What is self-deception?

Self-deception is not letting yourself remember that you know or believe that something is wrong so that you can support and seemingly accept it as true.

When a belief appears irrational, it may be that the person may be using self-deception in order to accept it or to appear to.

The more irrationality and ignorance there is out there, the more powerful self-deception will become an the more apostles it will get. Lies thrive on lies and errors and on not being caught out.


What self-deception is not


Wilful ignorance is refusing to think any further about something that shows your  belief may be wrong or is wrong.  It is done because you feel safer sticking with what you believe and because you prefer not to know the truth for that reason.  The believer has the power to break from it as it is adaptive.  Self-deception is more like a trap and is very likely to be harmful for there is too much of a detachment from reality. 


The two are not mutually exclusive.  Both can be present at the one time.  Both of them can be at work when you believe a rubbish doctrine.


Why you need to love truth

We tell lies to ourselves and others for lies are usually more interesting than the truth. If you lie to yourself then the truth isn't exciting or precious enough to you, so you cannot be trusted to be honest to others.
True beliefs will be more useful than false beliefs. If it is true that X is stealing from you, it does not help if somebody lies to you that Y did it. Lies oppose your right to know what to expect from reality and your opportunity to handle the reality is taken away.
Why do we use self-deception?

We engage in self-deception for the following reasons.

We know that liars often give themselves away. They may contradict themselves. They may have emotions or lack of emotions that are a tell-tale sign that they do not believe what they are saying and are intending to fool.

We know that if liars practice self-deception the give-aways will not happen. Self-deception helps you to hide your giveaways.


Lying and keeping up the pretence is hard, unpleasant and scary work. People deceive themselves so that they can fool others without enduring all that.
Further lies come more naturally if you fool yourself. They will exude from you effortlessly. You work at this skill because you know people will believe what you say better if you seem to believe it yourself. You need to fool yourself to make the lies come naturally and easily.


You know that others like you to be like them in values and manners and thinking etc. So you have to pretend to be more like them than what you are so as to be able to fool enough of them. You have to lie to yourself that you are like them and you do this to fool them.


You look smarter than what you are if you can pollute others with your lies that you tell yourself. Christians start off with a conclusion and then clutch at straws to make it look reasonable. It is not really a conclusion. They are deceptive for making it appear to be one.


We feel safer if we try to be more like the people we have to live with. Self-deception is a sign of a fear that needs to be faced and overcome. Self-deception is partly or fully caused by fear and it will lead to you hating and fearing those who may challenge your beliefs and your comfort zone.


Self-deception is based on fear of a real or perceived threat or danger.


When you lie to yourself, it is always partly or fully because the lie is more interesting than the truth. But you need others to find it interesting in order to find it interesting yourself hence the need for self-deception. You lie to yourself to get others attracted to the lie. Self-deception involves being selfishly opposed to the truth.


If the wife really thinks her husband is not cheating on her despite the evidence all around her that he is, then she is committing an error. She is not in denial. But if she lets the fear of being alone or the fear of being wrong or the fear of others laughing at her or the fear of being seen as having had a failed marriage get her to put the evidence out of her mind or not to think about it she is in denial. Denial is deliberate resistance of the truth and is really a reflection on what kind of people you surround yourself with or a reflection on how you see them.


Denial and self-deception are married and inseparable. Denial is a refusal to see not an inability or defect.


Self-deception then is all about fooling others.


How to free yourself from self-deception and find out if you are lying to yourself


Suspend your tendency to judge and punish yourself. Then just ask yourself questions about your reasons and motivations for believing what you believe. The main thing that blinds you to self-deception is your guilt and shame. They are the reason for the self-deception. Nurturing them will only make you harder towards others.


Ask yourself to consider the opposite to what you believe. Open yourself to believing it. You will experience emotion. Examine the emotion to see if it is justified or is just baggage from the past. For example, do you fear losing faith in the Bible? Is it because you have been bullied into believing it in the past? Why do you act as if you will be bullied now if you will cease to believe? Do you fear losing faith in the Bible because it is the truth?


Remind yourself that though you tend to see your memories and thoughts as accurate they are not accurate all that often. Work out examples.


Remember why we tend to agree with love the sinner and hate the sin. It is because we want to deny and others to deny that our evil behaviour says something about our identities, the kind of people we are, what we are. This will lead to problems such as you spying on your spouse and invading their right to privacy while telling yourself that you are the kind of person who trusts their spouse. It makes your behaviour worse! You don't have the deterrent of "I am not a trusting person." You need to ask yourself non-judgementally why you don't want to see yourself or be seen as a suspicious and negative individual.


We are never our real selves with others when we employ self-deception in our dealings with them. Relationships will be unsatisfactory and the poison will spread. If somebody pulls the blinkers off, thank them!

Our minds are built for deception

If you hear of something you have heard of before you are more likely to believe it. The more you hear the more likely it is you will believe it.  It takes on the illusion of being true just because you heard of it before.


We have faith in ourselves that our memories are sufficiently accurate. We cannot prove it even to ourselves. We can manage to remember things we never did. Each one of us alone is the judge of what is in her or his head.
When we see an image of say the Statue of Liberty in our minds we pretend what we have imagined is really the Statue. It is not. It is only an image created in our heads by our heads. If the image were really of the statue it would not have errors and vagueness in it. For example, we might picture the statue as the wrong shade of turquoise.
When our minds are built for deception it is no wonder that we can delude and deceive ourselves. An alarming example is how much loved soap characters can be replaced by new actors and accepted as the character. The ingredient of self-deception is pretending and when it is cooked it ends up served as self-deception.
As only you have any hope of knowing how much error you make, it follows that you should have more faith in your own perception and memories than others do theirs. After all you cannot judge the mind of another the way you can your own. To accept a God and worship him because other's influence you to shows you have faith in them. To believe because of them is not to trust in God. You cannot trust the new secretary when you trust what the glowing reference says about her. The trust is not personally given to her. Clearly in matters of religion and magic and the occult, the capacity for self-deception expands beyond comprehension. They are self-deception's best friends.
Self-deception may happen when you know something and you don't want to accept that you know it. So you end up convincing yourself that what you want to believe is right. You have to suppress what you know. You try to bury it in the back of your mind. It seems a contradiction or paradox to imagine that you are the deceiver and the deceived. Imagine you have illegal drugs in the house. You may for some reason wish they were not there and hide them away so that you will eventually think you believe they have never been in the house. What you are doing is manipulating your emotions and memory. But somewhere deep down you know the truth. That is why if the drugs squad finds the drugs you cannot plead innocence to possession on the basis that you believed they were no longer there. Self-deception does not excuse.
We can fake belief. When self-deceit is involved, the real belief is pushed to the back of your mind to let a pretend belief take its place. The pretend belief is not authentic belief. But you can however really believe that it is what you really believe though it is not. You are taking advantage of the fact that belief is less than complete certainty.
Simon Blackburn says-
In THE BIG QUESTIONS, Simon Blackburn deals with the question of how self-deception is caused. He says that one cause is motivation. Another cause is intention. And of course I would add that it can be one and the other both. It could be more motivation and less intention or vice versa. You need a motivation to have an intention so it is both.
When a person wants to believe something stupid that is motivation. He lets himself be seduced and blinded. In other words, he may not even realise his feelings and desires are playing tricks on him.
When a person creates a deliberate plan to believe what is false that is intention.
Blackburn says if a teacher criticises a student's work, the student may look for the teacher's bad points to make himself feel better. Blackburn says this is not intentional but motivational. The student does not want to have the unpleasant belief that the teacher is right so he deploys strategies to stop himself agreeing with the teacher. He may dismiss objections, think of something beside the issue, bring in irrelevant points to obscure the issue. Blackburn says we all do such things and they are not intentional - they are not conscious plans to mislead ourselves.
Blackburn says that even if we are not intentionally deceiving ourselves we are still responsible for any bad consequences or unfairness that our self-deception results in. The motorist who didn't intend to let his attention wander and who caused a terrible crash in which people died is still responsible and blameworthy. The motorist who could have known better when he made a driving mistake that cost lives is still responsible and blameworthy. We cannot adopt the stupid dogma that we are only responsible or to blame when we fully know what we were doing and conscious of all our thoughts and motivations and intentions - all the mental processes behind our actions. If we do that, then we open the door to murderers getting lighter sentences because they say Satan tampered with their thoughts so they were not completely to blame.
Intentional Self-Deception
The person who engages in intentional self-deception is not believing what he knows is wrong. He only believes that he believes. He knows his belief is wrong.
Religion commands that faith be intentional. Religion is good training if you want to con yourself.
The intentional self-deceiver is the worst kind. He will be a good liar in general when he is a good liar to himself.
All self-deception is intentional for we know that if others love who they think we are and not us as we are then we are not really loved much. We want to be loved for who we really are. We have to resist this impulse to deceive ourselves and thus to partly hide ourselves from ourselves and by implication others. You cannot hide what you know and are from yourself without hiding it from others as well. The two go together.
Suppose a person self-deceives herself that she is a good singer. She is lying to others when she is making that claim. That is direct lying. She is also indirectly lying when they see her going about with her musical equipment as if she were a professional singer. When she does anything non-verbal that conveys, "I am a talented singer," that is indirectly lying. Indirectly lying makes it no less lying. In fact indirect lying is far worse than telling a bare-faced lie. It is more manipulative and trying to give out falsified hard evidence instead of asking people to merely take your word for it. Self-deception is only about deceiving others. You have to deceive yourself so that you can be a convincing fraud. The good singer does not lie to herself just to make herself feel good or to feel that she is a good singer but to get others to think she is a good singer. Why would you want to believe you are a fabulous singer if it is not about wanting others to believe it? Because self-deception is about fooling others it is always intentional. If a religion is based on self-deception then it follows that the more the members go on missions, pray and do pilgrimages then the greater their self-deception is. They nurture it. The more they at least indirectly lie to non-members. They more they work against the non-member's right to the truth about them and their religion.
Self-deception can be caused by desires and intentions. All self-deception involves both. Self-deception is really about seeking power and control. You want the truth not to be the truth so you resort to half-truths and lies. And you do it all to fool others. 
I lie to myself to fool you and it is part of my strategy for protecting myself from real or perceived (direct or indirect) threats from you that may harm me or make me unhappy.

Self-deception risks hurting others more than me. Why? If I fool myself I risk hurting myself. But if I fool others there will be more people hurt. I can limit how much harm I let happen to me but I cannot do that with other people. I hurt them by putting them at risk which is bad in itself. I hurt them by enslaving them to error. I delude them so if they come up with problems they cannot solve them or they cannot clearly or confidently diagnose them.
Sometimes people create a system of self-deception to protect themselves against you if they think you endanger their happiness. Their behaviour is protective. Any religious or non-religious system that depends a lot on self-esteem will lead to strife and division and fear.
Self-deception is a coward's game. The truth is not about you and not about your egotistic side. You have to fit in with truth. Lies are out.

THE BIG QUESTIONS, Simon Blackburn, Quercus Books, London, 2009

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