The other night I had a dream that I had written a book called The Awful Truth about Liars. I have woke up and spent the rest of the night planning the outline. Turns out there aren't any books by that name – so the title is available. But I had to ask myself “What do I really know about liars and lying?”
Everything and nothing.
I'm not a particularly good liar. I am too conscientious and generally agreeable to enjoy it. But I have done it successfully. Moreover, when I was in my 20s, I worked professionally in the theater. Plato said that “all poets (as in playwrights) should be banished” from his ideal state because they spread disinformation. Oscar Wilde said that writing for the theater is professional lying. In fact, Wilde wrote an essay, inspired by Plato, called “The Decay of Lying,” The essay contains a Socratic dialogue between two characters, Vivian and Cyril, in which Vivian puts forth an aesthetic philosophy that reflects Wilde's and pronounces that the decline in the literature of the time is due to the decay of artists' ability to lie about the world.
Oscar Wilde, who hid his homosexuality from the world for much of his life, seemed to believe that any form of imagination was lying. If I were to write about superheroes, then that would be a lie because superheroes don't exist. Here, I disagree with him because the subconscious, which is 90 to 95% of the mind’s activities, interprets the world. It does not see it accurately. Therefore, it cannot be the fault of any individual for imagining things which don't exist. It's something that the mind simply does. And creativity can often express the truth of the human condition, more accurately than facts.
Lying is telling a falsehood on purpose, whether it's a white lie (You don't look fat in those pants) or black (I didn't embezzle money from the bank.) Black, white, or gray, we've all done it at some point. As a hypnotherapist, I become interested in lies and liars when people seek help, but don't truly want to change in their hearts. The subconscious does not lie; therefore, a client wishing to protect or hide some personal truth, must come out of trance to do it.
There is a small portion of people who actually come to therapy to prove the therapist wrong. These people often lie, whether it's by exaggerating details, or leaving out very important information. These clients will be afraid to go into trance, because they will be afraid that the truth will come out despite themselves. Of course, all that really happens is that they have trouble achieving a trance state, or if they achieve one, they break it the moment the truth feels threatened.
Another type of client sincerely wants change, but goes through life with a kind of mask on. Some clients are aware they do this; some are not. By mask, I mean a false expression – perhaps a permanent smile, or a false, controlled tone of voice. Some people have a false narrative, they believe about themselves, such as their childhood was perfect and without trauma. Some who work in corporate environments learn to adapt such a pose in order to protect their vulnerable core self.
Usually, the mask becomes an issue because it prevents the client from honestly addressing the goal. Some clients are fully aware of the mask and don't want to let it go. If the client is unaware of the mask, and the mask becomes apparent in our work, the client must decide to free themselves of the mask in order to go forward with the goal. Some clients are unaware of the mask, even when it begins to present itself. If the mask stands in the way of the goal, achieving a good trance will almost be impossible.
If someone is a liar, as in someone who is both good at and enjoys lying, the likelihood of them coming to treatment is pretty slim. Why would they? They enjoy who they are.
The most interesting, and perhaps most challenging situation with clients is when they discover they have been lying to themselves. They may discover that their goal is completely different than the one they came in with. They may discover that there is much to blame in their relationships going afoul as their allegedly, abusive partners. They may have trouble with the idea that the subconscious interprets everything. They may believe their perceptions are fact, and when they discover this is not so, they made out their perceptions of the world. In this highly charged political time, some clients test me on my political views within minutes of their arrival. In short, they want me to agree with them - about everything - which is not logical, likely, or useful to their growth. Accepting that most of life is perception and interpretation, not fact, is often the first step to healing, because only then can you take responsibility for your end of it.
So, in this sense, we are all liars just as Oscar Wilde said we are. It's just that we don't know it. The real test of how much of a lie we are telling ourselves is how much we are attached to it once it has been pointed out. Whenever you become defensive, it's wise to ask yourself what you are protecting. When a person is comfortable with his or her own truth, that person tends not to be defensive, but some combination of firm and compassionate. Accepting the self inevitably requires one to understand that others may not accept you. You recognize others’ view of the world does not match your own. You know if they are to see eye to eye with you, you might need to engage in some persuasion. The defensive person, on the other hand, is inevitably defending the ego simply because there is no compassion for the other person being wrong.
I believe that we do know our own truth, even if we don't know it consciously. And with hypnotherapy, clients can abandon false, negative, or destructive beliefs systems that prevent them from accepting and nurturing who they really are.
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