The basic process of self-delusion has become epidemic

Lies beget more lies until the truth flees entirely.

Something has been eating at me for a while, but it felt like I couldn’t put my finger on it. But the fact is, it’s so obvious that it now makes me feel really dumb to even having been be searching for it. It was like I was looking for the Earth beneath me as I walked. I was wondering why there were so many arguments about various trivial ideas that were heretofore considered self-evident. You may have been on the same trip with me. But, my last stop of recent was, and back me up on this… I’m done, frustrated, exhausted, taxed, and maybe just a little defeated. That’s in spite of the fact that these issues hit my family, and that’s nothing to ever, ever give up on. But it’s not that I was giving up. I was just in such a puzzle that I thought maybe I’ve spent all the arrows in my quiver on this one.

It may come as no surprise to some people reading this that the feeling I was having was the same as that of a parent who is dealing with a toddler that wants to use the dishwasher door as a trampoline. There’s no good answer, not that you can verbalize at least. But duct tape, coincidentally, was as much of a good solution then as it is tempting to be now. Sadly though, not if I want to keep my job as a parent and teacher. We’ve seen how that story ends up. That’s the best metaphor I have for this present frustration we’re all feeling, I think.

Then, it suddenly showed up, like B. O. B. finally remembering how to breathe after Dr. Cockroach reminded him, “inhale.” I had been trying to find a solution for something that doesn’t even need one to begin with. Not that there’s no problem to solve, it’s just that it’s spectacularly, painfully resistant to being solved, by it’s very nature. If you are thinking what I’m thinking, the rest of this article will make perfect sense. If not, you may be on the toddler end of what I’m about to say. But, don’t take it wrong if that’s possible at all. I’d love to have a conversation with you if you think I’m in my own fantasy world.

What showed up today was clarity, at last. Someone who has covered the truth with a lie enters into a well known pattern of behavior, denial. Only, with some clarity, a mature adult can use abstraction to generalize an alternate, contradictory solution to their error. A toddler, however, simply doesn’t have the resources to distinguish two perspectives, there is only the desired dishwasher door as trampoline. What I’m saying is, we have an entirely new type of fantasyland to deal with now, a very realistic one if you don’t have, or if you ignore, the resources you have at your disposal to differentiate it from your personal desire to remain in said fantasy.

I’m speaking of the moral decay of our time which some are now embracing as simply, their reality.

Like a child, when anyone sets down this path of telling a lie, it seems the only way to avoid the truth then, is more lies. But, if you then convince yourself, or never realize that this new fantasy will not inevitably come to an end, and you make your fantasy into your reality, then you have placed yourself in a feedback loop with no apparent way out. The problem is profoundly exacerbated when the fantasy is an addiction with an associated reward, especially a reward of positive feelings or physical pleasure. This may seem academic, nothing different than any other addiction. The difference is that, with other addictions, once you admit you have a problem, you can begin some kind of recovery. This addiction, however, is very highly resistant to recovery for one reason. This addiction is to the pleasure generated from self-deception.

As you can imagine, this is a remarkably disturbing revelation as a parent. If the moral rot of our generation is becoming a self-sustaining deception consuming even the minds of your children, and that with even more powerful affects for them, since they actually have not yet developed the tools that come with maturity. But even more shocking is the effect of such an addiction on those you’d think would not have any problem making distinctions between such a clear fantasy and true reality. For this, it takes the very special kind of reward system of self deception.

This type of feedback loop depends on one failure of perception, the perception of feelings as justification. When you can obtain the feeling of being a rescuer, when you are actually an enabler, almost nothing can assuade you from your self-perpetuating self congratulation. That’s why you can now hear a seemingly fairly well adjusted adult say something like, “Why should I prevent someone from being happy?” Referring to their plan to cheat on a partner. This is the root of all of the newly trivialized assertions on mortality. Typically the answer to such a question would be completely self evident, but now, the new justification of sympathy has replaced true concern for potential consequences. Further, this sympathy is for the perceived loss of ending the rewards obtained by remaining in the fantasy.

What, then, can pull a person out of such a spiral? Unfortunately, the only escape is their own admission of error. See the problem? Calling this an addiction to denial or a self-deception that alters perception of fantasy to that of their only reality, these may seem like some kind of overstatement for problems that seem trivial. But I believe it is this very triviality, a dubious perception itself, that perpetuates this cycle most. When the gravity of the consequences become trivialized, there is then no need perceived to correct any error at all. Living in this lie, and performing the truth as the very evil that would remove you from it becomes a powerful drug, indeed.

So then, what is there to do for an observer of this phenomenon as it robs those close to you of their sanity and wel-being? Take a breath, I suppose. Seeing this all from the outside, and not letting yourself be deceived that these are trivial issues, you can begin to see a way forward. A self perpetuating lie does have one weakness: it’s like a chain with links that are all just lies. If one breaks, a little light shines through that forces someone in denial to then make the necessary repairs. If enough links are broken, though, a light can become a spotlight. It’s not a lot compared to the desire to keep your fantasy, but someone has to keep the light on until it breaks through. Therefore, persistence over such apparent futility is the key. As well, we can rest assured that through time, maturity has a way of taking over, becoming more desirable than any illusion.

The hope is that the clarity of thought that comes from wisdom might then become epidemic, spreading virally, piercing through fantasy to once again take it’s rightful place as self-evident. As it stands, with reality turned upside down, and the duct tape comes for those who are the true light, we can only have hope that our children hear this message, and the light shines through: That you are only as wise as the mistakes you’ve admitted to making, and found that there is no voice that you need to silence, no lie that you have to cling to, if your pursuit is to find the truth.

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Chris Windes

Chris Windes

Musician, teacher, cosmology geek