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We hold ‘truth’ to me paramount. We condemn those who lie and take their deceptions as deeply felt personal betrayals. Families, communities and even societies are bound together by the assumption that we’ll be honest with each other.

The great paradox in this is that we simultaneously know that those same institutions also have lies built into them. If ‘lies’ is too strong a word then we’ll downgrade it to make the fables, falsehoods, delusions and deceptions sit more easily with us, but the point is we hold two ‘truths’ side by side: honesty is a requirement but some lying is acceptable.

We also delude to ourselves about ourselves. The commonest way we do this is in over-estimating our positive qualities (the phenomenon known in psychology as ‘illusory superiority’). The odd thing about this is that we also down-play our negative qualities, only putting them on public display to demonstrate false humility or repentance. When depression takes hold the process is (generally but not always) reversed, and we totally over-exaggerate negative qualities, even to to point of inventing a whole new persona based on subjective ‘truth’, but with no objective validity.

We have evolved with the ability to deceive and we have to accept that it is a necessity for our mental health and social wellbeing. Likewise we are pretty adept at holding double standards, one of which (truth and deception both have their place), is vital to maintain the status quo.

Delusion is unavoidably part of what we are. It can give us hope, shield us from pain, encourage us to strive and even keep us alive. The problems only arise when we conceal the truth from ourselves behind a screen of virtue.

 

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