Self-Deception and Reality Distortion

I just finished the Steve Jobs book, and in it they talk about Steve’s “Reality Distortion Field“. It was what allowed him to have stunning breakthroughs in product development, but at the end, may have caused his cancer to spread more rapidly. It was his way of making the unreal real. Was it self deception, or was it his ability to see what others could not or would not?

I’ve been having some interesting conversations over on LinkedIn about self-deception and I’d like to share some of the more interesting comments with you here. Here’s the question I ask:

Is self deception just part of our basic human nature? Does it have to be? Do we excuse ourselves too easily, while judging others harshly? How can we be more congruent when we don’t even see our self-deception?

Todd Buker wrote:

The spectrum of ways people become more self-aware is vast – from philosophy to religion, meditation, self-study, psychoanalysis, therapy, life coaching – not to mention all the various creative or artistic methods of finding oneself and expressing oneself. You are very right to point out that we all have an individual bias naturally due to our own lens or filters, and undoubtedly we all project certain aspects of ourselves onto others.

So to my layman brain, it would seem that one would first need to be very familiar and nonjudgmental about oneself. A person would need to know and accept all of their traits – beliefs, doubts, shortcomings, desires, fears, etc. – in order to also be able to recognize when those traits are being imprinted on others (and thus eliminate or disregard the imprinting). Then they would also likely need to be extremely familiar with the traits of another person in order to know what is being imprinted back on them!

This seems, for all intents and purposes, impossible – but that by no means it shouldn’t be probed further. It also seems to me that there is still a lot we just don’t know in this area – and the implications could be huge! Excellent food for thought, please keep me posted!

I responded: Thanks, Todd, for a well considered response. Have you done much work in Emotional Intelligence? I am just cracking the code on it, and have been focusing on one piece, self awareness. There is usually a large gap between what others think their level of self awareness is and the way they score on an assessment instrument.

What ways do you think that we can become more self aware? Is it strictly in the way others see us? While I find that other viewpoints are important, all of them are looking through the lenses of their own biases. They tend to see what they want to see of you, and filter it through their beliefs. I find that we tend to imprint our own thoughts, feelings and values on others, and then judge their actions based on what we know to be true.

If that is true, and I believe it to be so, it feeds one of the Four Agreements as described by Don Miguel Ruiz in the book by the same name. Agreement two is “Don’t take anything personally.” The way Ruiz describes it is the thought that no one does anything because of you, they do it because of themselves. Likewise, no one knows more about you than you. The example he gives is: “…if I see you on the street and I say, “Hey, you are so stupid,” …its not about you, its about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you are stupid…

So where does that leave us in our battle for self awareness?

Here are some other good ideas:

David Velasquez wrote: Do you know this old quote?

“We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” ~ Ian Percy

Turn that quote around and see the change, I have.

Dawn Pici wrote: Best book on the subject Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute. A must-read.

What are your thoughts about self-deception? If you’re someone who denies having any, then you’re probably deceiving yourself.

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