Truth and Lies

Daily Acts

After attending a friend’s big birthday party, my daughter Keira mentioned that the young woman’s mother was not supportive.  As a knee-jerk reaction, always protective of moms, I said (without thinking), “Oh, she loves so-and-so.  She’d lay down on the railroad tracks for her kids.”(My fondness for analogies can get out of hand) 

Keira gave me that squint eyed look that smart daughters give to mothers who speak out of turn and said, And how often do you think that will be required?  What about the lack of daily support?”

It’s a good point.  It’s an excellent point.  As parents, we do not build relationships with the grand gesture.  We build relationships with our children during every conversation, at each meal, during each phone call, with each laugh or hug, and by trying to understand who they are and what they need.  Of course, this story goes way beyond parents and children. Our lives are collection of daily acts.  Maybe there will be an heroic gesture thrown in but, mostly we build our lives with day by day, ordinary interactions. Now that I think about it, this doesn’t even have to be human thing – we don’t become educated by reading one gigantic book. Even plants – beautiful flowers don’t grow because they were showered by one impressive thunderstorm and then neglected for the rest of the season. I know, you get it – time to stop with the analogies………

5 Components Of Forgiveness

How do we forgive people who have wronged us? How do we move on?  It is certainly a process that takes time and energy. Since the new year is only days away,  and we all want to be able to feel free going into 2015, it seems like the right time to talk about forgiveness for two days.   Today, in the lists below, I have made a small beginning by spelling out what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness is not.

Chicago Botanic Gaardens

Forgiveness is:

1. A method (a process) of coping with your hurt and your experience of being treated poorly.

2. For your benefit, not anyone else’s; it is not for the person who hurt you.

3. A different way to think about your emotions and actions toward the person who offended you.

4. A way to let go of some bitterness.

5. A way to feel freer from the hurt and offenses done to you.

Here is a definition of Forgiveness that I like. 

“Forgiveness is letting go of negative feelings (i.e. hostility), negative thoughts (i.e. revenge), and negative behaviors (i.e. talking badly) in response to genuine injustice against you. You may, or may not, eventually respond positively toward the offending person.”

Whenever I talk about forgiveness in meetings or in groups, someone always asks, “What if I can’t forget?” or, “Does this mean that I have to excuse the behavior that hurt me?”

Forgiveness IS NOT

1. Forgetting – you do not have to make yourself forget the behavior or its consequences.

2. Condoning – you do not have to say or believe that the behavior was okay with you.

3. Accepting its continuation – you do not have to continue to tolerate the behavior.

4. Denying – you do not have to deny or overlook the behavior.

Tomorrow, The Basic Principles of Forgiveness and How We Got Into That Mess (in the first place)

The definition of forgiveness comes from M. Rye and K. Pargament’s article, “Forgiveness and Romantic Relationships in College: Can it Heal the Wounded Heart?” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2002, v. 54 pp.419-441.

False Memories Last A Long Time

We rely so heavily on our memories but how accurate are they? Do false Dreamstimememories last? And do they last as long as true ones? I recently read a study completed by several of the keynote speakers at the European Congress of Psychology who wondered whether experimentally created false memories would persist for an extended period (one and a half years).

The study: 342 subjects participated in a three-stage misinformation procedure (saw the event slides, read the narrations with misinformation, and then took the memory tests). The initial tests showed that misinformation led to a significant amount of false memory. One and a half years later, the participants were tested again. About half of the misinformation false memory persisted, which was the same rate as for true memory. These results strongly suggest that brief exposure to misinformation can lead to long-term false memory and that the strength of memory trace was similar for true and false memories.

It’s scary. This means that lies or misinformation resulting in creation of false memories remains just as long as the real thing. The implications for what children are told or what they come to mistakenly believe is disturbing.

Source:Bi Zhu, Chuansheng Chen, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Qinghua He, Chunhui Chen, Xuemei Lei, Chongde Lin and Qi Dong. 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.



What Creates Authoritarian Types?

What creates people who are attracted to authoritarianism?Butter Knives

Authoritarian is defined by the Free Dictionary as:
1. Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom: an authoritarian regime.
2. Of, relating to, or expecting unquestioning obedience.
Here are a few components:
1. They are often products of authoritarian educations
2. They come from patriarchal families
3. There is a general denial of sexuality
The authoritarian character type often has aggressive feelings that are turned toward people weaker than themselves (instead of toward their parents or the system that shaped them). They have a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves so you can understand the appeal of groups/mobs. to be attached to a group is to remain safe. another interesting fact is that authoritarian types have desires to be ‘pure’ and that leads them to interact with similar others and expell outsiders.

Reality Sucks But…

Reality is a nuisance; don’t bother with it.  It intrudes on our carefullydreamstimefree_14754
constructed beliefs.  I’ve certainly seen this happen to me and it happens to
others.  We see what we want to see; we see things that confirm our already
existing beliefs.

Why are we so averse to new information and seem to prefer information that 
confirms what we already believe?

1. People want to be correct so confirming information is preferred.
2. It is easier to see where new pieces fit into the existing picture than
imagining a new picture.
3. It allows us to continue to think of ourselves as accurate and consistent
4. We want information that confirms our self-image, even if it is bad –
anything to be right!

Ignoring new information is dangerous because:

1. Prejudice partly comes from only noticing facts which fit our preconceived
notions about other nations or ethnicities.
2. We actually ignore disconfirming information and live in la la land.


1. Try to be just a little bit more open; watch or read things that show
different opinions.
2. Work on developing a theory that presents an alternative to your preferred

Fantastic Advice On Manipulation

I found this study fascinating because the implications for manipulating people’s responses are strong. Gate fences in luxury

Situation 1.) I show you a picture of a large house and ask, “What do you think it costs? Is it less than $10,000?”


Situation 2.) I show you a picture of the same large house and ask, “What do you think it costs?  Is it more than $100,000,000?”

Both figures are blatantly out of touch and unreasonable. But – does that knowledge toss out the number? No. Let’s say that a reasonable price for the house in the photo is $400,000. In situation 1, when I asked if the house cost less than $10,000, you will guess a lower amount than in situation #2 because of the way I set you up. I gave you a ridiculously low amount, and you knew it, but it has influenced you to lower your guess about the true price. In situation 2, you will guess a higher number.

Why? The initial statements have provided a reference point, or anchor, for your guess. You can see how you can be led far afield by these initial comments – think salespeople, negotiators, managers discussing salary.  Like it or not, you will keep coming back to that original number and be influenced by it. This is why people are told to go ahead and open salary negotiations rather than waiting for someone else to begin – you set the anchor figure.

Source: Strack and Mussweiler, 1999.

Want to read about manipulation?

OO v3

How Old Is Old?

We aren’t the best judges of when we are ‘old’ and I find it a personally
loathsome word to apply to myself.   But, a study has concluded that caregivers consider us ‘old’ when we can no longer shop, prepare meals, do housework, go to the doctor, take medications, and manage money – the SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAtypes of tasks that mark us as independent people.   It does make sense that those markers are the difference between being ‘old’ and ‘not old’.

Eldercare has become a $260 billion a year business and is growing as the over 85 age bracket continues to expand.

The tasks mentioned above, the ones that separate the ‘old’ from the ‘not old’, cause many of the arguments within families.   Adult children become frightened when their


parents cannot shop, take meds, manage their money and the rest.   Family members and caregivers argue with parents about performing those activities – being self sufficient and able to care for themselves.

This backfires.  For older people, if they are unable to do these things independently, they lie or  exclude family members or caretakers, for example, driving after others have cautioned against it, or lying about taking meds.  The strategy suggested by clinicians and researchers is: if you are a caretaker who provides assistance, consider the ways you treat the elderly as unaware, confused, dependent, at-risk, or any of the other lousy ways that Americans let each other know that they have little value.

“By treating older people as valued adults, you can provide needed assistance while decreasing their chances of generating conflict by threatening the older consumer’s identity,” the authors conclude.

Source: M. Barnhart and L. Peñaloza.  Journal of Consumer Research: April 2013.

Until you are too old to read, here is a link to my book Object of Obsession.

The “Aha” Moment

Psychologists call it insight but the feeling when it happens to you is, “AHA!” It is a satisfying feeling of discovery, even if you don’t like the information.  My daughter tells me that Oprah speaks about her “Ahas”.  It is an interesting

experience.  When you have this feeling, you know that the pieces have correctly fallen into place.  After listening to people for years, I think that the “aha” moment arrives in the following way:

1. You register “clues.” Clues are bits of information that you file away in your mind, not consciously thinking they will lead you toward some special understanding; but clues seems to stick.

2. The clues pile up, almost to seeing the picture, but you don’t have the puzzle entirely put together yet. You are becoming more aware and maybe you are beginning to vaguely wonder.

3. Someone makes a comment

and uses the right word or phrase. Or, someone behaves in a certain way. Or, you read or see something that results in click, click, ping, and you feel a satisfying thud as the pieces fall into place and lock.

4. And then you know.

It is like finding a name for something you knew existed but, up until now, it had been nameless. Aha, I know that to be true.

If you know of any studies that have actually figured out this process, please let me know. I’d like to see how close I come to understanding the aha moment.

Why Do I have To Know????


 There is no going back from understanding.  Lawyers like to say, “You can”t unring the bell.”

“There is one lie I used to tell (I don’t say this anymore) to clients in the beginning of therapy. It would occur after we had talked about aspects of their lives that they said they wanted to change, whether it was emotions, personal behaviors or interpersonal relationships.  If someone asked, “What if I don’t like the change?” I often responded, “Then you can change back.” This is not true.  They certainly can continue to change but the idea of undoing change, as if you were untying a shoe, is equivalent to unknowing.  How can you reclaim unknowing?”             ____________________________________

There are some many times in life when we learn something that is unwelcome.  It could be as small as finding out we are tone

deaf.  It could be as gigantic as a medical diagnosis or a betrayal.  And, surprising, unwelcome news doesn’t have to only come from the outside – it might come from inside ourselves.  For example, when we realize that we no longer love our partner, we know that we have reached the end of a job, we finally understand that our parent is an addict, or we comprehend that our child is not the person we had hoped. Information like this changes our world.  Just as my client who asked, “What if I don’t like the change?” we can’t go backward, we can’t ‘unknow’.  We can’t reclaim innocence.

I’m convinced that the inability to ‘unknow’ is one

reason people fight against understanding their situations.  They realize that they will have to live with their knowledge and probably act on it, even if that action is acceptance, not leaving, screaming or throwing things. So, it becomes preferable to never gain the knowledge.  That is probably what denial is all about.  There are things in life that can be undone – hair grows back and possessions can be bought and sold.  Other things, if not undone, can be fixed by apologies, better behavior, and future improvement.  But certain knowledge exists in that category of, “Oh no, what do I do with this?”  That last category compels us forward.

4 Reasons Why Honesty is Good For You

A Notre Dame researcher asked subjects to stop lying for 10 weeks. During that time, she checked their progress with polygraph tests. The findings showed that, when people lied less often (during 10 weeks), they reported better physical and mental health. Specifically, people said they had:

  1. fewer physical complaints such as headaches and sore throats
  2. fewer emotional complaints, such as a reduction in tension
  3. improvements in close personal relationships
  4. smoother social interactions

Nice, huh? I suspect that the subjects were burdened by carrying around lies and felt relief and freedom from being honest. I wonder if schools other than Notre Dame would have quite the same findings………….

Source: Anita Kelly Ph.D., Notre Dame University