Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, male it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

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Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

Unconscious Untruths

Just as we can unconsciously emotionally react to events around us, we can also be unconscious victims of thoughts that are not true.

Our actions and reactions are based on what we believe to be true, and this happens on an unconscious level without us questioning whether or not those beliefs are true.

That is not to say that what we believe is lies but rather there are various versions of the truth which may hinder us in our lives.

Outdated Truths – Take a moment to think about things in your life that may have once been true but no longer are true. Perhaps it was once true to say you lived in a certain town but have since moved so it is no longer true. Or a time when you were single but now are in a relationship, maybe you were once in a relationship but now are single. Truth can change. Think of others examples in your life where this is the case.

The examples above are fairly obvious ones, as always things are not so obvious. As children we have truths instilled in us by parents, teachers and other influential people which may very well have been true at the time but life and society move on and those truths may no longer be relevant yet they still live in our unconscious impacting on our actions and reactions.

For example your school years may have shown you the ‘truth’ of how children should learn things and you may hold on to that truth despite the fact that the world has moved on and different learning strategies have been shown to be more successful.

Opinionated Truths – We are inundated constantly by opinionated truths, facts which are not actually facts but rather interpretations or opinions of facts. Politicians provide the best example of this, just look how different political parties present the same information in different ways but usually prefixed with expressions such as “the truth is” or “the fact of the matter is”. If you are predisposed to favour one political party over the other then you are more likely to accept their truth while dismissing the other as the other as ‘spin’ or outright lies.

Other sources of ‘fact’ also have a degree of opinion. The news, for example, is opinionated. If you get the chance watch the news on different TV channels, look at how different channels emphasise different stories, one may lead with a story (giving it an air of greater importance) yet another may give the same story a lot less emphasis giving the lead to a completely different piece of news.

person reading the daily fake news newspaper sitting on gray couch
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(For the record this blog is opinion of fact rather than the ultimate truth!)

On a much more personal level we can be influenced by friends, family, employers etc. who give us ‘facts’ which we accept as truth but which, in reality, are opinions of facts. Is there a time when you have been carried away by things a friend has told you only to discover later they hadn’t given you the full information? A friend could tell us a ‘truth’ about another person which unconsciously influences our behaviour toward that person yet later on we find out that there is a different version of that truth which, in turn, changes our actions again.

Personalised Truth – These are the truths we tell ourselves about ourselves. That internal dialogue, most often negative that affects how we behave and see ourselves. Those things like “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure” etc. Personalised truths are also those things we tell ourselves to justify or make sense of the world around us.

Personalised truth is a post all on its own so more on that next time.

For now the important thing to remember is that truth is a flexible thing. If you remember back to my last post “Lightening Reactions” I encouraged you too take time to think what causes those reactions, often it is a belief or ‘truth’ that we hold, it is then up to us to work out if that truth still holds or if it is an unconscious untruth that we need to eliminate from our minds.