The Naked Truth Blog
The Naked Truth is a blog intended to help us all live more fulfilling lives by confronting our self-deception. No sugar-coating. No coddling. Just the honest reflection of you standing naked in front of a mirror. You can read it here or on Psychology Today.
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How do people become mass shooters? Self-Deception plays a critical role.
Las Vegas has experienced the most deadly mass-shooting in modern US history. 58 dead. More than 500 wounded. Thousands traumatized. The world watching and congregating in support.
Unfortunately, mass shooting sprees are becoming commonplace. From Sandy Hook Elementary to Utøya Island, Norway, to an Orlando nightclub, mass shootings are increasing around the world.
In the face of such tragedy, most of us are left with more questions than answers: How can this happen? Why do people become mass-shooters? What goes on in the mind of a killer?
Although the answer to these questions is incredibly complex, one fact is clear: people often use emotional pain to justify extreme acts of cruelty. In this way, mass shooters often justify killing others through the lies they tell themselves.
How is self-deception active in the mind of a killer? Let’s take a step back to understand self-deception in humans. All of us experience pain in response to challenging life circumstances. Some of our pain may be in response to objectively traumatic events: perhaps we were raised by an abusive parent; lost a child; had a near-death experience; were raped or mugged; or became physically disfigured or disabled.
When confronted with hardship, people often justify bad behavior by blaming other people for their pain. For example, an adolescent may justify getting in physical fights by telling himself that someone was speaking disrespectfully about his family. A mother may tell herself that her child deserves to be screamed at because he or she is misbehaving.
In the same way, mass shooters often justify their murderous behavior by blaming others for their emotional pain. For example, a shooter may blame the group they are killing for hardships in their life. A shooter may be philosophically against the beliefs of the group they are killing (e.g., around religion, values). Or, they may be so miserable in their own life that they feel gratified hurting others.
In fact, history suggests that humans use lies to justify everything from slavery to genocide. We create groups and artificial divisions in our own minds—us versus them—to reinforce that they are different from us in some fundamental way. We then use those differences to justify harming them.
The Naked Truth is this: Mass shootings are increasingly common. In the mind of the shooter, there is a justification for killing. And it is based in lies. The biggest lie being that they are justified in murdering innocent bystanders. In the wake of this most recent Las Vegas shooting, it behooves all of us to support one another through the grieving process. #VegasStrong
As a psychologist living in Las Vegas for 11 years, witnessing this carnage is heart wrenching. Everyone can support our community by donating time or money through a GoFundMe campaign started by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/dr2ks2-las-vegas-victims-fund.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.
Substance abuse, particularly the use of opioids, is now an epidemic in the United States. For most addicts, self-deception is the biggest obstacle to wellness. Because you can’t change something you can’t admit. This guest blog, written by Constance Ray (one of the creators of Recovery Well), offers us two stories that exemplify the interconnections between self-deception and addiction. Honest, brutal, but also inspiring, these personal accounts demonstrate how the journey of overcoming addiction requires admitting the truth to yourself.
As addicts, we often try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a problem. I’m not addicted. I don’t use that much. I’m not really hurting anyone, to name a few of the most common deceptive lies. For those struggling with addiction, self-deception is a constant battle. Almost always, it fluctuates between denial of the addiction and recognition of the truth that something needs to change. In fact, deception is a key component of addition. Like these two recovering addicts demonstrate in their stories below, it isn’t until you are truly honest with yourself that you can make a positive change.
Accomplished athlete, college graduate — Brandon was living a great life, but he got bored and tried Oxycotin recreationally. What started out as one or two pills here and there quickly escalated into many. “I was using on a regular basis but I would lie to myself saying, “You’re not an addict — you went to work, you got everything done and you just happen to use pills for fun,” Brandon said. “I didn’t want to hear that addict word. But my excuses were just that — excuses. I was lying to myself.”
Brandon was becoming a different person, and when he looked at himself in the mirror, he didn’t recognize the reflection. He made up lies to justify his behavior, but all the while his bank account was dwindling to fund his addiction, alerting his parents to a serious problem. “I’m 25 years old. If I didn’t want to go to rehab, they couldn’t force me. But I thought about it and asked myself, ‘How long am I going to do this?’ I was exhausted all the time; it was all I could do to get through an eight-hour work day. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Brandon said.
Once Brandon was honest with himself, he was finally ready to go to rehab, and booked the next flight to the Treehouse. If you ask Brandon, he will tell you that the secret to success in recovery is to truly be honesty with yourself, no matter how much it hurts or how hard it is to admit.
“Deep down in your heart, you have to want it. They can give you all the tools available, but you really have to want it,” Brandon said. “So ask yourself: ‘Are you done? Are you really done?'”
Unlike Brandon, Dave’s life was a little more tumultuous due to his parents’ constant arguing, leaving him feeling isolated and alone. In middle school, a friend introduced him to marijuana, and he felt like he had finally found the answers to his emotional problems when he was high. Throughout college, Dave continued to numb the pain with drugs, but when he flunked out, his parents tried to intervene. Although clearly at a low point, he hadn’t yet come to terms with the truth. “I hadn’t conceded to myself that I had a problem with drugs or alcohol, but I was ready to get some emotional help. So I went to treatment,” Dave said.
After treatment, he finished college and got a job in the pharmaceutical business. However, Dave then started abusing prescription meds, and used his job to fuel his addiction. “Because of my job, I knew exactly what to say to doctors to get prescriptions for opiates, benzos, and really anything I wanted. I knew the language,” he said.
Over the next few years, Dave went to recovery meetings on and off and simply switched jobs when he thought he was close to being ‘found out.’ There came a point when he couldn’t go a day without using, and he came to a crossroads. “I had to get completely honest with myself and admit things I wasn’t proud of doing to the people around me. I still make mistakes, but now I also make amends,” he said.
According to him, recovery is the solution you’re looking for — you just have to put aside your fear and self-doubt. “There’s hope in recovery. You know, when you’re using, there’s such a sense of hopelessness and despair. But recovery is possible,” Dave said. “Our disease is what it is, but if you surrender and ask for help, help is out there. There’s another way.”
The Naked Truth is This: All of us lie to ourselves. It is a part of human nature. Yet, for those battling addiction, staying stuck in our self-deception can mean the difference between getting help and a lifetime of suffering. Although it will be hard, take a moment and really get honest with yourself. You’ll discover that the desire to get help is there; you just have to admit the truth to yourself first.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.Read More...
When everyone has an opinion,
it helps to understand which are more valid.
The greatest deception men suffer is their own opinions. – Leonardo da Vinci
Without question, the political situation in the world during the last year has been one of the most stressful in recent times. It has led all of us to hear more opinions than we can count. Or, care to! Opinions about everything from taxes to abortion. Medical care to religion. Mental health care to race relations. Gender identity to gender-neutral bathroom signs.
Amidst the barrage of opinions, I hear a bombardment of the following sentiment: This is what I think—and I am entitled to my opinion!
Comments like this give me pause. It is true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is also true that, in the United States, we value freedom of speech so that people can communicate their opinion without prosecution. We value the right to believe what we think is right and to express our opinions accordingly.
What is not true is that an opinion is fact.
Alarmingly, most humans believe that their opinion is fact. We incorrectly believe that our thoughts are correct, right? I mean, if we think it, it must be true. It is true in our own head. We are always right. Right!?!
Wrong. The truth is that a fact is a statement that can be supported to be true or false by data or evidence. In contrast, an opinion is a personal expression of a person’s feelings or thoughts that may or may not be based in data. For many of our opinions are based on emotions, personal history, and values—all of which can be completely unsupported by meaningful evidence.
For example, you may hold the opinion that Trump was a better candidate than Clinton. Just as you may hold the opinion that green is better than red. And blue cheese tastes better than cheddar. That the world is flat instead of round. Whether your opinion is valuable depends on how you reached that conclusion. Is your opinion based in data? Or not.
Why does it matter to understand the difference between fact and opinion? Because although everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equally valuable. This is precisely why opinions by “experts” are more valued in court testimony and evaluative reporting because they are more likely to provide opinions based on facts. Based in data.
So, the next time someone tells you that they have a strong opinion about something, understand what their opinion is based on. Is it based on measurable data with some compelling outcome? Or, is it based on reactive, emotional preferences and impressions? If it is the latter, take it with a grain of salt before you value it. And if you have a strong opinion about something that you know very little about, try to figure out why before you give strong credence to your belief.
The Naked Truth is This: Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But not all opinions are equally valuable. The truth is that opinions based in fact—in measurable, meaningful data—are more valuable than those that are not.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.Read More...
“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” – Jodi Picoult
Most of us don’t want to admit that we struggle with difficult emotions from time to time. Sadness. Worry. Anxiety. Yet, we so desperately want to be happy all of the time. Sometimes we even flat-out lie to ourselves to stay convinced that we’re content in life. But the truth is that anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues affecting people in the world today. In the United States alone, anxiety disorders affect 2 out of every 10 adults and 1 out of every 8 children. In addition, many of us are affected on a regular basis by subclinical levels of anxiety that harm our ability to function to the best of our ability. And, all of us feel anxious from time to time! About money. Our kids. Our health. Relationships. Public speaking. Or, the state of current world events and political affairs.
Despite being among the most common symptoms, anxiety often goes untreated and can lead to relationship problems, difficulties on the job or in school, substance abuse, self-deception, and avoidance of important life events. If you’re looking to reduce anxiety, prevent panic attacks, and bring more joy and fulfillment to your life, there are several things you can do to help yourself.
1) Choose to be More Honest With Yourself
Before you can confront a problem, you have to acknowledge that you have a problem! You’re going to need to make sure you’re being honest with yourself about the symptoms you are having. Acknowledge that you are struggling with anxiety. If your anxiety is damaging your quality of life, stop brushing it off as though it is just a normal thing that will go away on its own. It is true that many people suffer from anxiety, but it doesn’t have to drastically affect your life. Trying to fool yourself is never a solution.
2) Take Up a Relaxation Practice
Once you acknowledge your struggles, you can do something about it. One of the best ways to tackle anxiety is start a daily relaxation practice and stay with it. The goal of this practice is to calm your mind and body. There are so many great activities out there that you can choose from: meditation, yoga, breathwork, attending church, swimming, cuddling puppies and kittens, or even knitting, if that’s your sort of thing. Find something that speaks to you. If you choose an activity that has a social element, such as taking a hot yoga class, be sure you get enough down time in between social activities to rest, reset, and rejuvenate.
3) Get Active and Eat Well
Another wonderful way to manage anxiety is to take care of your body. The United Kingdom’s NHS recommends eating right and exercising to fight off the depression and anxiety that many people experience each winter. If you’ve been craving extra sugars, carbohydrates and fatty foods, be sure to balance with fresh fruit and vegetables. Staying physically active is also helpful because it increases levels of the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin in your brain. Most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times per week for effective results.
4) Seek Treatment
If you seem to be really struggling or think your life is being highly negatively affected, psychotherapy is an excellent resource. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists anxiety as a very common and treatable illness. Sadly, most people with anxiety never seek treatment options. There’s no reason to feel like you have to suffer through anxiety and panic attacks alone. There are even 24/7 support hotlines you can call or websites that will match you with an online therapist during times of crisis. If your condition is starting to interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist. There may be something they can do to help you.
The Naked Truth is This: Although anxiety and its related disorders are highly common, there are many options that can help you live and even thrive in your life. Anxiety doesn’t have to be a barrier holding you back from doing the things you want to do. It can be easy to take steps today to reduce your anxious feelings throughout the year. Just remember, you’re not alone.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.Read More...