Why We Believe What We Think: Why We Believe The Lies We Tell

A psychological study discovered that what people think about themselves can be as important as what they actually believe. You can be convinced of just about anything, but you will not think yourself as honest when you are actually dishonest.

I was on the phone with a friend a few weeks ago and told her that she was doing great. I told her she had done everything right: eating good, being active, taking her vitamins. I was thinking of myself. I explained to her that I get tired easily, that my eyes aren’t quite right, that I use lip balm and my neckline isn’t quite as neat as it once was.

At one point the phone was interrupted, and I was unable to respond to her when she called back. I told my friend what I thought and then realized how stupid I sounded when I was talking to her. I could see myself in her life – I was the same little girl! 

That was the feeling I was going for when I went through the pain I was.

I had started to believe what I was saying about myself. We do not believe the statements we make about ourselves. We are not sure if we are being truthful or trying to be deceitful. There are so many reasons why we believe what we say and not the thing we say ourselves. Let’s take a look at two recent examples of this.

1. The ‘Big Lie’

For years, the FBI and CIA have been promoting the belief that Saddam Hussein is hiding WMD’s – and their own agency is the best at finding them. As a result, he has been the focus of all sorts of plots and attempts to assassinate him.

In a speech a few years ago, the President of the United States said that America had done a terrible job of finding what they had been looking for. We were so focused, so intent on finding WMD’s, that we had missed many opportunities with other weapons of mass destruction. And the list of people who had been killed in those searches – so many citizens had died in what turned out to be the wrong searches – is very long.

One of the major news organizations published the list of those to have died, and I had to look it up from memory as a way to find out if I was being honest. I believe it’s interesting but important that I believe that I’m an honest person because I am so used to trying to pretend to be honest. If someone finds out I am being dishonest, I do not think they will like me, and I doubt either of us will get along. You do not want to be someone who pretends to be honest and yet is hiding the truth.

To me, the statement about missing opportunities, of missing good chances, is a lie. An outright lie. An outright lie that you could not have been more right about what you thought: WMD’s were not in Iraq.

To make it easier to see, let’s talk about some of the things that the CIA might have missed:

The first was the fact that Saddam Hussein wasn’t even in the country!

The CIA didn’t think he was hiding WMD’s and they didn’t care. They had already proven their credibility – the reason they had become the Agency was because of the lies they had told about Cuba in the 1950’s and about Castro in the 1970’s. And they had been making millions of dollars from telling lies about other countries such as Angola. They knew they were going to need a “big lie” when they started the search for weapons of mass destruction. So their next lie was to tell the American people that the Iraqis had WMD’s. Even if they had done the search and didn’t find any, they knew it would be a big one and be used in an election year. So they told us.