Self Deception and Human Art

I have a creative talent for seeing what a person could be as if that person were something I was sculpting. (I include myself in this claim and all inner work- I aspire artistically very high for us all.) Because I am an artist at heart with a spiritually centered background. I am looking for divinity everywhere and I am looking to create the most beautiful vessel- whether in a human, a room or on a page-   We are here as potential.  People have come to me and when I saw what could be I pointed out what was in the way only when they asked.  Nobody really wants to know even then-  and most don’t even ask. People are only seeking confirmation, comfort, recognition or power. Therefore, the masterpiece does not get completed in this life. I see people as canvas and possibility. I see everything as that. It’s incredible how people cannot be honest with where they actually are and fantasize their accomplishment to be so much greater. I personally would rather err on the side of humility and be open to the idea that I may be less than I imagine due to ignorance and fear- this masking that leads to self deception. Here are some quotes from others…

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“Self deception has many faces. Mostly people imagine themselves to be further along than they are and fail to take the necessary important steps to true transformation. People do what feels comfortable, and imagine they have faced their fears. “

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”

Rudyard Kipling

“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving yourself.”—Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Self-deception involves incongruity between beliefs, actions, and the world.)

“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”

 

“You can fool yourself, you know. You’d think it’s impossible, but it turns out it’s the easiest thing of all.”

“The lies we tell other people are nothing to the lies we tell ourselves.”

“People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception.”

“Stop lying to yourself. When we deny our own truth we deny our own potential.”

“Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself — in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity — is so much the rule and the law among humans that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them.”

Self-deception is often easy to recognize in others but far more difficult to recognize in ourselves. With another, we may have a better perspective that is not colored by an investment in seeing that person or his circumstances in a certain light. With ourselves, we both lack perspective and have an investment in seeing and understanding ourselves and our circumstances in certain ways. The lack of perspective combined with needing and wanting to see ourselves and our circumstances in certain ways is why self-deception is so potentially dangerous and debilitating if it runs too deeply or in too many directions.

Self-deception has many guises, which also contributes to its being difficult to identify. There are the more familiar forms of denial, rationalization, and minimization.  But what exactly is self-deception?

A preliminary definition:  Self-deception is a set of practices and attitudes that hinders a person from making a reliable assessment of her situation. As a consequence, she is unable to appropriately recognize her own agency and often fails to grasp what is or isn’t her rightful responsibility.

Self-deception may be intentional. It may be unintentional.  The line between the two is blurry; one form can often change into another. The more frequent direction is from intentional to unintentional. In certain situations, engaging in intentional self-deception may be necessary and life-saving.

Two very different cases involving different types of self-deception illuminate these features. The first case involves denial.

Consider a person who is experiencing something traumatic such as domestic abuse. She may tell herself that it isn’t really happening or endows it with very different meaning.  She may know on some level that it is really happening but she denies it as a matter of survival or preservation of her well-being. She may become habituated to telling herself the same story about what has happened; it is her primary way of making sense of what she’s experiencing. The intention to preserve herself may recede deep into the background over time. Her self-deception moves from being intentional to unintentional. In this case, there is a clear investment in not seeing/accepting that she is being abused. As is often the case in abuse, the victim gets it wrong about what she can or cannot do; she can’t see where her agency ends and her abuser’s begins. She may believe that she can control enough in the environment so that her abuser will not get set off. And for some victimes, they may assume they are somehow responsible for what others are doing to them.

In this case, self-deception may be adaptive and helpful in some ways. At the exact same time, it may be dangerous and debilitating. This case of self-deception creates a double bind that is extraordinarily difficult to escape.

The second case involves procrastination, an especially tricky form of self-deception. Consider a person who knows that he has a substance use disorder (SUD). He can clearly describe his drinking patterns, increased tolerance, and feelings of withdrawal as well as chart the adverse effects caused by his drinking. He’s taken more online quizzes than he can count and has told his friends that he knows his drinking has progressed down the spectrum to full blown disorder. He knows he is an alcoholic and that he needs to do something about it. Today he makes himself the promise that he will get help tomorrow. Tomorrow he makes the same promise. This is procrastination.

Procrastination is a failure of the relationship between knowledge and the will, according to Soren Kierkegaard. Knowledge should guide our actions but when we know what we should do but are unwilling even for a moment, a gap opens. A quick as a wink moment of hesitation can grow into a long series of moments of nonaction.

Procrastination is deceptive because it masquerades as activity. The man who promises to get help can tell himself that he is gathering more information, getting his affairs into order, making arrangements, etc. He can keep turning all the considerations he can possibly identify over in his mind. Repeatedly. He can begin to manufacture other concerns that warrant consideration. He can tell all his family and friends everything he’s doing. At the end of each day, though, he still has not gotten help.

This person has an investment in seeing himself as the sort of person who does something about a problem. He may even see himself as the sort who grabs the bull by the horns. He is doing many things. In fact, he may be a whirling dervish gathering facts and “taking care of business.” But all this activity may make it very hard to accurately see his situation; he’s still not getting help. He isn’t exercising his agency effectively, which in turn means that he isn’t fully taking responsibility.

As Kierkegaard notes, procrastination is like sewing without tying a knot at the end of the thread. One makes the motions but one actually doesn’t sew. The practical consequences are quite different; the seat of your pants will still be split.”

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You will and you must lose control. If you ever plan on being spiritually powerful, you will be first taken down lower than you ever thought possible. Because the light is too great. Because we have not yet imagined the possibility even when we think we have. It is a practice of expanding and stretching and weaving and mending. It is a work made of soft scars.

Sharada Devi

8 thoughts on “Self Deception and Human Art”

  1. I was thanking you today, for your “strength”, remember? I was also trying to atone for my harshness as an overreaction to “softness”. Painfully coming to self-deception, you chipping away. Garuda

    1. Being hard on oneself is not softness it is learned cruelty. The mind is crafty and will find a way to save you from your long lost pains always. To the subconscious it feels like the answer. From a higher perspective
      we will rise to see it was just desperation. Like how a person who is not a real thief will at some point be willing to steal food to eat rather than die of starvation. That’s the trade off, how the primitive mind solves our problems and feels it is helping the situation.

      That is why hating oneself as a solution
      (which we have talked about) is counter productive and violent not just to you but to everyone.

      We make a contribution to the collective with every thought word and deed.

      That’s why body speech and mind must be pure. That’s why it’s an heroic endeavor.
      To conquer oneself however secretly. Is where compassion that is truly unselfish begins.

  2. So this is part of what you were saying about “Psychological work will be needed”
    As in regard to purification of the unconscious.
    But in this case, conscious.

    Psychological work needed for- change / transformation.
    I suppose that sounds like i am seeking confirmation.
    But to me it feels more like learning how to weave with better precision.
    Not in tangled webs that self-deceive.

    I wouldn’t ask, if i didn’t really want to know.

    Action must precede change –
    …to act as the person you have not yet become,
    but who you wish to be.

    Garuda says chipping away.

    I say , if I didn’t keep putting myself out there in these lines from time to time for you to chisel away
    at like an unfinished chunk of marble…

    1. People only tend to see the branches and the leaves rather than the root. They do not understand the source of their problems. This is the dilemma with everyone I have ever tried to help (people come to me I don’t push myself on anyone)

      Trust me when I say people have ALOT to hide from themselves and the truth is not welcome. Truth meaning a better diagnosis for the healing of their pain. They don’t even feel the pain correctly anymore. They circulate their lives instead around this pain as if it were the sun itself. They come and do not really know what they’re doing.

      They come to a retreat and feel something was solved. The retreat was an invitation and nothing more. The real digging will take
      them understanding that they likely do not have the solution or ability to go it alone. Nor is it up to them to decide how and when I am useful. I know it’s complicated but that’s the truth. A person ready to really advance always knows a teacher is needed and is ALWAYS predisposed to devotion. But everyone just wants to “be the one.” Get on stage, get the light on them. Imagine how much they’ve changed….it’s temporary at best. This is a long path…it takes a long time. Milarepa knew, and others like milarepa will know. Milarepa COULD NOT have become who he was without spiritual help.

      Everyone is like “I don’t have a Guru. I don’t have a teacher.” Yet they run to me with all their need and trouble. Because I’m not an old man, I have no beard. I’m not foreign. What a joke. You take what you can get in this world of fake opportunists. The real problem is these people haven’t yet looked and realized there IS NO ONE out there like in the stories BD tells. Those are stories – we don’t know. Those are from 60 years ago…..we have this and we have here and now. And at the advanced age of many people I know…the inertia and denial will be the devil if nothing else.

      I think of nothing else. It horrifies me morning and night. I will die soon. What more can I do? Where am I tricking myself?
      What will I regret? What am I not seeing?

      I’m not the kick back type. “Just spread the love.” What love? What does true real love even mean – if secretly and deeply you are so cruel to yourself…compassion is an art.

  3. I tend, these days, to trace things back and see where the problem began, root wise.
    Doesn’t necessarily mean that the solution is immediate.
    Unloosening from a long time patten takes – time. And diligence.
    But I do see that the road ahead is short, so time is of the essence.
    I have always respected your honesty, directness, truth.
    At times the ego takes a hit , but that is a good thing.
    I appreciate having the light shined on the places I might not have looked lately.
    It’s all fuel for the fire that burns away the chaff and feeds the soul.

    Ten years ago , I sent a message through BD’s website. I was confused about something.
    It wasn’t BD so much that i was asking for guidance. It was more a reaching out for cosmic connection.
    It was you, Sharada Devi, who answered. And gave me words of clarity and inspiration and truth.
    You have always been there as my teacher.
    You have always been there to help me.

  4. Keep on the path. You. Yeah you. I’m trying to create paranoia. Nah. Just kidding. We are all in this crazy matrix thing. Together. Remember? It’s not us and them, but I don’t own the means of production either, so don’t worry about me trying to pull a fast one on you; yo hoodwink you. We’re all playing a role.

    6 months ago I was driving tons because I am a freelance musician. They call it doing the “Freeway Philharmonic.” I told a friend on social media that all the cars and all the pollution and garbage and all the knowledge of what we were doing to Mother Earth is like some horrible Kali Ma thing that we were and are creating. If that image works. Does it? No?

    Now that we have a brief respite via pandemic — the world is a bit cleaner. People are dying of Covid-19. But we see who we are briefly as beings that have taken over a planet with man made genius that has created ecocide.

    So…

    Step into yourself and do the work. If you’re President of the USA and you really are that, That’s one thing…if you’re not, then try to see where that last bit is TRUE: that you’re NOT THAT. Maybe you hardly make any money. Maybe you feel small. Maybe all these very teal tho vs are true. Yet: you just have to love yoyrself the way you are. Just using “you” in a totally generalised way. We all are who we are. Doing what we do. Looking like what we look like and sound like etc etc etc

    Watch out for the Neptunian delusion.

    Give Saturn and self-respect a chance!!

    Over and out. Peace!!

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