The Lie 2/2/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Research has demonstrated that the more you hear a lie, regardless of how outrageous it is, the more “true” it sounds to you. Some of my readers might think I’m talking about our newest former president, but I’m really not although, frankly, this is an astounding example of this very principle. In fact, politicians, of both parties, use this discovery frequently. Have you ever noticed how, frequently, multiple members of the president’s cabinet (regardless of who is in office) will say the same thing on multiple Sunday news shows simultaneously? Almost like it’s rehearsed? Let’s be real about this; the language is usually so similar that there is no doubt the story was rehearsed. The reason for this, whether they’re speaking the truth or not, is that the more you hear it, the more likely you’ll believe it. Political advertisements do the same thing, repeating the same lines over and over and over again hoping eventually you will not only believe it, but begin repeating it.

Here’s the interesting thing about this, though. It does not matter what the source of the lie is. Even if you know it’s a lie, you can literally lie to yourself and get yourself to believe it. Yes, it takes time, and it won’t work at first, but eventually it will. Many years ago, I used to tutor the young woman next door in mathematics. My “fee” for this service was that before we began, she had to say, out loud, “I’m a math superstar!” Did she believe it? No, not at first (and I don’t think she ever did because we didn’t meet often enough for the effect to kick in). But, given enough time and repetition, she would have eventually believed it.

You can do this for basically anything. If you don’t like homework, every time you sit down to do it just say, out loud, “I love homework.” In time, it will begin to sound familiar, and true. Don’t like housework? Say you do to yourself. It’ll sound silly, and an obvious lie when you do, but eventually, you’ll notice that your dislike isn’t so intense. It will continue fading, until eventually you don’t even have to say it anymore.

Unfortunately, this also applies to the way we are raised. If a child is raised hearing they have value, they will believe it. I was raised by a father calling me a “perfect butthole” (yes, literally) and telling me how it’s because of me that he didn’t have his dream car, and now that’s how I feel see myself. My friend Kosta tried very hard to undo this damage by telling me, repeatedly, how proud he is of me, and to be honest, I did start to feel better about myself.

Imagine a father trying to play catch with his son. If the father laughs every time the child fails to catch the ball, or yells at the boy every time he throws it poorly and the father has to pick it up, why would the boy want to keep practicing? What would he believe his ability is if the father tells him he’ll never get it? Compare that with a father who says “great effort” when the ball is poorly thrown. How much will the boy want to practice with a father who tells him how much he’s improving? Even if the boy does poorly, there are ways to encourage the son even without lying to him.

I could never speak with my father about my dates. Seems like an odd directional turn, but it’s actually along the same line. See, whenever I would mention a classmate I found attractive, my dad would shoot back with “I’ll bet she’s a real dog, eh?” Sometimes I wonder if this is why I’ve always had trouble in a relationship.

Maybe I need to start lying to myself and telling myself that I have value. God knows I don’t believe it, and I certainly don’t believe I deserve a happy and healthy relationship. Today on my social media page I put a very simple post that read, “Hey! You’re Amazing!” We all need to hear this sometimes. It’s amazing how deeply words can cut. It seems silly, and God knows that I try to convince myself that the opinions of others don’t count as much as my own, but my opinion of myself, thanks to my upbringing, is dishearteningly low. I know I have several friends who are down right now, and for good reason with the snowy weather, the restricted travel and just the general blahs. I think we need to support each other and think before criticizing. Sometimes it’s important to help us improve ourselves, but it always hurts.

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