While there are many reasons we can’t see our self-deception, I will focus on two primary reasons that very few people will ever mention in today’s article. The fact that so few ever say these are, in part, why it makes it so hard for us to see how we are lying to ourselves.
The two reasons we lie to ourselves
As with most everything in our lives, we learn self-deception as a child. We don’t want to admit our parents are perfectly imperfect as children. For example, it’s natural for a child to feel terrified when parents are late. So, we will make excuses or minimize, justify, or condone their tardiness to calm our fears. Spanking is another example. Many people believe that this type of punishment ‘toughened them up,’ but if their adult boss told them they needed to be spanked, they would rightfully argue that it is entirely unacceptable. So, why would it be ok to slap or spank a defenseless child? Children cannot intellectually or emotionally properly comprehend why it’s happening, let alone stop it. However, we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that physical abuse is good and healthy parenting.
All of the excuses that people use that make spanking ok are self-deception. The phrases ‘I deserved it!’, ‘It made me stronger, ‘I was being naughty, so it had to happen!’ – all of it is self-deception. Janet Jackson spoke of this when talking about her childhood in an interview, how she was beaten but ‘always deserved it,’ saying that it kept her in line and made her who she is today. Her self-deception led to her making choices such as being physically exposed on national television in a stunt with Justin Timberlake. When people say things like ‘it was never something we didn’t deserve’ as Janet did, it is a clear example of a child using self-deception to survive and make sense of something senseless.
The second factor in facing our self-deception is society and religion. While this isn’t an article to disparage religion, it is here to help you on your journey, and part of that might be asking, ‘what is a primary message in religion’? First, ‘God, the Father, is always right.’ Even for agnostics or atheists, this communicates that your father is always right, which isn’t true. All fathers are human and make mistakes. Secondly, within society, the message to always respect your mother and father is often portrayed at a very young age. These are powerful messages that condemn us to be ‘being bad’ if we question our parent’s imperfections and humanness at all. These messages force us into self-deception as a way to survive.
Another trope that coincides with the imperative not to question our parent’s imperfections is to ‘not speak ill of the dead.’ So, if our parents have passed and we are looking to do inner work to heal our childhood injuries, it will be difficult, with this thinking, to correctly assign responsibility. By not speaking ill of the dead, we are repressing the healing that we deserve, which robs us of the life we deserve.
Interestingly, there is no shame in society in being angry at our partner, our siblings, or our boss, but to feel anger towards our parents is frowned upon. It is seen as disrespectful and treasonous, which, again, causes us to lie about what we are feeling. However, to grow and heal, we must learn to honestly express the repressed anger we feel for having to maintain the “God-like” status of our perfectly imperfect parents.
How do we get back into reality?
If we still don’t think that our parents had any effect on our lives and we believe that we’re not in denial or self-deception, then the following three questions will bring clarity, truth, and reality.
Did you ever say ‘I will/would never do that to my kids? Are there aspects of your childhood that you would not want to repeat with your children? If so, write them down – these instances are the doorway to discovering the injuries you have repressed and denied to protect your parent’s God-like status at your expense.
Have you made a conscious or subconscious attempt to do any aspect of parenting differently than your parents did? This question is a little bit deeper, and, having read this article, you might notice you have made some changes to the way you, yourself, parent. Again, this could be conscious or subconscious, but it will help you realize why you have made these choices to parent in a different way.
Are you feeling anger or guilt at the prospect of admitting your parents made mistakes that left wounds in you? Is that guilt keeping you from realizing that you made adjustments as a parent? Finally, are you feeling the same feelings about your parenting? In my experience, an adult who lives in truth and reality can see themselves in those three questions.
Remember, this is not about belittling or blaming our parents. Even parents who have actively studied how to be better will make mistakes that leave wounds. Your parents were perfect; they clothed you, put a roof over your head, helped you with your homework, and did many beautiful things. But they were also imperfect; they did get angry, maybe hit you, and at times rejected you when they were too busy to play with you. However, the perfect and the imperfect can live in conjunction with each other, and the acceptance of that truth is love.
To learn more, watch the video here: