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Friday, July 6, 2012

Understanding Lies

Earlier this week, I was having a conversation with a friend who was upset that she had been deceived or "lied" to. The problem was compounded, in her mind, because the deception had occurred via people that were near and dear to her.

Very often, dominant type people, fear being taken advantage of more than any other personality type. While a social butterfly fears exclusion...or a controlled personality fears criticism of their work...a dominant personality type fears being taken advantage of. Very often, ego driven dominant types think that they are intellectually and morally superior to others. Therefore it stands to reason that dominant types hate being lied to. 

I understand dominant types well. I number among them. There was a day when being lied to bothered me immensely. I took things personally. I played the victim and believed I was morally superior and honest. I realize now that I was wrong. In fact, understanding that I was wrong was key to becoming well. There is one other problem with trying to get through to dominant types who are looking for understanding.

Dominant types tend to think they are smarter than you. This becomes a major hurdle for them to overcome because they practice an unconscious ritual we call "contempt prior to investigation." They think they already know every thing. The problem with that mindset is obvious. If they knew everything already- why then would someone lying to them- still hurt and bother them? Wouldn't they know the solution? The truth is- dominant types don't think there is a solution because they believe they would have already discovered it. It isn't until dominant people become humble- that they become teachable. 

For a quarter century as a police officer, people lied to me everyday. I was not able to process that effectively at the time. I took their lies personally as though every one of them- thought I was so dumb that I believed their ridiculous stories and alibis. Emotionally I was never really able to find a solution and I have to say- all of those lies had a compounding and depressing effect on me. I viewed liars with contempt. Because I dealt with thousands of them, I began to think that I was the last honest guy on the planet. Of course I was wrong. In a fit of humility and irony, I realized that I was just lying to myself. The emotional solution to all of this came to me through a series of events in New Orleans. I cannot recap that bizarre history- but what I will offer up is a basic understanding for why we ALL lie and how I was able to deal with that effectively.

In the beginning, each of us are raised and taught like animals. We are taught using a series of rewards and punishment themes. When we do good we are rewarded with kind and gentle gestures, smiles, positive attention, maybe even some candy. When we make mistakes we are punished. Punishment is painful. We are scolded, abandoned, yelled at. Any affection is withdrawn. There are angry looks and words. Sometimes we are isolated or hit. We learn to cry and we learn shame and guilt. It is emotionally and physically painful.

Thus, we learn to lie. We can't possibly measure up to the world's expectations of perfection. So as we grow, when we screw up, we fear the consequences. And very often- lying works. It allows us to escape punishment.

So we live our lives seeking rewards and avoiding punishment at all costs. And of course, we are confronted with choices. Choices that ultimately will lead us to lie or to omit items that are part of the truth. The only thing that changes- is the amount and degree to which we lie. Some people tell a few lies...for others...everything is a lie.

Understanding why people lie is no longer a big mystery to me. In fact, it doesn't even grab that much attention any more. People are not trying to damage each other- they are simply trying to avoid punishment. Lying is not some malicious or personal attack that we are required to get upset about. People have been lying since the dawn of time. That's what people do. People lie to avoid punishment. People fail- time and time again. But they don't lie to hurt us. Hurting me has never been the motive of any of the lies told to me by liars during the course of my life. People are just being people. The difference for me now is that I understand all of that. But most importantly, I am ok with that. In fact, I don't take it personally nor do I let it get to me. It all seems like a giant waste of energy to me.

One other thing. When I became humble- I became teachable. When I quit thinking I knew everything, when I quit practicing contempt prior to investigation, when I actually started listening to wise people instead of talking, my life improved dramatically. That's how I got ok with all of this. So it is...

I have never learned one thing while talking. This is no exception. It's a damn shame that we learn these things and can't pass them along.

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