The Stress and Shame of Lying

October 7th, 2021

Not So Sweet Little Lies

“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies. Tell me lies. Tell me, tell me lies” so go the lyrics to the great Fleetwood Mac song Little Lies. Recently I visited an extended family member who lives some distance away. On leaving £40 was thrust into my hand and I was kindly instructed, “treat yourself to something”. Usually I would decline such an offer but this time I was running late, tired and keen to get home and so I took the path of least resistance. Just as I pulled away, they then said, “keep this between you and me”.

When I got home I thought of these parting words as I took the money from my pocket and transferred it to my wallet but suddenly the notes felt like a secret that I had unexpectedly bought into. My partner and I are transparent about the running of our finances but here I was, secretly squirrelling away two twenty-pound notes. They sat in my wallet for a few days. I then felt awkward when out with my partner I had to go to a cash machine to take out money for an ice cream – concealing the fact that I already had cash in my wallet. A little lie leading to a concealment of the truth. It didn’t feel so sweet.

When I returned home I transferred the money from my wallet to an envelope and then hid this in my desk draw. Increasingly I was not feeling good about the whole situation. That night and over the next few nights I had disturbing dreams. In the end I came clean with my partner – and my actions all seemed a little bit silly. Something that was originally intended as a generous gesture ended up causing me stress and discomfort and it got me thinking… if this level of stress and discomfort can be caused by such a seemingly small event, then what about other and perhaps more significant lies and/or concealments that we tell and/or keep from others – particularly when it is those people that we are closest to in our lives that we are misleading in some way. As with my example, little lies often then require bigger lies or concealments to prevent the truth from coming out and the stress and shame that this can cause can be immense.

Within the limitations of confidentiality that are explained at the outset of counselling, which includes a legal obligation to break confidentiality if criminal activity is disclosed, counselling can provide a safe space where the burden and stress of keeping secrets, telling lies and concealing truths can be lightened through the process of sharing. By talking things through and exploring your actions in a supportive space, you can start to understand why you have misled the significant people in your lives, and you can start to explore what your next best steps forward might be.

Lies, in my opinion and experience, are never sweet, no mater how little they may appear to be. The problem is that they create emotional distance between you and others. As Alan Downs writes:

It’s sort of like two parallel lines that are running very close to each other. Suddenly, one changes trajectory by just a fraction of a degree. At first, you hardly notice the distance. In time, the distance grows and the two lines move farther and farther apart. One small, tightly held secret can sometimes be all that it takes to drive two otherwise loving people apart.
Alan Downs, The Velvet Rage, Boston, Da Cappo Press, 2012, p. 209.

If any of this has resonated with you, if you are living with the stress and shame of concealing untruths about yourselves and/or about your behaviour then please feel free to get in touch for a free no obligation 10-15 minute chat where we can discuss whether you feel you might benefit from my counselling support.

Take Care of Yourselves. Bradley

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