There is safety in truth. When we can accept that what we are being told is true, we can balance our fears and make wise choices. When we are being lied to, we are robbed of this privilege. Dishonesty is a vehicle for control that has the effect of altering our sense of reality in a way that can be truly damaging. Even white lies can create alternate realities between people that would otherwise share complete trust. The manufactured realities that occur when we are lied to can truly make us crazy as we no longer know what is real and what is fiction. This is called gaslighting.
We are all being gaslighted on a regular basis. Sanitation of our realities causes us to project our personalities in ways that are not indicative of our true selves. This is how we gaslight the world into accepting us. This becomes so common we learn to just assume that others are doing the same thing. Our manufactured realities skew our ability to value authenticity. The people who tell us the truth then become the villainss of the world, while the people who tell us the lies become our heroes.
This is how we create a gaslighted society. Instagram filters that change our appearance and mendacities that we can spread on the internet with no reprisal have created a gaslighted society where there appears to be no escape route. It has become the rule rather than the exception to withhold truths that are unflattering and promote our facades for self-serving reasons. We can buy books that teach us how to do this. There are internet chat groups that will coach you on how to lie or bend the truth to get laid or land a job.
This is the game now. The best liars make the most progress it seems. I would say that eventually when the truth comes out there will be consequences, but that is naïve. There aren’t always consequences for the liar, but there are always consequences for the victim. The victim can no longer accept their reality. The victim now questions everything they are told and takes nothing at face value. We become jaded, paranoid, and skeptical at every turn. This is viewed as wise, but there is another option to embrace.
There’s a great book called 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I love this book for many reasons but my favorite thing about it is that it begins with describing what is called the “inside out approach”. The premise of this is that unless you develop yourself emotionally and ethically from the inside, you will fail to develop the types of relationships and make the choices that will benefit you over the long run. I find this to be quite true.
We see people that behave unethically advance in life all of the time. This can make us angry and wish we could suspend our own morality to do the same. However, if we pay attention we will see that success obtained this way leaves a darkness under the mask of success. When we cultivate relationships and goals based on ethics, truth, and compassion, what we obtain is golden. It is immutable in its value. This is the difference between gaslighting your way to goals and remaining authentic.
The problem is that it can be supremely frightening to pursue goals this way. We may wish to be authentic but feel that others will take advantage of our honesty and hurt us. Betrayal of trust can be traumatic. This is why we should never stop trusting ourselves.
Trust yourself. Trust that you have the strength to withstand seeing the truth. This is one of the greatest barriers to authenticity. Sometimes we want to remain gaslighted. We want the reality we created for ourselves to be true, even when we know deep down it isn’t. We can easily narcotize ourselves with another person’s falseness. For gaslighters, the game is to remain in control through withholding of the truth and the communication of messages that feed your ego in just the right ways. We can become insulated in their false reality and become afraid to leave it. This is self-abandonment.
Our ability to live authentically is dependent on our ability to trust that we can handle truths. I love the film A Few Good Men (1992) which also happens to be a great play incidentally. Everyone knows the famous monologue from the Colonel (Jack Nicholson) where he states, “You can’t handle the truth!” This is the ultimate gaslighting moment showing how gaslighters justify their actions. They assume that the truth is their power and that they should wield it as they see fit. They feel entitled to that authority based on their narcissism whether they see it that way or not. However it was clear in the film that everyone could indeed handle the truth. The person that couldn’t handle it was the Colonel. The truth was that the Colonel had not developed himself from the inside out. That’s what he didn’t want to face —that’s what the court finally revealed.
This leads to an important question. If you were put on the stand and interrogated about what you have, who you are, and the relationships that you have cultivated based on authenticity or a false self, could you handle the truth?