I offer this post as a way for you to address some self-deception. I write it in the third person so that you can work with yourself as if you are a client. For some, this will enable the level of objectivity needed for the exercise. The outcome, though, is clear. Establish congruence between who you are and who you perceive yourself to be. Establish consistency between who you perceive yourself to be and your behaviors. Stop lying! Be YOU.
It happens all the time because I read people well, and because people seem to have a knack for deceiving themselves. I usually goes something like,
“You feel that you are above others.”
“No. No!” is the quick and emphatic reply.
“Okay? Do you find yourself uncomfortable around some people because they don’t measure up to your standards?”
“Yes… but, that’s not because I feel like I’m above them.”
“Bless your heart,” I quip. “That’s the very definition of thinking you are above them.”
Reading the Client
Three requirements exist for effective experience of the authentic self. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with me. Be willing to be wrong. The simplest way to determine the level of authentic self expression is to discern these three requirements.
Notice the reaction the client gives. Check to see if the reaction is congruent with their mannerisms, appearance, and other intangibles you know about the client. If your assessment reveals incongruence or inconsistency with these three requirements, you must engage with them as with a false-self-interaction. They will not give you an authentic self to work with initially. It would be helpful if you can determine which of the three requirements they are violating. You must work to facilitate their honesty before any other work can be successfully initiated.
Pay close attention to the person as they present themselves. Hear what they are saying by capturing visually the words they say in their EXACT words. Hear what they are not saying by asking, “How does that make you feel?” and “What gives you joy from that?” Stay attuned to eye movement, cadence, and volume differences.
Be Honest With Yourself
If they are violating this requirement, it is usually because they have lost a reliable connection with themselves. Often, this is the result of being denied the opportunity to express themselves through intentional choice or a refusal to take ownership of their choices and the consequences of their choices.
Re-establishing that connection will require work on the 1) values (including morals), perceptions, judgments, and predictions originating in themselves; 2) meditative states to practice productive internal dialogue rather than anxiety; 3) discerning when and with whom to sustainably share internal dialogue; and, 4) discernment to determine whether to share only the conclusions that communicate resolve and intentionality or to share the complete thought process.
If they are violating this requirement, it is usually an attempt to deceive others due to a lack of trust in what they see within themselves. It is an attempt to be as they are “supposed to be” as opposed to accepting who they are.
The first resolution for this is to build the relationship to the point where the client knows that your judgments are neither of good nor of bad. Whatever is determined about them, whatever is the reality of them, can be implemented sustainably. Whether it sounds bad, seems mean, or has been detrimental is not our focus. We are only concerned to identify what is true.
With those who are sufficiently cognitive, you would do well to explain how the tendency to perceive flaws and feel shame are learned behaviors. If the client can release the insistence on shame, they can recognize that they do not have to change what they have perceived about themselves. The solution is a process of integration rather than change. They must expand their options for implementing their true self, and find sustainable ways to meet their needs.
Be Willing to be Wrong
It does not matter if the client has built a reputation on it. Insult to ego now based in admittance and the loss associated with repentance is better than to hold resolutely to a lie. This lack of willingness takes two forms: Refusal to admit Mistakes, and Need to be Right.
Refusal to admit is typically tied to the construct that wrong equates with evil, bad, and all things negative. To admit to being wrong is to admit to being a rotten person. Overcoming this often requires a total paradigm shift and continued self-talk retraining. Somewhere along the line, the client received and internalized the lesson that mistakes are the enemy of good. Retrain that the dichotomy of good versus bad is the problem. Mistakes are not the problem. Learning from them is the requirement.
Need to be right traces a slightly different origin. Typically, it is the result of compensation for a perceived lack motivated by the ego. The origin is not necessarily a message internalized from the outside, but a feeling from the inside. The need is to keep that felt inability or deficiency secret. If they can explain their rightness, no one will ever realize their felt deficiency.
Overcoming this requires training and applied information to specifically develop the area of the felt deficiency. As the client feels more confident in their knowledge, the need to be right as a mechanism for hiding dissipates.