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Years ago, my wife and I were hiking through the Amazon jungle when our guide suddenly stopped.
Carefully, he reached down and picked up a huge spider from a tree branch. He easily manipulated the hairy tarantula by its bulbous abdomen. It didn’t move. It was completely frozen, like a statue.
We were amazed.
Our guide told us the spider wasn’t dead, just temporarily anesthetized. He pointed to a tiny, pearl-like object on the back of its abdomen and explained it was an egg, planted there by a parasitic wasp. The spider had been stung and temporarily immobilized so the wasp could transplant its egg.
Soon, the spider would shake off the trauma and go about its life as usual, completely unaware of the danger it was carrying inside its body.
Days later and without warning, the tarantula would stop cold in its tracks. Within seconds, a new wasp, having eaten the spider from the inside out, would emerge from its abdomen and fly away, leaving behind the empty carcass of its host.
Our feelings are the same way. Just like the wasp larva, feelings buried alive never die — and especially fear.
It’s fear that is the source of lying.
It’s born from our traumas, disappointments and betrayals, and is always the result of something that’s happened to us. You may be late meeting someone and blame it on the traffic, or cover up being fired to avoid embarrassment. The scenarios surrounding why we lie are endless. The fact is that our lies are born from our traumas, both big and small.
Dishonesty begins with the self.
Dishonesty begins when we have a difficult experience that we can’t reconcile or process.
We begin by telling a lie — the first of many — to ourselves. It’s usually something like, “It didn’t happen” or “It didn’t happen like that.”
We do this because we’re terrified of how acknowledging those experiences will make us feel.
We do it because we’d rather live with the long-term consequences of lying to ourselves and others than face the temporary pain of the truth.
So we repress the truth — and our feelings about it — with a lie to keep the pain at bay.
That pain could be a friend’s disappointment or a spouse’s rage. The size of the lie doesn’t matter.
We never lie to protect the feelings of others. That’s the part of the lie we tell ourselves to make it easier. We lie to protect ourselves from the pain and repercussions we’ll experience from their feelings or even our own self-judgment.
Lying is always self-serving.
When we are stung by life’s traumas, especially the big ones like losing a job, relationship, financial security, or our health, we become frozen in place like the tarantula. We rarely give ourselves enough time to process the hard lessons — the truth — of the situation. We may grieve briefly, but then we anesthetize ourselves and it’s on with life.
This process of dissociating from what really happened is known as ‘splitting’ in psychoanalysis.
We either react only with emotion, which results in our being irrational about the situation, or we escape to our heads and don’t process any of the feeling.
Being honest with ourselves and others requires an ability to think and feel at the same time in order to fully integrate a difficult experience and neutralize any lasting negative energy.
Lies create a mind/body that is not at-ease.
Short-circuiting that process creates a second lie: an “alternate” reality or “My Side of the Story.”
Sadly, we’re always the first victims of our lies because we have to believe them before we can convince others to do so. Living in our own little world of self-created lies and avoiding the truth of our life experience takes great energy and produces an even greater amount of stress.
To deal with this stress, we often turn to illicit or prescription drugs. The problem here is that drugs only perpetuate our dishonesty, because they give us the false impression that everything is “fine.”
Even something as health-supporting as yoga can be an addictive diversion. The practice can provide intense emotional release because we store pent-up energy in our bodies.
Still, we must be able to think and feel to fully integrate the experience and release it. Without conscious thought providing us with the truth and understanding of the situation, we easily fall back into old habits.
Honesty is the capacity to tell yourself the emotional truth in any situation.
When you can do this for yourself, you can do it with others.
Unfortunately, we can’t give what we don’t have.
Dishonesty is always the result of avoiding pain at some level. This leads to lying and its twin sisters: secrets and denial. Healing from lying to others requires that we stop lying to ourselves first. It means clearing up both our unconscious anxieties and the survival mechanisms that we’ve put in place to protect us from their pain.
As spiritual beings, we’re hard-wired for honesty.
We have a natural instinct to search for answers and make sense of things.
Have you ever seen a bad actor on screen? You didn’t need to be an actor yourself to recognize the lack of truthfulness in the performance. Why? It’s because we’re all viscerally connected to truth on a fundamental, physical and spiritual level. It’s part of who we are and, like a virus, we instinctively reject dishonesty.
To override this natural impulse by telling lies, we generate immense amounts of resistant and negative energy in our bodies.
This internal stress literally puts us at war with ourselves, producing real cellular damage.
Lies create a mind/body that is not at-ease.
They end up manifesting as the symptoms of our diseases. Like the unsuspecting tarantula, the egg we’ve carried for so long will eventually erupt in a catastrophic way — but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Healing is a choice. So is lying.
Our work isn’t to create healing. Healing happens when we find and remove the barriers we’ve created against it by facing the temporary pain we didn’t think we could survive.
“Finding the strength to live honestly takes courage, but the journey will open you up to a truly liberating way of living.”
Honesty Exercise: Purge Emotional Writing 12
So how can we find freedom from the lies we tell others and most importantly, ourselves?
It involves dissolving our limiting beliefs — which is really what lies are. The way to begin is by facing the truth of our traumas and documenting them with all the raw honesty and emotion that we’ve avoided for years. Cleaning out our emotional closet can be terrifying at first — but once we survive what we didn’t think was survivable, we’ll get a taste of our limitless power to heal and change.
Below is an exercise I prescribe to all my cancer patients called Purge Emotional Writing (PEW-12).
In a quiet place, light a white candle and set a timer for 12 minutes.
With pen in hand, begin to write stream-of-consciousness style about any unresolved issue about which you’ve not been honest with yourself or others. Let the emotions move you and don’t worry about making your writing legible.
At the end of 12 minutes, stop.
Don’t read what you’ve written! You’ve purged this negative energy and don’t want to take it back into your consciousness.
Crunch the paper up and, in a safe place like a patio or barbeque grill, burn it. Fire is transformative and cleansing because it changes the chemical composition of things. Do this as often as needed to transmute the negative energy from similar situations.
Why 12 minutes? It’s because 12 has great spiritual significance across nearly all belief systems. Most importantly, it symbolizes balance, as there are 12 hours of day and night in each 24-hour period. There are also 12 months in a year, symbolizing the cycle of renewal.
Lying to ourselves and others only hurts us, on a physical, as well as spiritual level. Finding the strength to live honestly takes courage, but the journey will open you up to a truly liberating way of living. After all, what we reveal, we heal.
For more health and inspirational insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit Behiveofhealing.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter, check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN, or for messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @drhabibsadeghi
Dr. Habib Sadeghi is the co-founder of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative health center based in Los Angeles. He provides revolutionary healing protocols in integrative, osteopathic, anthroposophical, environmental, and family medicine, as well as clinical pharmacology. He served as an attending Physician and Clinical Facilitator at UCLA-SM Medical Center and is currently a Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. Dr. Sadeghi is a regular contributor to Goop, CNN, BBC News and TEDx. He is the author of Within: A Spiritual Awakening to Love & Weight Loss, as well as the foreword to Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, and is the publisher of the health and well-being journal, MegaZEN.