Choosing a better story

Truthiness is important to me.

Psychology teaches us that this is not the case for most of humanity. For example, there is the finding that a large majority of people rate their driving ability as being better than average, which is a logical impossibility. Or there is the tendency for heterosexual men on average to report having had more sexual partners than heterosexual women, which cannot is contradictory.

These are manifestations of psychological self-defence mechanisms that most normal people use to tell themselves a better story about their life and their place in the world. I say “most normal people” because I don’t seem to experience these useful self-delusions. Like I said, truthiness is important to me, and I would rather have a true story than a more reassuring one.

Unfortunately, the truth is often unpleasant. The world falls far short of our ideals, and changing it is difficult. It is easy for one’s dreams to outrun one’s abilities to fulfil them. It certainly looks as though self-delusion is a necessary coping mechanism for remaining sane in an insane world.

So, if I am going to live the rest of my life free from excessive self-reproach, guilt and disappointment, I need to find a way to choose a better story to tell myself about my life and my place in the world that is true enough that I won’t reject it.


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