Little white lies: A dance with the truth


Aldina Braganza

We all have our truths. They are our expression of reality as is.  They are the choices we make every day to live an authentic expression. Children don’t lie until they figure out that telling lies will get them out of trouble with their significant adults. Our conditioning begins at a very young age. We encourage socially sanctioned norms about what are acceptable behaviours and unacceptable behaviours, often denying them an expression of true feeling.

Not long after, the child learns to lie as a coping mechanism to get them out of trouble. We create a contradiction in their reality. They are told not to lie, yet when they do express their feelings, especially negative feelings, they are asked to suppress it or are reprimanded for it. For example when a child gets angry he/she is given no appropriate vent or understanding about his/her feeling, instead often he/she is punished.

This is probably where the first cause for denying our reality begins. We lie because we are unwilling to accept the negative aspects of ourselves and life in general. Our experiences cannot be positive all the time. There are times when things will go completely south to how you feel. Emotions are happy and also sad, calm and also agitated, love and also hate, affection and also neglect, frustrations and also satisfaction. Every person’s life is an enigma of varied experiences. There is no perfect life. Life just is. That is everyone’s truth. Yet each and every person will try hard to portray a perfect image of themselves. The image that we are always happy, excited, calm, peaceful, morally upright and always motivated. So when someone asks you how you are, it’s almost automatic to respond ‘I’m doing great’, although you are feeling really down that day.

Everybody, at some point or another in their lives, has denied their truth. 

Does truth matter at all? There is privacy and there is truth; there is social etiquette and there is truth; there is protection of self and there is truth; there is convenience and there is truth and there is truth and nothing but the truth.

The answer lies with each one. It depends on what type of existence you choose. Telling the truth is about an emotional honesty to self. Once you take accountability of this you can make better decisions as to how you will interact with others.

In ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ psychologist Viktor Emil Frankl draws from his ordeal at the concentration camp of Auschwitz. He says when we are stripped of all that we have and taken to our bare minimum, our true self gets expressed. We either become this mean person who always tries to maximise the needs of self by bullying others and getting their way or we become this person who shares and is kind and loving and looks at the needs of others as well.

The truth does set you free to live a stress-free existence. When you lie, you have to keep track of what you said and to whom and find creative means of getting out of a tight spot. Additionally you are constantly afraid of being judged. Such people live with a lot of anxiety

How do we make these decisions? Psychologist Carl Jung was the first to introduce the concept of the shadow. It’s that part of the personality that we reject. We do not want to acknowledge any of the emotions, behaviour and thoughts that we find dangerous or overwhelming. Aggressive urges, shame, immoral urges, fears, irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual impulses get buried deep within us and are often the reasons why we would rather deny than tell the truth.

It is this denial that is important to embrace. Your dance with truth begins with acknowledging that there is a dark side to you and that it’s okay. Truth and lies are two sides of the same coin called life. Every day we make a decision, sometimes consciously and other times subconsciously. Being honest is about diving into your core and getting to know your dark side.

The most common reason for suppressing our shadow is fear. Our fears are many. From the simple fear of offending another to the rejection we may experience from them. So instead of addressing our darkness we wear a social mask and repress it. Dropping the guise takes a lot of digging deep. The more we have repressed, the deeper we may need to dig. Sometimes a couple of years of therapy should get you there. At other times, it is a very difficult life event that will take you right to your darkness. It could break you for sure unless you let it heal you.

The darkness is also you. Dance with it. Bring it to light and watch your life become a free expression.

(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women)