Why We Lie to Ourselves

Why do human beings rationalize our own behavior, whether impulsive, arbitrary or even mundane?

We rarely need a reason to act: most of what we do requires no justification, but in general we try to determine one anyway. For instance, why choose chocolate ice cream over vanilla? This is a purely impulsive decision based on an unconscious preference with no rational basis whatsoever. However, people will go to great lengths to justify their preference, to the point of creating intricate yet meaningless standards of taste in doing so.

Perhaps stranger are the self-deceiving rationales, justifications that stay only within our own minds. We may indulge in a bowl of ice cream, alone without witness, and tell ourselves that, hey, maybe we shouldn’t have eaten it, but we just felt like treating ourselves to something decadent. Why do this? We know deep down that we acted purely on impulse, yet we feel compelled to formulate a reasonable explanation for our behavior nonetheless. What value is deception when the truth is already fully known?

If nothing else, this may explain our profound fascination with fiction and storytelling. There seems to be some kind of deep resonance with, some great need fulfilled by building internal worlds and myths we can explore whether through the narratives and images created by others or our own imagination. Is the rational mind primarily a storyteller?

And what does this say for truth? As a writer, I like to believe that within my fictions lie the power to expand perception, to create space where greater truths may emerge; that within every myth is a spiritual truth; every story, a beating heart. However, what if fiction is merely an end in and of itself?

Am I then deceiving myself in thinking that I am seeking truth?


4 thoughts on “Why We Lie to Ourselves

  1. The desire to finding truth is not the deception that we suffer… It’s the acceptance of an answer that is not fulfilling… It’s the misconception that once a truth is found and pocketed we are done… Living is a work in progress for experiencing, and expressing a truth, if that is ones inclination (happens to be the blessing/curse of the writers amongst us!)
    Discussion provoking post.. Thank you


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