We try to fool ourselves


But, what is this phenomenon due to? What is the point of trying to deceive the only person who knows everything about us, what we think in each moment and our future intentions? In this article we will try to answer these and other questions.

Why do we deceive ourselves on a daily basis?

Aristotle said that man is a rational animal, and indeed it is. But that does not free us from having among our beliefs some that are irrational, which already gives us some clue as to why we deceive ourselves.

Indeed, on some occasions we prefer to renounce facts and rationality and embrace reasoning that makes no sense and defies all logic, trying to convince ourselves of them.

One must be clear about a difference between lying and self-deception, and that is that there is an important component in lying that changes everything: we know that what we say is not true. That is to say, there is an awareness of the validity of the argument (we know that it is false).

However, with self-deception we are not aware of it, but, despite the indications that we have to the contrary, we have accepted as true something that is not.

That is another reason why we deceive ourselves, and that is because it is a much more powerful mechanism than pure lies, since by not being aware of it, its effects can be much more profound , adhering to the fallacious reasoning that it has generated it at first and therefore believing that it is a truth, when in reality it is not.

In short, the question of why we deceive ourselves is answered in a simple way: because it is a simple but very effective mechanism for certain effects on ourselves in a fast way . We will understand this very well in the next point, when exploring the different ways we have to deceive ourselves.

Forms of self-deception

To understand why we deceive ourselves, it is necessary to know the benefits offered by the different types of self-deception that exist. Therefore, we are going to break down this concept according to its typology.

1. Adaptive self-deception

Probably one of the most common types. In this case, why we deceive ourselves is simple, and it is that it would be a way of adapting to a situation that has differed from the expectations that we initially had regarding it . It may be, for example, a job that we have chosen and whose conditions attracted us enormously, but once we were rejected, we began to realize that it was not really such a good opportunity and we did not stop finding "buts" for it.

The truth is that the job we liked before and we actually like it now, but our mind works quickly so that the emotional impact is less by not having achieved our goals, making our desire decrease and therefore the negative emotions that we experience are less intense than they would be at first.

Of course this can be applied to a multitude of situations, including, how could it be otherwise, love disappointments. Although it is true that many other factors come into play in these situations, the significantly different view of a person before and after a love disappointment is still curious, and there self-deception has a lot to say.

2. Avoid cognitive dissonance

When there is no concordance between what we feel, believe, and think, and our actions (our behavior), a discomfort called cognitive dissonance appears. One of the ways that our brain has to anticipate these unpleasant sensations so that they do not manifest, or do so in a more tenuous way, is self-deception, so here we have another powerful reason that answers why we deceive ourselves.

Accepting a contradiction between our values, our ideals, our beliefs, with what we really do, has a very high cost for our mind. That is why self-deception is a perfect escape valve to make us see that, in reality, these values ​​are flexible in certain situations, or that the actions we are carrying out are not as different from what we think as we might believe at first. .

Obviously, this is a patch that will work for a certain time, but this repeated behavior will eventually bring cognitive dissonance to the surface and self-deception will definitely lose its effect, since a difference between thought and behavior cannot be maintained forever without This has repercussions for our mind.

3. Locus of control

We have all heard (or may have even said) the following words: "I have approved", as opposed to "I have been suspended". They may seem similar at first glance, but they hide a very important difference, which refers to the locus of control. In the first case, that of the approved person, the individual speaks in the first person, therefore using an internal locus of control, that is, they have approved on their own merits.

However, in the second example, a third person is used secretly, "I have been suspended", making it clear that the result was beyond their control and was the consequence of the decision of another person, in this case, the teacher. Here the locus of control would be external, so what we do is of no use, because our actions do not change the final result.

It is a very clear example of why we deceive ourselves, and it is that sometimes we do it to eliminate our part of responsibility for an event that has occurred , making the internal locus of control become external, when it really is not. Neither the correction of the exam has been unfair, nor the teacher has a mania for the student, or anything like that.

The real reason the person has (has not) been suspended is because they have not studied enough. In addition, the most curious thing about this example is that it is much less frequent to hear the inverse formulas: "I have failed" or "I have been approved", since we always tend to take credit for victories and to seek excuses (self-deception) for defeats.

4. Distortion of reality

On occasions, and depending on certain characteristics of the individual, a phenomenon may occur that takes self-deception to its maximum expression. It may be the case that the person tells a false fact to another subject, perhaps knowing that it really is a lie or even believing it in some way .

The question, in this case, is that said lie begins to be repeated and generalized, in such a way that the person who started it can come to assume it as true. In other words, the promoter of the false data ends up assuming such information as true and begins to act for this purpose, assuming that the events happened in that way and not in another way. First he builds the story and then the story catches him himself, without remission.

This distortion can start as a simple exaggeration when telling a story, the addition of certain details that differ from the truth, or even complete inventions. In this type of people, why we deceive ourselves has one more answer, which does not apply to other individuals, and that is that for them it is a way of constructing a reality that never took place, but that they assume it as if it were. .

When we talk about this level of self-deception, we could already find ourselves before a symptomatology of different psychological disorders that affect the personality of the individual, such as narcissistic disorder, borderline disorder or histrionic disorder. In all of them, among many other characteristics, very marked forms of self-deception can be observed and sometimes easily detectable in their stories.


After going through the different answers to the question of why we deceive ourselves, we have found very different but all powerful motivations to carry out this action, since we have verified that, to a greater or lesser extent, they imply an improvement in our sense of stability, eliminating or reducing the negative component.

What must also be clear is that self-deception is something that arises automatically in all individuals, being able to be mild and adaptive in many cases, but it is also seen in a much more aggressive version when it is part of a disorder of personality.

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