, you’re there to show them the right way of living and being. Which begins with – Stop crying, stop whining, stop complaining, stop being a victim you only have yourself to blame.
If you’re lucky, when you’re going through a phase like this, you won’t run into any people who are vulnerable (such as a victim who has finally had the courage to come forward and admit to their victimhood, as this is the first real step of real healing), someone to whom you may do real harm while you’re telling yourself that not only do you never harm others but you’re healing them and helping them to stop harming themselves.
If you’re lucky, when you’re going through a phase like this, you’ll only offer unasked for and unwanted interference to those who can take care of themselves enough to protect themselves from people like you.
If you’re really lucky one day you’ll snap out of it.
If you’re really really lucky when you snap out of it, you’ll look back on that period and be grateful to all those people who put up with you, didn’t tell you what they were really thinking and feeling while you told them what they were really thinking and feeling because you knew better than they did, you were the New Age spiritual self-help guru and they were the unenlightened walking dead masses. Maybe they should have confronted you, but they knew that you would have used the confrontation against them to prove how holier than thou you were and how lowlier than thou they were.
They may have even said: Please go away.
But you told yourself what they were really saying was: Please stay.
They may have said: Go away.
That would have offended you because it was rude, they owe you an apology, they didn’t say please.
When I tell people that I know that I can be an ass and an asshole, I’m not just talking about when I’ve blurted out some stupid tactless bullshit while caught up in the flow of a conversation, I’m not just talking about when I’ve lashed out at someone because I’m hurting but I won’t allow myself to cry, whine, complain, be a victim and I’m blaming myself for everything, I’m also talking about when I had Initiate’s Disease and was an insufferable lying to myself and everyone else to make the lie true narcissistic narcissist empath passive-aggressive see you next tuesday.
Real healing, for me anyway, requires owning up to that and shouting and screaming it from the rooftops.
I don’t mind if you ignore me when I’m doing that.
I’ll try not to do it when you’re trying to sleep.
I still fall into that trap – the Initiate’s Disease – only luckily I catch it, notice it and know what it means. I’m lying to myself, covering up a wound which is crying out for me to let it tell me its story so that it can take the first step towards healing and helping itself.
I’m allowed to do it in my posts because then I can understand it, and what is underneath it, and… you are free to go away.
I’m also allowed in my posts to cry, complain, whine, admit to being a victim, not blame myself for it completely, and take the steps I need to take to stop lying to myself about myself… and you are free to go away.
I should probably mention that I have been informed by those who know me (those who really know me, not those who think they know me after reading just one post, and tell themselves they know me better than I know myself and they’re going to critique my post like a teacher does to a pupil’s essay, because of course I must have asked for that if they decided that I did, and of course that’s going to be helpful and healing because they tell themselves and me that it is) that I have a tendency to be harsh about myself.
I used to argue with them about that.
They patiently waited.
They showed me how to be gentler and kinder, softer with myself.
It’s going to take me awhile to get to speaking more kindly about myself, but at least I’m learning to look into why that’s so difficult to do.
I’ve had quite a few insights recently since doing this series… it’s fueling this series… you might not see it because it is in the black spaces between the lines.
I said: I love you
to myself last night
while standing outside looking at the night sky
and I felt
that it was true.
Over to you…
Do you lie to yourself?