Honest Liars: The Psychology of Self-Deception

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Apropos of yesterday’s Quote of the Day from Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, you can imagine my surprise when I chanced upon this TED Talk from Cortney Warren (@DrCortneyWarren) this morning titled “Honest Liars: The Psychology of Self-Deception.”

This could very well be the most informative 13 minutes and 47 seconds you experience all week. Maybe all month. Ms. Warren is a gifted orator with a staggering intellect, an eloquent public speaker who takes complex issues of the mind and finds a way to present them as common denominators that anyone can relate to (think Pericles meets Oliver Sacks meets Niki Taylor) – and she has a message for all of us: It’s time to take responsibility for our life story (thank you, Mikey O.) and stop the big little lies (thank you, HBO) that spiral out of control as we get older and lead to nothing but a life of self-deceit, unhappiness and unfulfilled dreams.

Sound cheery and cheerful? Right-o! Well, fortunately Ms. Warren has a panacea of sorts and it’s pretty simple: stop blaming and start accepting; forget what others expect of you and remember what it is you expect of yourself; understand that you play a role, no matter how big or small, in all of the outcomes that dictate the life path you presently find yourself on.

“Each person had their moment when they assumed the skins of wild animals, when they took responsibility for the story.”

That’s what Mr. Ondaatje wrote in his epic novel more than 30 years ago, and it’s what Cortney Warren echoes, not through the prism of art or literature, but from the perspective of psychology. And it would seem she’s anything but a hypocrite in this matter: After a life spent in academia and finally (finally!) achieving tenure, she soon submitted her resignation because she realized that was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She had the strength to face down her own self-deception and begin a new journey down a path where she will aim to be a better, more honest liar – at least to herself.

(Dear Cortney, should you ever happen to stumble upon this post on the great highway called the interweb, please know that I feel your pain/admire your bravery. I, too, left a prestigious job teaching at a university in 2004 to pursue writing as a full-time gig and have never looked back. I may be much poorer in currency than I was all those years ago, but I am rich – err…wrong word – much more satisfied and at peace with the life path I chose to walk down at that critical juncture of my life. God speed as you embark on the next phase of your destiny and you assume the skins of wild animals.)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Honest Liars: The Psychology of Self-Deception

  1. Michelle Thompson

    Thanks for this wonderfully inspirational post!

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