Some interesting thoughts on truth vs. lies from two of my favorite philosophers — Mark Twain and Gregory House.
“If you tell the truth, you don’t need to remember anything.”
– Mark Twain
“I don’t ask why patients lie, I just assume they all do.”
“It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.”
“I’ve found that when you want to know the truth about someone that someone is probably the last person you should ask.”
– Gregory House
So, while everyone lies sometimes, people struggling with an eating disorder (or addiction, or probably other mental disorders) lie more. It’s the nature of the disorder — you lie to others and you lie to yourself.
Mark Twain’s quote made me think about my own truth, though. Sometimes I think that I lie to myself so much, that I don’t even remember whether or not it’s the truth. Or maybe it’s that I can’t identify what is or isn’t true? And, as odd as that sounds, I think that’s kind of the goal of avoidance — isn’t it? To pretend and ignore things that you don’t want in your reality. You convince yourself that you don’t care, that it didn’t matter, and that it didn’t really happen.
In therapy, you run into that lying combination (to yourself and to others). It’s confusing enough when you’re just lying to yourself… but when you’re really into your disorder and your lying to professionals, to, it just gets MESSY. For the sake of this post (because I am sure I can think of more), let’s say there are four types of lying:
Lying to yourself:
- Rationalizing with myself to the point where I’ve convinced myself it’s not actually true.
- Not being able to gauge or recognize whether or not something is significant.
Lying to others:
- Omitting information
- “Real lying” (as I like to call it).
Lying to myself:
By the time I get to my therapy session, I really do feel “fine.” Maybe I had the worst weekend ever, but come Tuesday I’m thinking “oh, it was okay, and that was so two days ago.” Sometimes I don’t even remember significant events until my therapist brings them up. I can say (and pretty much believe) that eating went pretty well, until she asks something specific… like “how about that dinner you were really nervous about on Friday?” Oh, yeah……. THAT dinner…. forgot about that one.
Lying to others:
While lying to yourself creates plenty of chaos around determining what’s actually true, lying to others makes it 100 times more complicated. You can probably sense my personal definition of “lying” just by my distinction between “omitting information” and “real lying.” So, let’s say in that same therapy session, I failed to mention that I kind of quit taking my medication (and by “kind of,” I mean I did). It didn’t come up in the conversation, and she’s not my psychiatrist, so….. It’s easy to rationalize. And, as for “real lying” — well, I probably don’t even have to come up with an example of that one.
You can see how managing this information becomes increasingly difficult with each session. You’re struggling to determine if you really did have a bad day last week and to remember if you admitted to acting on symptoms in your previous session. It just doesn’t work well.
Personally, it’s much harder for me to stop lying to myself than it is to be truthful with others (and that’s including all the “positive” reasons that I do lie to them — wanting to protect them, not wanting to be a burden, decreasing worry, etc). With myself, determining the “truth” is this multi-step process. I have to determine whether or not I’m upset… then identify what is upsetting me and whether or not I do actually care about it. From there, I have to decide whether or not I’m going to acknowledge (let alone ADMIT to my therapist) that whatever event didn’t feel or go okay. It’s such a… process.
If I had planned a takeaway message from this post, it would be this: