Change Happens Faster if You Lie to Yourself

  1. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it!
  2. Find Your Calling
  3. Be Where You Are
  4. Change Happens Faster if You Lie to Yourself
  5. The Finger That Points…
  6. Take no credit. Cast no blame. Seek to empower others. Enjoy life.
  7. Always Tell the Truth, as You Know It
  8. One Thing at a Time
  9. Take Nothing for Granted
  10. Wait Patiently
  11. Seek solutions, without placing blame
  12. There are no Rules

Synopsis: Change Happens Faster if You Lie to Yourself — Our lives are dictated by what we tell ourselves. Making substantive alterations actually requires… lying to yourself.

Psst! Hey!

Want more great writing designed to help YOU to shift your behaviour? Check out Wayne’s books!


lie to yourselfOf course I can swim!!

I used to try this line out on my clients; they found it hard to believe.

They we absolutely sure they were not lying to themselves… but they were. For example, one woman said, “I have absolutely no options.” Knowing her back story, I listed off 4 or 5 realistic options and said I could likely come up with more. She blanked out for a second, as she went inside to think about what I’d said.

When she rebooted, she said, “Well, I have no options I would actually do.”

Now, I hope you’re seeing the interesting thing that’s going on here. Strictly speaking, although we don’t put it this way, the first thing she told me was a lie.

Of course she had options! Millions of them! So, her first statement was categorically untrue.

Now, she could argue that she said the former and meant the latter; that what she meant was that she had no options she’d actually do. But no. This is emphatically not the case.

She literally and figuratively believed “I have no options.” Her belief was so strong that this lie was her truth, contrary evidence be damned.

The principal reason we stay stuck repeating dysfunctional behaviour is that the lies we tell ourselves are deeply ingrained.

  • If all I do is sigh and say, “I have absolutely no options,” then I have none.
  • If I say, “I’m stuck in a loveless marriage,” I am.
  • If I say, “That’s just the way I am,” I’m right.

What’s also interesting about this is that when we get into a stuck place, many are the people around who try to convince us that we indeed do have options.

But… but…the part of us that creates the stuckness (call it the ego) isn’t looking for a way out. It’s looking for confirmation.

The ego has created the belief (say, helplessness, or badness.) It is enamoured with it’s creation. It wants to keep what it has created. It actually likes the pain and hopelessness that comes from having no options.

It will therefore discount any option other than stuckness. It will do this by lying to you, and that lie will be contained in the premise that doing something different, or seeing a situation differently, is not possible.

If it wasn’t so sad, it would be amusing. The person’s entire creative output is tied up in creating excuses for not changing… wait for it… the situation or perspective they say they want to change!

Being stuck… being unable to shift one’s behaviour… is “the big lie.”

We know it’s a lie because we’ve all experienced shifting something we thought we couldn’t shift, and getting better results.

The ego is clever, though, and its principal cleverness is compartmentalization. We may have a string of successes innovating change at work, and it never occurs to us that the same skill set is available for use in our interpersonal relationships. Or, we make a shift in one relationship, yet vehemently deny the possibility of shifting another.

Until we learn to consciously lie to ourselves.

I’m playing with the word “lie,” because the idea of lying to yourself has the potential to get your attention. Another way of putting what I am saying is,

Choosing to bring the games I’m playing with myself into consciousness.”

One of the best ways to learn how to do this is to notice “absolutizing” language. In our first example, the client said, “I have absolutely no options.” Another version is the positive absolute: “I always screw up.” In either case, (and there are tons of other absolutes,) the lie is simple. “Here I am, a poor, helpless victim of (fill in the blank) and I can do nothing about it.”

The breaking of the lie, and the replacing it with a newer and better lie comes when we notice and correct our own absolutes.

You may be wondering why I’m calling the new position “a lie” instead of going all New Agey and calling it an affirmation. One reason is that I gag on most New Age claptrap. The second reason is that the new position is a lie — until it’s adopted more or less all the time.

Let’s use “I always screw up” as an example. When I catch myself telling myself that, I stop, have a breath, and correct myself. If I was talking to myself, I correct it silently. If I said it out loud, I correct it out loud.

I have made mistakes in the past, and I’ve also resolved a ton of similar situations. Rather than whine about this one, here’s what I’m going to do.”

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s a lot better! How can that be a lie?”

It’s a lie because you haven’t actually done anything yet. Having a plan is one thing. Implementing it 100% of the time is… something else.

The lie a kid tells himself — “I can (learn to) ride a bike!” — is how he gets on that scary two wheeler in the first place. Continuing to tell himself the lie helps him to survive falling and bleeding, repeatedly. “I can do it!” gets him back in the saddle.

But it’s a lie, until he actually can ride the bike without falling.

On the other hand, it would be stupid of the kid to act like an adult and say, “I’ll never be able to ride a bike,” and then try. Or worse, never try.

Oddly, for adults, most of our drama and silliness comes from telling ourselves what we can’t do, and then wondering why we stay stuck.

The way out is through lying to ourselves, then acting on the lie.

  • I’m really shy, so I’m going to go to a party and strike up a conversation with a stranger” is a cure for shyness.
  • I’m really shy, so I’ll sit in the corner and sulk” is not.
  • I’ve had enough of this crazy relationship, so I’ll leave” is a curative.
  • I’ve had enough of this crazy relationship, but I’m helpless to leave” is not.

And, of course, in all situations, saying “I’ll do it differently” requires actually doing it differently.

This week, watch yourself for the absolutes you’re telling yourself. Recognize them for what they are, and what they are not. They are not true — they’re convenient lies to keep yourself stuck. Change one or two, by lying to yourself and giving yourself an option or twenty. Then, act.

Because, hey… if you’re going to lie to yourself,
at least make it a good one.


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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