Self-deception and avoidance: why do we do what we do?

Lying is one of our higher capacities developed by evolution. In one way or another, it helps us survive in certain situations.

Thus, self-deception has two functions: first, it allows to deceive others in a better way (because no one lies better than one who lies to himself), which is especially useful in an age when the ability to relate to others (social intelligence) has gained priority, in many cases using manipulation as a fundamental tool (see any business). That’s not to say that manipulation and lying are two similar concepts, but probably when you sign a contract with a company nobody tells you “we really only want your money.”

On another side, self-deception is a way to preserve our self-esteem and is related in some way to avoidance. Yes, self-deception is a form of avoidance. And what do we avoid?

The rationale for avoidance

We avoid negative emotions in the most creative way you can imagine. For example, according to the contrast avoidance modelConcern, as the core of generalized anxiety disorder, would perform the function of avoiding exposure to ‘decline’, in exchange for switching from a positive emotion to a movement to experience a negative emotion (something like “How problems are an inevitable part of life, if I’m worried when things are going well I’m ready for when things go bad.) It’s ultimately a form of emotional repression.

Worry also reduces the discomfort of having a problem.As this is an attempt at cognitive resolution of it. Although I’m worried about a problem, I feel like I’m doing “something” to fix it, even if it doesn’t actually fix it, which lessens my discomfort at not actually dealing with the problem. Hypochondria, on the other hand, is a way of masking an egocentric trait (the patient is so egocentric that he thinks everything is happening to him). In biological terms, this means our brains are lazy.

Self-deception is a patch that puts us in evolution by not being able to make us smarter or able to cope with certain external demands. Or rather, it is due to the inability of the human species to evolve and change at the same rate as the world we live in.

For example, Festinger’s term cognitive dissonance refers to the discomfort that causes us to be inconsistent between our values ​​and our actions. In this case, we resorted to self-deception to explain our actions.

Rationalization is another form of self-deception in which we give a seemingly reasonable explanation for a past action that this is not the case or that there was no good reason to be executed.

    Its application to self-esteem

    We explain this: the self-esteem or self-esteem that we make of ourselves depending on how we are, what we do and why we do it it produces discomfort if it is negative.

    Discomfort is an adaptive emotion that has the function of rethinking what is wrong with our lives in order to change it. However, our brain, which is very intelligent and resistant to change, says, “why should we change things in our lives, face a reality that hurts or scares us, take risks like quitting work, talking to a certain person about a very uncomfortable subject, etc., when, on the contrary, we can rethink it and tell ourselves that we are fine and thus avoid suffering, avoid situations that will make us more uncomfortable, avoid the fear … “.

    Self-deception and avoidance they are mechanisms for reducing energy expenditure that the brain should use to modify the connections, translated into behaviors, attitudes and traits (the neurobiological substrate belongs to many equivalent and very stable connections in our brain). In psychological terms, this means that our behavior and cognitive process have a personal style and are difficult to change to deal with environmental aspects that we are not prepared for.

    Most of the heuristics we use to think usually cause bias or error and are aimed at preserving our self-esteem. It is said that depressed people tend to be more realistic because their cognitive processing is not geared towards maintaining a positive self-report. In fact, this is why depression is contagious: the speech of the depressed person is so coherent that those around him can internalize as well. But patients with depression are also no exception to other forms of self-delusionIn no case to be avoided.

    As Kahneman said, humans tend to overestimate our importance and underestimate the role of events. The truth is that reality is so complex that we will never know at all why we are doing what we are doing. The reasons that we can believe, if not the product of self-deception and avoidance, are only a small part of the various factors, functions and causes that we can perceive.

    For example, personality disorders are egosyntonicIn other words, the traits do not cause discomfort to the patient, so he considers the problems he has to be due to certain circumstances in his life and not to his personality. While the assessment factors for any disorder seem very explicit in the DSM, many of them are not easily seen in an interview. A person with a narcissistic disorder is not aware that everything they do is aimed at increasing their ego, and a paranoid person does not view their level of alertness as pathological.

      What to do?

      Many concepts in psychology can be classified as self-deception or avoidance. The most common in any psychological consultation is that patients engage in avoidant behaviors that they are mistaken about so as not to assume they are avoiding. like that the problem is perpetuated by powerful negative reinforcement.

      Therefore, we need to define our ideal self and evaluate that definition rationally, determining which things are controllable and changeable, and which are not. On the first, it is necessary to propose realistic solutions. On the latter we must accept them and resign their importance. However, this analysis requires a detachment from avoidance and self-deception.

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