“Humans are Masters of Self - deception”, says well-known psychologist Cortney Warren. We fool ourselves into believing things that are false. And we refuse to believe things that are true. At the core, we lie to ourselves in our daily lives just because we don’t have enough psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow.
That’s why understanding the phenomena of “Self - deception” is the best way to live a fulfilling life. When we admit who we really are, we have the opportunity to change.
Self - deception in a Personal Container
Self - deceptive tendencies start in a very early age. When we start observing and making conclusions about ourselves and our environment, the conclusions we make affect our identity. I have seen many people who wear the mask of self - deception because their childhood period was very difficult and psychologically painful. To deny that reality, they resort to many kinds of deceiving activities as adults.
Such as when you are a child your parents were always fighting. You didn’t get the attention and love you deserved as a normal child. So, you tried very hard to be a perfectionist in everything to hide your anxiety and to direct your parents attention towards you.
In this case when the child grows up, he becomes insecure about many things. He might fear taking risks, trying something new and might fall in love with the daily routine because it provides a mental security he needs. And when someone points out his imperfection he feels the tremendous urge to deny the source. There are times when a person has the experience of being severely bullied in school, they develop a timid personality. They fear to talk to people and avoid social contacts.
There are times when people portray themselves as fake victims or lie about their family status and fortune to get attention. They do it because they want people to notice them no matter what. Maybe they have the fear of being abandoned and un-noticed.
There are many people who develop weird eating habits (which they don’t do it normal days at least not out of hunger) or shopping a lot (beyond their needs) or try to harm themselves (physically or mentally cornering oneself). These symptoms show in many, when they try to avert their minds from the impacts of big emotional scars. They choose self - destructive ways to relieve the pain.
These are times we create excuses to swindle our minds. For example, a friend of mine, who had the tendency of rejecting the granted happiness and opportunities. In the past she faked illness to skip her university exams even if she is a top grade student; She would skip a promotion even if she deeply desires money and status. She would want to do self - damaging things that other people with a right mind will avoid. For a long time, she couldn’t understand why she is doing this. She is well - aware of consequences and responsibilities then why?
Have you seen people who like to avoid opportunities because of responsibilities? In her case, she didn’t attend the exam, because going into big university will give big jobs and big workload in future. Big expectations of parents which she thought she can’t handle. So, self - deceived herself by saying it wasn’t in her fate. Same with the job promotion, finally she blamed others and her fate to put a closure on those events.
Sigmund Freud described this concept as ego - defense mechanisms -- “Most of the humans have self - deceptive tendencies because they want to defend their delusional reasons against the real truth.”
Self - deception in a Professional Container
In organizations there is nothing more common than self-deception --- Sometimes we call it “Being in the box”. It is one of the things that is hard to see but can be a root cause of many organizational problems.
Lying is a common trick when people try to conceal their wrongdoings and psychologically force people to deceive. Self - deception causes the blindness where a person is unable to see the real problem. The problem can be with him or the people he is working with or the organization he is working for.
There are many reasons why some may choose to engage in deception. First is the low level of transparency --- it means the trust and understanding between person to person is unstable. In this case, people tend to hide or lie about many things. This can create a blaming culture, where people may condemn others for their own mistakes just to escape from penalties and consequences.
Temptations like tight project deadline, financial instability, management pressure can be the cause of deception. When there are so many problems to think about, a person can be confused and lost the right path in search of an answer. In 1993, Grover demonstrated “How actors may lie in order to avoid anxiety in stressful work environments”. That’s why many of us take self - deception as a defensive plan rather than a devious act.
Why Do We Need Clean slate?
In my previous blog I have mentioned, clean slate gives the clarity in a person’s life by giving the real insights of the real problems.
Let’s discuss how does Clean slate help in a personal basis?
In Temenos vision labs, our participants share their influence map through storytelling. The process invites us the facilitators to go deep into their lives and gather the scattered information pieces to understand them. Particularly in clean slate the participants become deeply indulge with the threads of memories of the past and how the past directs them towards present and future. Many ways of conversations happen between participants and facilitators to grasp the values of the lives through clean slate. The most interesting fact is it act as a mental guide to differentiate the delusions and realities every time you perform the process.
We make them realize “How self - deception can lead to massive amount of pain and regret.” To avoid being honest, we frequently make choices with harmful consequences. So, there is a need of cleaning of the emotional baggage that’s dragging a person down.
You will also have the option of not changing yourself even if in this miserable condition but remember looking back to your regrettable life can be incredibly painful because you can’t change the choices of your past.
Whatever we do the responsibility lies with us, so without running away from it, we can always choose to face.
How does clean slate help ledaers in a professional basis?
Many leadership experts say, “A manager of an under-performing project might choose to lie about its poor performance rather than disclose the truth to the client to avoid penalization and buy time, but it rarely gives the solution of the problem. If the manager lies again the situation gets worsened since the underlying causes of the problem are misrepresented.”
If you know self - deception is being escalated in the organization, you must find the source of it. If people are lying then find out what making them lie. The clean slate can give you the clarity about other’s thinking.
The process begins with the cleaning act of deception at the individual to the group level. If the initial lie is detected, the number of self - damaging causes will be decreased. We propose that continuous deception causes severity, after some time it can transform into an organization level phenomenon. Once an individual or a group have lied at least once and it remains undetected, certain factors will make it easier for them to lie again and get others involved in the future. So, the clean slate is needed to cut this chain off.
In CS we ask four questions to each participant:
How has the container “enabled” you grow?
How have you “enabled” the container grow?
How has the container “failed” you?
How have you “failed” the container?
“There are two ways to be fooled - One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Of all the liars in the world, the worst are our own fears that cause deceiving acts.
Temenos believes every human being has to face difficult and confused moments when she feels most insecure, unsafe, unloved, uncomfortable, embarrassed, angry, and generally unresolved and these are the areas that she will be most prone to self-deception. In the above questions, we make participants recognize the real individual perception of the current reality of their container.
As I have said many times (humbly!), Temenos is a free space where we don’t make judgments or comparisons. There is space for everyone to have their own choices, to make individualistic decisions.