Tag Archives: lies

Uncovering the massive lies

I’ve had it happen twice on the kind of scale that rocked my sense of reality. Finding out you have been lied to in a way that undermines your sense of the other person, how the world works, maybe even your own sense of self is a distressing thing to go through.

Small lies are an everyday thing and no big deal usually. The lies of forgetfulness and omission, the lies that were meant to be a kindness to you, or that protect someone else. Inadvertently misleading each other because we use language differently, or understood something differently… There are also the small lies people tell to protect themselves – of course I remembered. Of course I was going to do that. In the grand scheme of things, they might not be ideal, but they can be lived with.

A big, deliberate lie or series of lies has serious consequences. It can leave you wondering what was real, and second guessing everything. You will likely feel betrayed, and your trust in other people can be compromised. You may feel like you should have seen through the lie, and be beating yourself up for being fooled, naive, optimistic, over-trusting or whatever it was. Worse still, there may be people on the sidelines ready with an ‘I told you so’. There may be humiliation to add to the misery of betrayal.

It’s hard stuff to deal with and will make you feel like shit. It can be more tempting as a consequence to go along with the lie rather than dealing with the truth. Sometimes the truth is bloody painful, and the lies are consoling. But no one feels good about having been misled, and the more you’ve done off the back of that, the worse it feels.

Dealing with this in your personal life is hard. Dealing with it at a political level is brutal. When people have lied to you to get your vote, and you’ve been persuaded to support something that isn’t in your interests, and the people on the other side are just waiting to crow and add insult to injury… it’s not a good place to be.

It’s tempting, when you are proved right, to want to draw attention to that and get back at the people who said you were wrong, or lying. It’s tempting to be angry with the people who were persuaded by lies into doing things that weren’t helpful. If the liar has a lot of power, it can be easier to vent frustration on their victims than go after them.

It’s hard to admit you’ve been duped. We can choose to make that easier for each other, and to handle it kindly. It is better to have people pull away from the lies than give them reason to double down, upholding the lie to protect their own fragile feelings.


Believe in truth

This is the next instalment in my series of blogs where I pick up ideas about fighting fascism from Molly Scott Cato.

This is a tricky one in the current environment – believe in truth. With so many sources offering opinions as facts, rubbishing experts, buying ‘experts’ to promote their agenda, offering counter facts that aren’t true – it’s not easy to pick out the truth from the lies, or from the confusion.

Believing in truth is a belief position. Previously we looked at asking for evidence – which is about establishing what the truth is most likely to be. This is a different, and more philosophical process. It asks us to get over post-modernism, and step away from the idea that truth is always subjective, partial, contextual. Sometimes these ideas are useful and relevant, but they are also easily manipulated to serve a right wing agenda.

Belief itself is a state that is easily manipulated. We also all know that data can be innocently misunderstood, experts can be wrong because they haven’t seen all the data yet, and so forth. The very best information we can get falls short of the truth.

One of the things that abusers do – it’s called gaslighting – is to provide the victim with conflicting information with the intention of driving them mad. Right now in British politics, Jeremy Corbyn is being presented by the media as weak and ineffectual, but also as a powerful leader with dangerous ideas. Migrants apparently come over here to simultaneously take all our jobs while scrounging off our benefits system – we’ve seen a lot of that one. The EU is simultaneously totally evil, but should kindly find a solution to our brexit problems. Clearly both cannot be true. People with terminal illness are declared fit for work. When you’re thinking about truth, this is an area to pay particular attention to.

A person who is interested in truth will be open to new information. They won’t however, swing back and forth between conflicting ideas and at every turn expect you to believe the idea they’re putting forth. Taking a step back and trying to look at the overall pattern will give you a better sense of what you are dealing with.

In face of constant gaslighting, it may be a better bet to pick a view and stick to it, just so that you can function and keep moving. In face of gaslighting, it’s not enough to believe in your truth – you will need to remind yourself of it and revisit the evidence so that the misinformation does not undermine you. Given the scale of the gaslighting, you will also need to share that evidence with other people who will likely also be struggling to navigate and stay sane.

Even if you’re not sure what the truth is, if you believe in the idea that there is truth, and the evidence (somewhere!) to make it clear, then you have some resilience against the madness people feel when they are given conflicting information and told that it is all true.


Sweet little lies

My son has a tremendous interest in ethical questions. He’s particularly fascinated by the ethics of lying, such that this has been a significant topic of conversation lately. Now, the simple answer here is that lying is unethical. But of course there’s the line ‘If Hitler is at the front door and Anne Frank in the attic’. There are times when the only honourable thing to do is to lie. There are many people who lived and escaped persecution only because someone hid them and lied for them. Everyone who helped a Jewish person flee the Nazis. Any movement that resists oppression and tyranny depends on subterfuge to some degree. The underground railroad. When the state itself becomes evil, following the law is not the most honourable choice.

Most of us will not find ourselves in a Hitler/Anne Frank scenario. I hope. But every day presents us with opportunities to be more or less honest. Lies by omission are common. The things we let slide, don’t mention. The little injustices we allow to pass unchallenged. The little mistakes we cover up. Most of the time, these don’t make a lot of odds in the grand scheme of things, but when they do, situations can suddenly run out of control and either you have to fess up, or their follows a process of having to tell more lies to hide the first one. Not a good place to be, not an honourable solution, and frequently, not something that allows for a fix. The person who can admit to a mistake has the space to learn, repair, improve. The person who denies ballsing things up cannot redeem themselves, and cannot learn. Appearing to be right, at the expense of actually being right, will cost you dearly in the long run, more often than not.

Then there are the lies we tell to spare someone’s feelings. The theory being that a lie to avoid pain is kinder. That is true sometimes, but at others, it sets people up for a fall. The person whose failings are not pointed out to them can have a seriously inflated self opinion, and sooner or later will run into a bit of reality, and find they aren’t the best novelist who ever lived, after all. I gather current TV shows frequently make ‘entertainment’ by laughing at people who think they’re far better than they really are. The kinder thing to do would have been to point it out sooner. Thinking you are something, and finding you are not, can be far more traumatic than dealing with the truth early on. And again, there’s scope to change. If someone points out where you are failing, you can learn, improve, become what you want to be. The person who wrongly believes they know it already is being denied all kinds of opportunities to really achieve.

There are the lies of convenience. Most people, when they ask how you are, want a short, reassuring answer. It can be tempting to give that. I spent years lying to everyone around me, by saying  ‘a bit tired’ ‘just a bit under the weather’ when I visibly wasn’t ok, rather than saying what was going on. I did it to spare the people around me, and I did it to protect the person who was depriving me of sleep, undermining my self-esteem and abusing my body. Crazy. But like a lot of women in my situation, I didn’t want to face up to the implications of what was happening to me. Easier to blame myself, than the father of my child. Had I spoken the truth, someone could have pointed out to me that things were not ok. I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone thinking ill of my ex back then. And I also wondered if people would just agree with him, that it was my fault for being too demanding, too emotional, too… whatever it was that week.

When I started being honest about what had happened, I found warmth and support. I found versions of me that weren’t deemed useless, ridiculous, over reacting and unreasonable. I was told that the things I felt, wanted, needed, were the least a human should have. I wish I had dared to trust sooner.

One of the things I learned from this, is that if you consider yourself to be an honourable person and do not feel safe in being honest, it is time to question the situation you are in. It may not be Hitler at the door, but something external is quite probably awry. If you have a mindset that leans towards taking on responsibility, then it can be easy to internalise blame, to carry things that are not yours, and so forth. When honesty feels dangerous, there is serious work to do, somewhere.

The decision to lie should never been taken lightly. If it’s to avoid inconvenience, or for some other short term gain, it’s worth weighing up what the bigger picture looks like and what the ultimate cost might be. Difficult truth can be handled with tact and care. Mistakes need to be owned. And if it’s not safe to be honest, start thinking about an exit strategy.

For myself, I’d rather tell the truth as far as is humanly possible, come what may. But I do not currently have an attic, much less any Jewish girls depending on me for their lives. In that scenario, you can bet I’d be lying my ass off.


Breaking your reality

I’ve been through it twice, so far, at intervals of about a decade. On both occasions the breaking of my reality had everything to do with two separate individuals and the complex webs of lies they created. And on both occasions, I fought hard to keep my reality whole, because the alternative always appears so insane, unstable and dangerous. Until you escape. Both times, in the end, I went through the trauma of unpicking all the things I thought I knew, reassessing everything, falling apart, and being able to rebuild. The first time, I rebuilt on a foundation of broken trust, the second time I think I’ve come out with a more nuanced sense of things.

There are few things more frightening than finding that your reality doesn’t work. However, when you think about it, so much of the reality we inhabit depends on trust. It depends on things we have all agreed are true, exist and can be used as points of reference. Language, countries and economies are all part of our belief system. There’s a process at the moment not unlike saying ‘The Emperor has no clothes on’ in which we’re collectively reassessing the value of money markets, wealth made out of fantasy, and considering that the uber-rich might not be all that good for the rest of us. Bloodless revolutions can be dramatic and uncomfortable too.

I wonder what it was like for the devout Christians of the Victorian era, having to deal with Darwin, and the possibility that their book might not represent literal truth. There are still those who just won’t look at the evidence and who hold to the belief, and their relationship with the rest of reality gets ever more strained and problematic. There must have been plenty for whom Darwin brought deep, personal crisis. We’re asked to do a lot of trusting – of governments, scientists, lawyers, big businesses, media and medics these days more often than religious folk, but it is no less a belief position that keeps it all chipping along. We depend on the realities other people help to make, and sometimes those are very faulty indeed.

Most of the UK is in drought, my bit is being battered by torrential rain. We’ve had years of less predictable and more problematic weather already, but we’re still reluctant to think about climate change. For everyone whose notion of reality depends on car, reliable water supplies, all the electricity you can dream of and the freedom to consume more than you can afford, climate change is madness. Going there, recognising it, would require of our culture something not unlike a nervous breakdown. It’s going to hurt like hell.

I have leaned, in my personal life, that no matter how familiar and established a fictional reality is, when you are dealing with lies and illusions, it just doesn’t work. The effort required to bend and re-shape things into other things, so that your dysfunctional reality holds together, is vast. Every piece of evidence that doesn’t fit has to be reinvented. Experiences that contradict, must be forgotten, feelings that go against the reality, must be crushed. It may seem that we can make the reality stick, and that no other reality is possible, but it catches up with us in the end. Either we can’t sustain the work involved in holding a faith position about things that blatantly aren’t true, or we get so far removed from the rest of the world that we can’t function. Collectively, climate change will do one or the other to us, unless we deal with it. I’d like to think it’s possible to change by reasoned, deliberate choice rather than in crisis.

In personal life, the breaking of reality was an awful experience, but the far side of it is a much better place. Things make sense again. Sensory evidence can be trusted, emotions taken into account. A greater sense of inner peace becomes possible.

I’m wondering if ‘Jayne’ will feel tempted to comment on this post. If she does, it could be to ask if I’ve realised that I have been living a lie for the last couple of years. ‘Jayne’ has tried on several occasions to assert this already, but unless I’m very much mistaken, she needs to. ‘Jayne’ slipped up over the Easter weekend and made a comment that took me from suspicion about the familiarity of her phrasing, through to a reasonable degree of confidence that I know who she is.

Assuming I’m right in my guess then ‘Jayne’s ‘ hostility is necessary for her. Based on what I think I know, her situation requires her to hold the belief that I am a cruel, vindictive, heartless sort of person. It has been necessary for some time that she reads the very worst imaginable things into anything I do or say and must, therefore, cherry pick the bits that can be tweaked support her world view. So she comes to the blog of someone she dislikes for something, anything, that reinforces her perspective. I wonder what she has to carefully ignore to make her world work. I wonder what she has to pretend to like or accept, what she has to suppress within herself, in order to get from one day to the next with her reality intact. It’s no way to live. I know, I’ve been there. I try not to be too hard on her. She frustrates me, but I feel very sorry for her, and I also know that merely my saying that will poke the flimsy foundations of her world. If I am nice to her, I will hurt her. You can’t help someone whose reality doesn’t work, without causing them a lot of distress.

Sometimes the best we can hope for anyone, is that the fabulous prison-castle construction made of lies and straw shows its true nature so that it can be kicked to pieces. The walls are mostly just air. You are free to leave. It’s good when that happens.