Carl Jung stated, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” Among the things people will 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?
In general, we lie mostly to get protection.
We protect ourselves from fears, conflicts and change. We lie to ourselves and others that we are happy in our relationship, career or life, when actually we aren’t. If we admitted our discontent, we are then more accountable to make necessary changes.
We lie to guard ourselves from negative feelings (e.g., anger, inadequacy, shame or guilt). For example, when we fail to achieve a set goal, we can easily go to a place of sour grapes, falsely exclaiming, “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 to admit or else we would not have lied.
We lie to maintain our addictions and compulsions by denying or minimizing 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’ 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.
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 about their haircut, opinion, performance or recipe.
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 from telling jokes).
We deceive ourselves about much: from bad behavior to how we feel, and 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 from both others and ourselves.
It takes considerable courage and commitment to be brutally honest with ourselves. However, it is precisely this willingness to stop our chronic self-deception and face the truth that finally sets us free.