A Reasonable Lie


In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky wrote:

“The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself…”

Recently, I mentioned the deep limbic system as a filtering mechanism for the brain.  It begins its task of processing and interpreting with our earliest thoughts.  Overactive limbic systems stamp a big “NEGATIVE” on thoughts, turning them into depression, anxiety, and lies.

The lies begin in early childhood.  Young, impressionable brains are fertile ground for the seeds of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors of adulthood.  As we get older, observations become the Miracle-Gro of the depressive limbic system, each one paired with a seed then passed through the negative filter to produce a reasonable lie.  A reasonable lie is comprised of two dangerous components:

#1 – Some part of the lie has a slight ring of truth, and we are thus convinced of its accuracy.

#2 – The reasonableness of a reasonable lie, no matter how slight, is almost impossible to disprove to its believer.

Consider a fit adult who was once overweight as a child.  The observation, “Other children call me fat” was paired with a seed, “Being fat is bad” to create a reasonable lie, “I am fat, therefore I am bad”.  This is component #1, since being fat was a truth, but I am stressing the word “was” because of component #2.  In spite of the fact this person is now a fit adult, what was still is.  In other words, the original observation and seed have been diminished until only the lie remains: I am bad.  This explains why so many people are unable to explain why they hold on to certain beliefs about themselves.

“Why do you think you are stupid?”

“I don’t know.  I just am.”

 Bad Experience + Bad Seed = Reasonable Lie

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this type of mixed up mental math is our brain’s seemingly relentless energy in pursuing it.  Our brain will tell us horrible lies about ourselves again and again until we accept them as horrible truths.  So, how can we learn to recognize and counteract the reasonable lie?  Start by planting new seeds, and let the first seed be one of patience with you.

Mental triggers are everywhere – in songs, pictures, words, smells, foods, places – all of these and more can stimulate an old lie and make it seem true again.  Replacing the lies with real truths and positives CAN BE DONE, but it can also be difficult.  Old seeds can lie dormant in the back forty of our brain for years when something suddenly sparks a memory and we find ourselves feeling bad, but don’t fully know why.

I recommend getting a notebook for positives only.  Be strict about it! This notebook is only for things that make you smile and make you feel good.  Write down your favorite poems, quotations, and every accomplishment – no matter how small.  I mean really load it up.  If you find yourself journaling…STOP.  Do that somewhere else.  This notebook has one purpose; to be the counter-punch to those rotten, reasonable lies.  Add at least one item to it each day until it is full, and then start filling another one.  Spend a few minutes looking through your positives each night and each morning.  This will help you start and end each day with good seeds in your brain.  No matter what happens throughout the day, the new seeds will be there, growing new and beautiful truths.

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