This lesson is excerpted from Lightning Path Workbook Two: The Healing.
In the previous section, we took a look at “addiction,” or what we call Toxic Attachment. As we saw there, toxic attachment to substances, behaviours, and even people develop because of toxic socialization, specifically the pain and emptiness caused by violence, neglect, and chaos. The pain of toxic socialization causes us to look for things to salve, sooth, and treat the damage. We find these “things” that help (alcohol, sex, morphine, shopping, or whatever), and through the magic of dopamine, we become attached to the point of toxicity, meaning we consume the substances (like tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, carbs, etc.), engage in the behaviours (running, sex, shopping, etc.), or develop toxic attachments to people (i.e., co-dependent abusive relationships) even though they cause damage to our body, our self, our family, our life, and even this world.
As we noted in the last unit, treating toxic attachment, though relatively straightforward, is a challenge. To treat a toxic attachment, you must detoxify your environment and then reprogram your dopamine addled brain. Reprogramming your brain is straight forward enough to do, if you know your toxic attachments, how they started, and what needs they meet; however, it can be impossible if you do not know or do not admit you are addicted, or do not know how it all started in the first place.
At this point, you might be feeling this is all common sense, and it is. If you want to treat any wound, you have to clean the wound(s), clean your environments, and determine the nature and source of the wound. If you go to an emergency room, these are the first things they do; they put you in a clean room, make sure the wound is clean, and determine the nature of the wound. Once they know the details, it is easier for them to determine proper treatment and easier for them to heal the wound.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our toxic attachments or other emotional/psychic ailments, it is not so straightforward. The problem is not because understanding toxic attachments is difficult, nor is it the case that uncovering the source of toxic attachments is particularly challenging. Once you know the truth of toxic attachments to shopping, alcohol, and so on, it usually only takes a few straight forward questions and a few honest answers to figure out the source of the trauma and the reason for the toxic attachment(s). The problem is, we often do not give honest answers about our traumas, their sources, and the psychic wounds and toxic attachments that result. In fact, we tend to lie to ourselves and others about these things. We lie to ourselves and others about our environments. We lie to ourselves and others about the quality of our relationships. We lie to ourselves and others about the presence of toxic attachments. We lie to ourselves and others about the severity of our wounds. We lie to ourselves and others about the nature of our actions, telling ourselves that what we do is OK and alright, even if it is hurting ourselves and our own children. When it comes to assessing our damage, toxic attachments, and actions, we lie, lie, lie, lie lie; and then, we lie some more.
In our healing practice, we have seen people lie to themselves and others numerous times. No matter how hard we try to get some clients to hear the truth, no matter how hard we try to get some clients to tell the truth, no matter how hard we try to get some clients to see the toxic realities of their lives and their behaviours, often they resist. They resist hearing the truths. They resist seeing the truths. They resist even talking about the truth. Instead, they prefer to criticize others, deflect, deny, and blame. In other words, they lie and do everything they can to avoid awareness of their realities and the toxicity of their own actions. Why? There are several reasons that people avoid, some simple and some complex, some innocent and some not so much.
It’s not so bad after all!
One of the more simple and innocent reasons people lie about their environments, the toxicity in their lives, their toxic attachments, their toxic behaviours, and so on, is that sometimes things do not seem all that bad after all, and so they do not think they have a problem.
A toxic attachment to running is a good example of this. Running is a healthy activity, and it is easy to think that it is not a problem, or that you can never get too much of it. Because running is something we all see as healthy, it is easy to ignore any negativity that might result. Unfortunately, negativity can result. We knew of one individual who would go running all the time, for hours at a time, three to five times a week. This individual spent more time with her running group than she did with her spouse and children. She went on regular trips to compete and was on the road all the time during the running season. This person told herself and her family it was for her health and well-being, and pretended it was not having a negative impact on her family.
However, her running had all the characteristics of a toxic attachment. When her spouse began to open up, we soon realized that she was running to escape from a toxic environment (her home) and a toxic and unsatisfying relationship with her spouse. Like all people with a toxic attachment, she was using running to get away from a toxic environment and to feel good about herself and her life. By getting out of the home, running provided the necessary relief. Running also triggered serotonin release, which made her feel better. Eventually, through the magic of dopamine attachments, she developed a dependency on running. She soon justified the time, the money, and the neglect of her primary relationships to get the running fix. As “healthy” as this activity was in the beginning, it caused problems. By being out of the home all the time, she was avoiding her problems, undermining her primary relationships, and neglecting her children. As a result, her children have grown up with serious emotional issues, and her family life and relationship have totally collapsed. To be sure, she recognized there were problems in her life, but she wouldn’t see running, or the time it takes away from maintaining a family, as an issue. Running is healthy, after all, and it is her necessary, healthy, self-care, “me” time.
To be sure, self-care “me” time is important, as is exercise, but this does not take away from the fact that she had a toxic attachment to running. When the “thing” we have a toxic attachment to does not make us immediately sick, or when it contributes to our health in some other respects, we can easily ignore the negative consequences and easily find excuses to maintain the toxic attachment; but remember, in assessing your life for healing needs, individual health is not the only thing that is important. Your families, your children, your work, and your social environments play a role in your health and well-being as well. Just because an addiction is not affecting you directly does not mean it is not negatively impacting your life or the lives of the ones you love and are responsible for.
Unfortunately, toxic attachments are not the only things we can justify because it’s “not so bad after all.” That simple, easy to make lie works with a lot of different things, like spanking your children, which “is not so bad,”1 or yelling at our kids, which is “not so bad,” or sexually assaulting women, which is “not so bad,” and so on. The truth is, the “it’s not so bad” lie allows a lot of bad stuff to continue to happen. However, if we want to move forward, we must understand, it is bad. Toxic attachments, assaulting our children, assaulting women, and all the other crap of our toxic socialization is bad. It undermines our physical, mental, emotion, and spiritual health and it makes it harder to connect. If we want to move forward and connect, we have to put aside the “it’s not so bad” lie and face the hard truth of our toxic lives, behaviours, and world.
Look at me, I’m rich and successful
Besides the “it’s not so bad” lie, another enormously powerful and extremely common way of justifying our toxicities and ignoring our realities, especially in the prosperous West, is to point to our successes, and especially wealth, as an indication that things are alright. This is the “Look at me. I’m rich and successful” lie. In this scenario, we refuse to admit the truth about our life and we refuse to admit a toxic environment or that we are damaged from a toxic socialization. Instead, we say “What do you mean I’m damaged from my childhood? What do you mean my IQ is affected? What do you mean I am hurt and diminished by toxic socialization? I have a job. I have a house. I have a car. I’m OK. I turned out alright. I’m rich and successful.
When you are even moderately successful, this is an immensely powerful lie you tell. It would be hard to walk up to someone like Donald Trump, John Travolta, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or some other “high functioning” alpha and tell them, “Man, you’re messed up and disconnected.” They can easily dismiss such a challenge, simply by pointing at their private jets, fancy houses, gold toilets, and rich celebrity friends. Because our society puts such value on material success, it is hard for those who are successful to see and admit they are sick, ill, and toxic. From Hollywood diva to middle-class mom, from Corporate CEO to daddy in his man cave, when challenged to face a hard truth we do not want to admit, we point to our fancy lives filled with money and material things and use that to justify, deflect, and excuse.
There is no sense in being hypocritical about it. We all know what this lie is and many of us have committed it. We have all looked at our successes, whatever they may be, and we have all used these successes as excuses to tell lies about our toxic environments, our toxic behaviours, the people we have exploited, and the suffering and the addictions that we endure. If there is a problem, it is with other people because they “just cannot get with the program.”
Be aware, however, worldly success, riches, and fame have absolutely nothing to do with mental/emotional, physical health and healthy and pure spiritual connection. You cannot point to your “worldly successes” and say, “I’m a good person,” “I’m a healthy person,” “I’m a chosen person,” or “I am a connected person.” As many A-list Hollywood actors, top-flight CEOs, and filthy rich people the world over will surely attest, you need to step on a lot of toes while you are clawing your way to the top. The question is, what kind of person does that? As Jon Ronson argues,2 psychopathy, i.e., total callous indifference to the suffering you cause in the world, may be a requirement of worldly success as currently defined. The uncomfortable truth for you is, only sick and disconnected people are prepared to “do what it takes” to claw their way to the top.
And besides, as any therapist will tell you, money and success do not buy happiness. Awards do not make you feel warm. A big house does not make you less lonely. Money does not make it more likely you will achieve a connection. In fact, according to some, just the opposite is true.3 Just because you are a rich CEO, or a government or religious leader, or the President of your local community club etc., does not mean you are emotionally or psychologically healthy.
Don’t get us wrong, material success, adulation, and awards are all nice to have. Everybody should have a nice house in a safe neighbourhood with enough food to eat, because these are essential needs.4 Everybody should find a skill and ability they can master, and they should gain recognition for it as a result. Meeting these needs, meeting all our essential needs, is key and we all need to do that. But do not kid yourself; “things” cannot meet all your needs. Material things can help with basic material needs like your need for food, safety, entertainment, comfort, and so on, but “things” just do not cut it for higher needs like truth and understanding, alignment (i.e. self-actualization), and connection. In fact, hoarding things, including money, may be a sign of mental illness. You can be the richest CEO in the world, but if your attachments are toxic, if you are out of alignment with your own Highest Self, if you suffer from profound disconnection, and if you exist in an environment of lies and self-deception, at best you will be miserable and disconnected, and at worst you will be on a descending spiral of mental, emotional, and spiritual disease.
Remember this: Money, wealth, and power is no indication of health, well-being, and connection. If you want to move forward, heal, and connect, do not use it as a prop to convince yourself and others that you are OK. If you use wealth and power as an indication that you are OK, you will never admit to having problems, you will never realize the truth, and you will never do the work you need to do to heal and connect.
I got a job
“It’s not so bad, after all” and “Look at me, I’m rich,” are two common ways we lie to ourselves and others; but, there is more. Even if we are not altogether successful, and even if there is clear damage (i.e., even if we’re dealing with a diagnosed mental infection), if we got a job, and especially if that job is a good job, we can still find a way to excuse ourselves, our toxic environments, and our toxic actions. “Sure, I drink every day.” “Sure, I’m at the casino every night.” “Sure, I go running all the time.” “Sure, I’m an ass-hole to my spouse and my kids.” “But I’m no slacker.” “I cannot be that bad. “At least I can provide.”
You will recognize right away that the “I’ve got a job” like (also, the “I’ve got an education lie) is related to the “I’m OK” and the “Look at me I’m rich” lies. In fact, all the lies we tell ourselves to avoid confronting the truth about the toxicity in our lives and the damage we have incurred are variations of the simple “I’m OK because…” argument.
“I’m OK because I can still function.”
“I’m OK because I’m rich and successful.”
“I’m OK because I have a beautiful partner.”
“I’m OK because my kids are a great success, etc.”
If you think you are “OK because” of all the shiny gewgaws in your life, if you think you are “OK because” you can still function at a decent corporate level, if you think you are “OK because” you got a job, if you think you are “OK because” it is not so bad, or whatever, you are wrong. Worldly success, money, power, successful children, you name it, are not indicators of emotional health and spiritual connection. The only good indicators of health and connection are actual health and connection. If you cannot point to actual mental health and connection, then dude, you are not OK.
Seriously. If you’re going to continue to use “I’m OK because” arguments to lie to yourself and others about the state of disconnection you are in, you can put this workbook down and quit wasting your time. If you want to realize your full potential, you must quit using “I’m OK because” arguments and face the truth of your disconnection. Otherwise, what’s the point?
For the rest, the question at this point is, why do we lie? It seems like it takes a lot of wasted energy and money to maintain a lifetime of self-deception, and it does. Lying all the time is like trying to keep the lid down on a boiling pot. You can do it, but it takes a lot of energy to keep it from boiling over.5 It is the same thing with your physical body. It takes a ton of energy to maintain lies, and this energy adds to your body’s Toxic Burden,6 which for most people is already immense. If we could redirect all the energy we put into “keeping the lid down,” if we just woke up and admitted we got work to do, we could then redirect our energies from repression and self-deception to authentic healing. It makes perfect sense; so why cannot we do that? Why cannot we admit we got issues? Why do we continue to lie to ourselves and others despite the obvious costs?
Well, we do it NOT because we are stupid, lazy, unevolved, immoral, evil, or whatever. Quite the opposite is true. There are good reasons we lie to ourselves and others, complex reasons, adaptive reasons, and these reasons are rooted in our evolutionary, biological, psychological, sociological experiences and are the sign of deep and capable intelligence, not a moral or evolutionary weakness. All the complexity comes down to this. Lying is not something we choose to do; lying is something that we learn to do because lying makes our life easier, and making your life easy is what you are biologically programmed to do
Learning to Lie: Modelling
How do we learn to lie? First off, we learn to lie from the people that surround us. From day one, lying is modelled to us by the people around us. Our parents lie, our teachers lie, our priests lie etc. and seeing that we go ahead and lie as well because that is what we see our parents do. That is what our “models” do,7 and so that is what we do.
Why do we do that? Why do we copy this behaviour? We do this because that is what our brains and bodies were designed to do. Your brain is filled with these things called “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons are neurons in the brain which are activated when we observe the actions of others. For example, if I watch you raise your arm, mirror neurons in my brain fire in the same way neurons are firing in your brain. If you lie and I observe that you are lying, mirror neurons in my brain likely fire8 in the same way mirror neurons fire in your brain.
What do mirror neurons do? Scientists are still trying to pin the full picture down, but almost certainly, mirror neurons serve an evolutionary survival role by priming/enabling learning9 through observation.10 Learning through observation is a very important evolutionary and survival function of the physical unit. A species that learns by observing and modelling its parents is more successful than a species that can learn only through (often) dangerous experience. A primate that sees its parents running away from a hungry lion and instantly copies that behaviour is more successful than a primate who must figure it all out on their own.
It is simple. Biological organisms are designed to copy the behaviours of the adults that they are attached too and that form their community (i.e., parents, tribe members, church members, community etc.). Most of the time, this is a sensible evolutionary/survival strategy. It is appropriate and right for a baby elephant to be attached to its parents and it is appropriate and right for that baby to mirror (i.e. copy) their parent’s actions because the parents are attached to the baby elephant and are going to protect it and show it the way to survive.
Think about this.
Most of the time, for most species which are dependent on parents for a period, it is a safe biological assumption that the parents are there to protect the child, and it is a safe biological assumption that the actions they take will reflect that drive to protect. If a chimpanzee sees its mother take a bite and spit out a certain type of poisonous plant, it makes sense for the biology of that chimp child to mirror and copy that behaviour. If a five-year-old human child sees its mother stop and look both ways at a crosswalk, it makes biological sense for the biology of that child to mirror and copy that behaviour.
This is not rocket science.
Children copy trusted adults because the trusted adults engage actions that usually protect and teach the child. Thus, when, as children, we see adults lie, we are primed to copy that behaviour. If we see our parents lie, our teachers lie, or whatever, we do it too because that is what our survival programming encourages. There is no morality here. There is just biology. Our bodies are evolved to learn by modelling, and that is exactly what they do. When, as children, adolescents, and adults we see our parents and other authority figures lie, we model that and learn to lie as well.
Moment of Reflection: Pause for a moment and reflect back on your childhood and adolescence. What adults in your life modelled lying to you? What lies did they model? Why do you think they lied? You may have to revisit this reflection once you hve read through the rest of this chapter.
Learning to Lie: Personal Safety
Our life long lying lessons do not stop with modelling. Modelling only works to a certain point. At a certain point, children and adolescents develop the ability to see beyond the rote modelling of the adults around them. At a certain point, adolescents develop the ability to question their modelling and change their programmed behaviours. Once a child’s central nervous system is developed enough to begin to realize the nature of lying and that the adults around them are lying, they will begin to naturally question that. I say naturally because just as your physical unit is programmed to model and copy behaviour, it is also naturally programmed to seek knowledge and understanding
Unfortunately, when a maturing, child, adolescent, or even adult inevitably and invariably questions the lies and hypocrisy that surround them, they are often silenced by authority figures who, for reasons we will go into shortly, simply cannot admit that they are lying.
The silencing is invariably violent—shaming, yelling, hitting, etc. I’m sure most of us have stories of this. Personally, I remember challenging my mother and being told, in the midst of the beating, that I should simply respect, not question, my elders. A similar thing happened to Gina. One day, as a young adolescent, Gina read a newspaper article on emotional abuse and emotional violence in the home. She cut this article out, posted it on the fridge, and said to her parents “Hey, this is what we do.” Their response, like the response of many adults to challenges from their observant and intelligent children, was violent. They emotionally and physically beat her down.
We should note, our stories are not particularly shocking. This is the normal reality of everyday lives for many of us as we grow up in this toxic world we ave inherited. We are sure most readers can remember an experience where they told the truth to a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult, and were forcibly put down as a result.11
Understand, the point here is not to point fingers at parents, teachers, priests, and others who model lying and reinforce it with violence and abuse. The point is to say that at the moment where we start to question the lies and lying that has been modelled to us, we are assaulted and shamed into silence. When this happens, the message is clear. It is safer and less painful to lie. When we have learned that lesson, we begin to consciously participate in the lying.
Moment of Reflection: Pause for a moment and reflect back on your childhood and adolescence. Do you remember any moments in which you were “violently put down” for telling the truth? Don’t simply look for physical violence. Take emotional violence seriously and look for emotional violence as well. Remember, even single instances of emotional or psychological violence can cause years of fear, anxiety, and dis-ease.
Learning to Lie: Avoiding Guilt and Shame
So far we have noted that we learn to lie because it is modelled to us, and because telling the truth can often be painful, specifically when authority figures and others punish us for telling it. Another reason we learn to lie is because lying, particularly to ourselves, helps protect us from the guilt and shame we experience when we engage in Wrong Actions.12
This is a little hard to explain, so bear with me.
A wrong action is any action that your body takes that is out of alignment with your own Highest Self. Wrong actions include everything from failing to follow your life’s purpose, to not helping another living being achieve theirs. Wrong actions also include any actions that causes, either directly or indirectly, physical, emotional, and psychological harm to your physical unit or the physical unit of any another living being. This includes a wide swath of behaviour, from actual and direct physical harm, to the direct or indirect exploitation of labour, through intentional manipulation of behaviour, to simply making another living being feel bad.13
As explained in the book The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice,14 wrong actions (or right actions) cause our Highest Self to use Steering Emotions to try and realign its bodily vehicle. Steering emotions are like the bridle and bits that steer a horse, or the wheel that steers the car. Guilt and shame are steering emotions. When we do something out of alignment, when we engage in a disjunctive act, we feel guilt and shame.
Steering emotions can be positive or negative. Positive steering emotions are emotions like satisfaction, happiness, joy, rapture, and bliss. Positive steering emotions tell us we are doing something right. Negative steering emotions are emotions like guilt, shame, and regret. Negative steering emotions tell us we are doing something wrong, like engaging in wrong action, wrong thought, or living in a wrong environment.
You can understand steering emotions if you think about a typical paved road upon which you would drive a car. A paved road has smooth lanes where the car drives, and rough shoulders and centre line. When the car is lined up (aligned) and moving forward on the road, the drive is smooth and comfortable. However, if the car begins to drift off course, a rumble strip or a rough shoulder shakes the car and alerts the driver to pay more attention. Guilt and shame, like the rumbling of the road, alert you that you are steering off course. Guilt and shame is a message from your Highest Self telling you to smarten up and act in a more aligned fashion. If you feel guilt, shame, or regret, that is a message to examine your behaviour and your life’s purpose.
The problem is, even minor amounts of guilt and shame are painful. Guilt and shame can become excruciating when actions are particularly disjunctive (like abusing children, exploiting others, murdering people), when they build up over time, or when others (like your parents, priests, etc.) weaponize guilt to control behaviour. Since our body’s are programmed to avoid pain, we tend to find ways to avoid guilt and shame.
The one and only effective way to reduce the guilt and shame caused by disjuncture is the change the disjunctive behaviour. That is it. Unfortunately, however, for various reasons, we often don’t stop our behaviour, even if its very bad, like hitting and hurting our own kids, or exploiting 600 thousand or so employees, or more. When that happens, guilt and shame build up. Over time, pain becomes excruciating and the only way to stop it is to construct an elaborate and fantastical lie, often using sophisticated psychological defence mechanisms.15 To make a long story short, we force our disjunctive behaviours out of awareness, like to others, and pretend we are something we are not, because this helps us keep the guilt pressed tightly down,
We see it all the time, in our families, friends, and acquaintances.
My mother hurt me a lot growing up and to protect herself from the ugly and painful feelings of guilt and shame that have accumulated over the years, she reacts with violent denials when challenged with the truth of her actions. Gina’s parents are the same. They do not want to hear how toxic their family was and so they say to themselves and others “we did the best we could.” Then, they violently suppress anybody who challenges their self-deception. It is the same for priests who lie to their congregations and sexually assault children, teachers who harm their kids, spouses who are violent and controlling, or even whole societies. People have been acting out of alignment so long and they have accumulated so many bad behaviours, and feel such deep guilt and shame, that they repress their own awareness, lie to themselves, react defensively, and beat down others just to prevent awareness of their disjunctive actions from bubbling up and causing excruciating shame and guilt.16
Learning to Lie: Truth Entitlement
So far, we have learned that we lie because lying was modelled to us, because it is often safer to lie, and because we do not want to feel guilt and shame for our past actions. A question that arises at this point is, why do not we snap out of it? You would think that given all the pain, suffering, guilt, shame, and disjuncture, we’d correct our behaviour, grow up, and move on. You would think—but we do not—so the question is, why?
The answer to that question moves us beyond individual and biological explanations for why we lie, into social, political, economic, and ideological explanations.
Part of the social/ideological answer to why we do not change our lying behaviours and simply face the truth about things so we can properly align and move on is that our modern toxic societies have taught us to individualize truth. Ideologically, we have been taught to be “truth entitled.” We have been taught that we, as individuals, have the right to pick our truths. We have the right to “our” truths and it is OK if these truths may be different then others.
When we are taught to be truth entitled, we have a tough time even seeing our lies because we have been taught that truth is relative and truth-seeking is an individual process.
We’ve all heard this. You have your “truths” and I have my “truths,” and that is OK. “Everybody has their own truth” and “that is the truth for them.” In modern consumerist societies, we are encouraged to choose truth rather than realize truth, because this supports consumer ideologies. In consumer societies, we pick our truths like we pick products at a grocery store. Anything else is cast as pathological. We have been taught to believe that truth is individual and if others are not okay with “our truth,” then that is their problem, not ours. In this way we become truth entitled. We have the “right” to our truth and if others do not like it, tough.
Truth entitlement is all about “empowering” self-deception and lying. When truth becomes an entitlement like this, we are empowered to select “truths” that we are emotionally and psychologically comfortable with, and not necessarily true and correct. When we choose truths that make us feel good, we uncritically reinforce our current actions, even if they are toxic and unaligned, and even if they involve intense repression. Likewise, when truth becomes an entitlement, we are empowered to reject truths that do not fit our psychological framework, or that make us feel bad about the way we behave.
For example, I was dealing with a mother of three children once who was struggling with the misbehaviour of her children. The problem was, she treated her children unfairly and violently. She would give something to one child but exclude another, thereby generating jealousy and hurt feelings. When she punished them, it was excessive and violent. I told her straight, if she wanted to reduce and eliminate behavioural issues in her children, she would have to treat each of her children the same, and she would have to cease her violence towards them.
She did not listen. She rejected “my truths” and clung to “her truths” which told her that violence towards children built up their strength, and that kids should not whine and complain but just accept whatever it was they were given. She was empowered to do this because, in our societies, we are taught that we are entitled to our truth. She has her “truths” and I have mine and consequently she easily rejected mine. Of course, the real truth is, she was damaging her children. The reality is, they will grow up diminished and with emotional issues as a result or her actions. But, you cannot tell her that because she can easily ignore it because she believes she is entitled to her truths. She’s got her truths and she’ll stick by those truths no matter what the evidence and no matter what the cost to her children and her family.
You can always tell when someone is resisting truth because they have become truth-entitled by their reaction to challenge. The more you challenge a person who has become truth-entitled, the more likely they are to use punitive tactics against you. If you keep pressing them, if you keep trying to show them the consequences of their “truth,” or if you keep showing them another way of looking at their reality, they will not see because they have their truths, and they are entitled to them. Instead of taking the time to consider the fact that their “truths” might be contributing to their own disconnected experiences, or that they might be harming others, they instead get mad and attack. People with individualized truths will assault and not stop until a) you back down, b) you buy into their version of truth, or c) you at least stop trying to challenge them.
We should not have to say this, but truth-entitlement, like lying, is bad for several reasons. For one, it disconnects you from reality. It ungrounds you by attaching you to fantasies about the way the world works. It disconnects you from the consequences of your actions. If you are not paying attention to the consequences of your actions, if your consciousness is not grounded in reality, you can end up causing and accumulating a lot of damage and disjuncture. Think back to the mother who treats her children differently and uses violence to “correct” what she thinks is wrong behaviour. She can tell herself all she wants that the violence “builds strength” and that she needs to correct her children for “acting wrong,” but the reality is, she is damaging herself and her children by her beliefs and actions. Consequently, her children will grow up with emotional and behavioural issues.
In addition to a disconnection from reality, a second reason why individualizing truth is bad is that it allows you to avoid guilt, shame, and the spiritual necessity of taking responsibility and being accountability for your actions. To avoid guilt, shame, and responsibility, all you have to do is select a “truth” that gives you an out. A good example here is when psychologists and psychiatrists help us “blame the victim” by providing biological explanations of psychological disease, even though there are clear environmental, social, and economic antecedents.
Think back to the mom who treats her kids differently and punishes them harshly. When psychologists and psychiatrists tell her, as they often will, that her children have ADHD and ODD and are “genetically prone,” they give her a “truth” she can easily accept, because it helps her avoid the painful truth, which is she is contributing to their harm. The psychologists tell her that her kids misbehave not because she is a terrible parent, but because there is a gene that is causing their behaviour. In this way, they help her avoid examining her own behaviours and avoid the guilt and shame that would arise if she took an honest look. Instead of looking at her contribution to her children’s dysfunction, she sees her children as faulty.
Why do psychiatric and psychological professionals avoid sociological context and blame the child for their problems? Part of it is training devoid of sociological content, but that is not the whole story. When you think about it, blaming the victim is easier. Actually fixing people can be hard and requires effort and lots of money. To fix the children you would have to address the family toxicity, school toxicity, and even social toxicity. That is impossible for a single professional. In fact, it would take a whole team of people to really help fix a broken family.
Unfortunately, there is not much societal support for that kind of effort. It is much easier to “choose” a biological diagnoses over a sociological one, because you can prescribe a pill for that. Having prescribed a pill, you have what you need to fool yourself into feeling satisfied that you have done some real good, even when all you have done is masked the problem and put a bandage on the wounds. It is also much safer for the private practitioner. Choosing biological explanations rather than environmental and sociological explanations, choosing explanations that blame the child or the adolescent, is safer. If you challenge a parent’s toxic parenting, they may not like that. They may pay their bill and find another therapist with “truths” they like more to hear. That is not an insignificant loss for a therapist.
We should say that parents, psychologists, psychiatrists, and so on are not the only ones who are “entitled” to their truths. We all do it to one extent or another. From the father who chooses a truth that justifies the abuse and neglect of their children to the CEO who tells himself that child labour in a factory overseas is facilitating economic development, we all use our entitled truths to fool ourselves and feel better about our disjunctive actions.
Anyway, you can see the issue. We have all become truth-entitled to one degree or another, and we all feel empowered to choose whatever truths we want. From the mother looking for an explanation that makes her feel better to the practitioner who chooses biological explanations because they are easier, to the CEO who exploits children in factories and excuses it because he thinks he’s doing them a favour, our truth entitlement allows us to pick the truths that make us feel good and avoid that that cause guilt and shame.
It is not healthy, of course. Truth entitlement is a real blockage, it can cause real harm, and it prevents healing and connection. If you want to heal and connect, you have to do the right thing, period. If you gash your leg open and the doctor tells you to disinfect and protect the wound and you do not because your truth-entitlement tells you that you can heal your wound with your mind, there is a real risk your wound will go septic and die. Similarly, if you want to heal and connect and we tell you to detoxify your environment and stop acting violently towards others and you do not, if instead you tell yourself you have your truth and we have ours and you use that so you continue to exist in a toxic stew, your mind will eventually go septic and you will suffer and perhaps even die. It is just the way it is. Truth is not relative. Truth is truth. If you want to move forward, heal, and connect, if you do not want your wounds to go septic, you find out the truth of things, period.
Learning to Lie: System Maintenance
To summarize what we have said so far, we have learned that we lie because lying was modelled to us, because it is often safer to lie, because we do not want to feel guilt and shame for our past actions, we and because we have become truth-entitled. The end result of all this is that we spend a lot of time lying to ourselves and to others. This is bad for lots of different reasons, not the least of which is the lies we tell ourselves and others can harm, disconnect, and even kill us. It is unfortunate because we have been doing it for thousands of years.
Of course, at this point the question becomes, if all this lying is bad for us, why do not we wake up and simply focus on the truth. Humans are not stupid, as a species, and we are not the first people to call out this tendency towards self-deception. People have been saying what we are saying here one way or another for thousands of years. By now, you would think we would have learned not to do it. Nevertheless, despite the fact that self-deception prevents healing and connection, despite the fact that it might even kill you in us in the long run, we continue to struggle with this? The question before us is, why?
The answer to this question is simple. Some people simply do not want us to know the truth, and they work hard to prevent that from happening, because doing so helps them maintain The System. We call lying to maintain The System, System MaintanenceIf you are an oil baron, for example, and you make all your money from the sale of oil products, it is in your interest to deny climate change, because acceptance of it inevitably leads to lower sales. In fact, this is what oil barons do. They throw money into think-tanks and advertising that help them deny the reality of climate change. They work directly against apprehension of the truth, they tell us lies, and they encourage us to lie to others, because it is in their interests that we remain ignorant.
It is not rocket science and it is not conspiracy. It happens all the time, though not necessarily for financial reasons. I had a client once whose father molested her as a child. Needless to say, this caused her serious mental and emotional disturbance to the point that she became a psychiatric patient. Her father and her mother, however, denied the abuse and even went so far as to undermine her in front of psychiatrists and other professionals. They essentially called her crazy, and convinced professionals that this was so, so that they would not take her claims seriously! The mother and the father deliberately worked against the apprehension of truth by lying to professionals and undermining their daughter because doing so protected the family breadwinner from jail. It is not so hard to believe and it should not be that shocking to hear; families do it all the time.
We should note, it is not just oil barons and families protecting pedophiles who benefit from, and actively facilitate, error and ignorance. Lots of people in lots of places do it. The alcohol industry benefits if you do not know the dangers of alcohol. They also benefit if you can be convinced that you need it to have fun. The Apple computer company benefits if you do not know the environmental, social, and neurological damages that smartphones cause, and if you can be convinced that you have to buy a new one every year. Abusive parents benefits if you believe that parental abuse “makes you stronger,” because this way they are never held accountable for the damage. People who sell you high fat and high sugar junk food that is specifically designed to addict you benefit if you are not aware how addictive their food really is.
You get the picture.
The reality is, lots of people benefit when you do not know the full truth. Heck, you might even be one of these people. Indeed, almost certainly, you are. In fact, we all are. Until we make the conscious choice to choose the truth and nothing but the truth, we all benefit in and participate, to one extent or another, from the ignorance and stupidity that abounds. More to the point, we all work, to one degree or another, against the realization of truth. It is what we were taught to do. Truth is often uncomfortable for us and for others. Truth is often not profitable. Truth often requires us to change. Truth can initially be painful. Truth can land us in jail.Consequently, we sacrifice it daily; but, that has to stop, not only because the planet can no longer endure it, but because it prevents us from healing and connecting. Just like there is only one way to heal a bad wound (you disinfect, dress, and protect), there is only one way to heal and connect. You detoxify your environments, you treat your addictions, and you stop lying to yourself and to others.
Either continue to wallow in a sea of toxicity, addiction, and self-deception, or face the truth of things and make the necessary changes so you can heal and connect.
It is as simple as that. If you do not do that, you will be permanently and terminally sick and disconnected.
Of course, doing what you need to do to heal and connect can be a challenge, there is no doubt about that. The repressed pain and anguish, the whitewashed guilt and shame, the profound self-delusions, the toxic environments and the toxic attachments they breed, can be difficult to deal with. It can feel like psychological earthquakes, intellectual lightning bolts, and traumatic emotional tsunamis. That is OK. Do not kick yourself too hard and do not judge yourself harshly, no matter what you have done. Just start telling the truth, to yourself, and to others. Start slow. Don’t go crazy. Start by acknowledging the truth to your self, and slowly change your behaviours. Later on, as your world becomes safer and more accepting, open up and share with others. If you struggle, seek help. We promise you that moving forward will become easier the more you commit to The Work, the more you detoxify your environments, and the more you embrace the truth.
1 Newsflash!! It is. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx
2 For the argument of Ronson, see ##Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry (United States: Picador, 2011).
3 As Jesus said, it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, by which he was politely saying, it is impossible. This is probably why, when asked by a rich man, “What should I do,” Jesus said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22.
4 ##Mike Sosteric and Gina Ratkovic, Seven Essential Needs, 2018, Available: https://www.lightningpath.org/healing/seven-essential-needs/.
5 As you get to this point in the workbook you might be feeling a little queasy, even sick to your stomach. At this point, you may start to realize the depth of your self-deception, and this can make you feel a little sick. We are going to ask you to just ignore that feeling. If you keep moving forward, if you start to face your truths and if you begin to take steps to do something about it, any ugly feelings you may have will shortly go away. Instead of dwelling on negative feelings, we’re simply going to ask the question “why do we lie?”
6Toxic Burden is the sum total of all abuse, neglect, chaos, and indoctrination of Toxic Socialization, as it weighs down and damages the Physical Unit. https://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/Toxic_Burden
7 Of course, most of them are not doing it because they are mean. Most of them are doing it because that is what they’ve learned to do.
8 We say likely here because we have seen no evidence or study that suggests we have “lie mirrors” in our brain. However, given the reality of mirror neurons and the evolutionary sensibility of modelling behaviours, it seems quite likely that this is true.
9 ##Jeon Hyeonjin and Lee Seung-Hwan, “From Neurons to Social Beings: Short Review of the Mirror Neuron System Research and Its Socio-Psychological and Psychiatric Implications,” Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience.1 (2018).
10 ##European Science Foundation, How Mirror Neurons Allow Us to Learn and Socialize by Going through the Motions in the Head, 2008, Science Daily, Available: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081219073047.htm, V.S. Ramachandran, Mirror Neurons and Imitation Learning as the Driving Force Behind “the Great Leap Forward” in Human Evolution, 2000, Edge, Available: http://edge.org/3rd_culture/ramachandran/ramachandran_index.html.
11 Thinking about this and being honest with ourselves about our own negative actions may be difficult. As we will learn in the next chapter, we are embedded in an ideology that encourages us to see violence only in its extreme forms (i.e. physical violence). Because of this, we often do not see (or do not remember) less extreme acts of violence, like shaming, shunning, yelling, unrelenting criticism, etc., as violence; or, if we do see these acts as violent, we say “It’s not so bad.” But, as we have said, it is bad. We recall watching a documentary on learning disabilities where an immigrant child who on his first day of school in grade one was asked to spell his name on the chalkboard. When the child made a mistake or two, the teacher responded by publicly shaming the child. That single experience led to years of learning and psychological difficulties for this person. It was only as a middle age adult, and only after years of struggle and healing, that this person was able to pin down where his self-hatred and self-esteem issues were rooted. The teacher’s public shaming of this child was so violent, and it caused intellectual, psychological and relational trauma so severe, that it took decades for this man to heal.
13It can be a lot, I know, but it is easy if you follow this one simple rule: “Be nice to all life.”
14Michael Sharp, The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice.
16 Therapeutic note, if you want to get somebody past their blockages to a place where they can a) become aware of, b) acknowledge, and c) atone for disjunctive behaviours, do not invoke shame and guilt. If you do that, you will trigger their defences and possibly expose yourself to violence. Instead, gently and nonjudgmentally lead them to a realization of their disjunctive behaviour, and encourage them to change by showing them a better way.