Carl Jung stated that “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” Among the things people do is lie.
A University of Massachusetts study found that sixty percent of subjects lied at least once (and an average of 2.92 times) during ten-minute recorded conversations between strangers. Why do we feel the need to lie?
As with most actions we do, a need is being or trying to be fulfilled. With lying, the need is to get protection. Well, for Ego to feel protected, short-term as it may be.
We protect ourselves from fears, conflicts and change. For example, at times we lie to ourselves and others that we are content in our relationship, career, life or even the present situation, when actually we aren’t. If we admitted our discontent, we are then more accountable to make necessary changes (assert our self!).
We lie to guard ourselves from negative feelings (e.g., anger, inadequacy, shame or guilt). When we fail to achieve a set goal, we can easily go to a place of sour grapes, falsely stating, “Oh well, I didn’t really want it anyway.” And yet, how hard would it be to honestly say, “Crap! I’m disappointed this [whatever] didn’t happen!”? Apparently, it was difficult [for Ego] to admit or else it would not have defended itself.
We lie to maintain our habits, addictions and compulsions (well, anything really Ego chooses to!) by denying, minimizing, defending or rationalizing our food or alcohol/drug intake, our spending, or time spent on the TV or internet.
At times we do things we consider less than respectable. Rather than admit it and perhaps suffer a lessening of others’ (real or perceived) respect and even more damning, our own respect, we often cover up such behaviour. When we have failed to act courageously and virtuously, we lie to appear more courageous and virtuous than we are.
It’s hard to trust yourself when you know you’re going to lie.
We also lie to maintain our resources (e.g., our energy, time or money) when we really don’t want to do something (e.g., dinner with a friend after a tiring day, an expensive trip) and feel uncomfortable admitting such.
In a co-dependent manner, we often lie by not stating to others what we truly feel or think in order to spare others’ feelings. We put their emotional well-being before ours; when in fact, we need to be assertive and respectfully say what we feel when asked (about opinions, feelings, etc.). We also have the right to speak our truth when the situation warrants it.
We also lie for immediate rewards and to get what we want. We lie to protect our interests and to get material goods (e.g., money, the leftovers) and non-material goods (e.g., attention, approval).
We deceive ourselves about much – from bad behavior to how we feel, and even to the existential fact of death. Such self-deception is fundamentally related to Jung’s notion of the shadow: those unacceptable traits and tendencies in ourselves we hide (lie about in some form) from both others and ourselves.
We need humility to be able to tell the truth. This requires getting Ego out of the way and takes considerable courage and commitment to be brutally honest with ourselves.
It also requires the work of letting go of what others may think or feel, placing personal integrity before personal pride. However, it is precisely this willingness to stop our chronic self-deception and face the truth that finally sets us free.