Journal Entry – Sat Nov 14

I haven’t had a drink in two days – today will make three if I go to bed without one. I’ll just live my life in a perpetual state of ickiness as that will solve my drinking problem. Yay! Solutions rock!

I wish WordPress was more interactive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have background music set to the story while reading – the songs change or stop or fade as you scroll? (I’d have so much fun with that) AND the screen could change colours, get brighter/darker according to the mood or feeling you want to convey. AND everything could have a shimmery effect and letters could fly off the page (like when I’m high). AND the entire thing was interactive, with sound effects too like a digital version of a pop-up comic book! Wouldn’t that be cool?

Songs have gotten me through breakups, hype me up before an event. Help me focus. Calmed me down when I’m bouncing off shit. Music accompanies me when I shower and cook and eat and work (house work and exercise work and work work). If it’s not playing outside, it’s playing in my head. I love music!!! I owe my love of all genres to my mom. (that may or may not make her happy).

I’m gonna stop talking now before I start repeating myself. 

I don’t usually dream about celebrities, and the space that I find myself in doesn’t change often. When it does change, it’s usually connected, i.e., taking the bus to and from a location. This time, I went clubbin’ with Beyoncé and two other actresses (I can’t say for sure who they were). We were hanging out at Beyoncé’s boyfriend’s house (it wasn’t Jay-Z), and she gave me a card with flowers for my birthday.  

Then I left them, and I was walking, trying to get home, but I felt unsure of the route. I kept having to walk on the street because balusters were missing from the bridge. (I don’t know if they’re called balusters on a bridge, maybe spindles – I’m not a civil engineer). If I fell, I would have landed on a major highway. SPLAT! (they say you can’t die in your dream).

While I was on the street and trying to avoid cars, a jogger passed me, and I started chasing him. (I don’t know why). We ran by a bus with mostly teenagers, and I did a long jump over a section of the missing sidewalk (they didn’t pour the concrete yet.) The jogger disappeared. Then I was in a movie theatre then a mall and I was running the entire time. Doing sick parkour tricks to dodge people and walls and doors. I just kept running, jumping and flipping, but I don’t remember feeling like someone was chasing me and I don’t think I was having fun.   

Now presenting …  

Lecture 15: Varieties of Self-Deception

Do you think self-deception plays a positive or negative role in your life? 

The traditional model of self-deception concerns the lies we tell ourselves. This can be good in a way because you can talk yourself into getting up there and giving a public speech even though you are generally terrified. You could talk yourself into going to a networking event, even though you hate crowds. You are essentially holding two contradictory beliefs because you are trying to get yourself to believe something you already know isn’t true.

In Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre said, “I must as deceiver know the truth that is masked from me as the one deceived. Better yet. I must know that truth very precisely in order to hide it from myself the more carefully. And this not at two different moments of temporality, but in the unitary structure of one in the same project.”

Basically, you are playing two roles in your life – the deceiver (aware of the deception) and the deceived (cannot be aware of the fraud; otherwise, the deception won’t work). For example, if I try to lie to you but you already know I’m lying, that won’t work. 

The idea would be that the deceptive subsystem would act below the level of conscious awareness to effectively and successfully deceive the conscious self. Self-deception is a process that extends over time, so you are not required to hold the opposing beliefs simultaneously. Let’s say you robbed a bank and got away – you know what you did is wrong, but you can change that belief over time by lying to yourself about what happened or finding a way to justify what you did.

Be careful … if you believe a lie long enough, it becomes real for you.

With the revisionist model, an alternative to the traditional model, we can view self-deception as our tendency to favour flattering or welcome information instead of unflattering information.

There are three varieties of self-deception here:

  1. Failing to tell ourselves the entire truth – self-deception as information resistance. (We avoid unwanted info and seek only what we want to hear – Social media does that for us now)
  2. Obscuring the truth – self-deception as obfuscation. (We dismiss unwanted information when faced with mixed evidence – we reject counter-evidence and accept supporting evidence, and we remember information according to whether we welcome it or not based on our prevailing view of self and world)
  3. Lying to ourselves (self-evasion) – the classic notion of self-deception. (We believe what is comforting rather than what is true, or we believe what we want to believe instead of what we have evidence to believe)

Wishful thinking is different from self-deception. Wishful thinkers are utterly blind to their biases because their cognition has been hijacked by their desires. However, the self-deceived are aware of the evidence against their biased beliefs but consciously dismiss it in favour of their preferred view. 

Twisted self-deception is where we believe things we want to be false, not just what we want to be true. E.g., people are out to get me or cheating spouses.

If self-deception has survival value, evolving to facilitate interpersonal deception (giving you a competitive social advantage), and practical benefits, like overconfidence as a way to pursue goals that might seem out of reach. It’s still disturbing because it makes lying easier and safer. How? Because if you believe the lie you told, you come across as mistaken (with no deceptive intent), which is forgivable compared to outright deception.

Joseph Butler, an 18th-century theologian, proposes that we are inclined to self-deception because we fail to reflect properly on what we’re doing when it fits with or serves our interests.

Another view is that, in broad agreement with existential philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Søren Kierkegaard, something like self-deception blocks us off from living authentically. Living authentically, with a clear-eyed sense of ourselves and our commitments, seems contrary to self-deception, as does living with integrity.

What can we do about self-deception? Perhaps we should educate ourselves about our tendency toward self-deception. (Educated!) However, many different studies suggest that learning about our tendencies doesn’t provide much help. (Damn it!)

In one study, for instance, researchers told subjects about eight biases people commonly have. They then asked participants to rate themselves. On average, the participants thought they were better than the average person.

Joseph Butler recognized that the attempt to counteract self-deception is ironically prone to self-deception. He suggests that we need to make a habit of critical reflection. In important matters such as morality, we need to follow rigid rules while being as impartial as possible.

(Source: The Great Courses – Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature)

Until tomorrow 🙂

Feature Photo Credit: @kityyaya via Twenty20

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