“It’s only temporary, things will get better.”
“I’m just imagining things, it’s probably something I’m doing wrong.”
Thoughts like these will give me pause from now on. The first time one crosses my mind, I’ll allow it as a moment of honest introspection. More than once, I’ll start to get cautious.
I’ll get cautious because I know that once they become a mantra, a coping mechanism, they’ll become deceitful.
Not only deceitful, but deceitful in an insidious way that can poison and deform communication with others, no matter how honest the intent.
Recently, I think I figured out why this can be a real problem for me. Usually, when something is bothering me, my first reaction is to reflect and evaluate if something I’m doing is truly causing a problem. Often, I think I’d prefer myself to be the problem, because that’s something I can control, something I can easily change.
In many cases this sort of contemplation serves me well, it keeps me from acting in haste and it helps me be more reasonable about emotionally-charged situations.
It becomes a problem when introspection becomes my only method of handling problems. Ideally, once introspection gives the All-Clear-You’re-Not-Crazy signal, I’d move on to evaluating external forces that could be causing a problem. In many cases, that process proceeds nicely. But, in other cases, particularly where there is a lot of emotion, investment, or attachment involved, the process can get short-circuited by a desperate desire to maintain the status quo or hold on to an idealized version of reality.
Recognizing this tendency was really uncomfortable, and now it poses sort of a big problem. The thing is, more than anything, I’d really like just like to be an honest dude. I really try to be, and I get upset when I find I haven’t been. (Now, that may sound douchey and folksy or whatever, but I grew up in Texas, so douchey and folksy are kinda in my wheelhouse.)
This sort of introspection-turned-denial really messes the whole honesty thing because as far as I’m concerned it’s lying all the way down. Lying to yourself, certainly, but at some point that lie may form the basis of an otherwise honest statement to someone else.
This realization was really upsetting because lying to yourself only exacerbates and delays your problems. More importantly, it can cause other people a lot of heartache when you communicate something you’ve tricked yourself into believing with all of the sincerity of an honest statement.
Fortunately, I’ve realized it’s a problem and something I’m prone to doing. It’s caused more than a few problems for me in the past and it frustrates me that it took me this long to figure it out. I know what to look for now, and I intend not to let it happen anymore in my professional or personal life.