I was asked to write a piece on rug sweeping and lies. The lies people tell themselves and others. The avoidance of the truth that happens when there is shame, fear and pain. Rug sweeping happens when we don’t want to deal with the reality of a situation. Maybe we fear hurting someone we care about. Maybe we don’t want to face that someone is not who we thought they were- so we remember them how we believe they are and dismiss that they could do anything to cause us pain. Through life experience, research and what I have learnt- I have written something I hope helps others find their light.
I believe in being present and that means present with all that life brings. A positive outlook is necessary but that should never exclude us doing the work. You can water a plant regularly but if the roots are unhealthy, it won’t grow. Plants are like us, it doesn’t matter how much positivity we feed ourselves, if we are unhealthy inside we will not grow or heal. We can cover ourselves externally with glitter but that won’t make us sparkle on the inside.
Like Dr House famously and frequently said, “Everybody lies.”
Not only are many guilty in affirming this statement, many have a dysfunctional relationship with their lies, which keeps them away from the lives they wish they had.
One of the underlying causes is that many of us have tremendous difficulties dealing with our negative emotions in a healthy way. But how could we not? Therapy doesn’t come free or accessible—we also have an influx of people seeking help from varied therapists and coaches, who are often supportive but not always skilled in addressing the wounds that need to be healed for people to start managing their emotions in a healthy way. It’s often superficial and encouragement to be the best version of yourself is great but that cannot be done without deep inner work. And it cannot be done without honesty.
Most of us are not given the tools to properly deal with our negative emotions, so how do we learn? And what do we learn?
We learn best from what we see around us, and what we see around us is many wounded people in distraction, destruction, and avoidance, occasionally applying Band-Aids to cover up, all the while convincing themselves to carry on. Convincing themselves they have transformed. Convincing themselves that all is well. All the while they have been rug sweeping and things can float along well for a while. They can even seem great at times. Cocooned in a fantasy but like all fantasies and fairytales they come to an end.
Losing who we are and becoming a vessel of the energies around us is, sadly, a trajectory that many of us will take at some point in our lives, men and women alike, though we process and project these experiences differently.
However long we stay on this path is however much of life we will have wasted, but if we are able to take in the lessons our darker experiences have taught us, and stop carrying our life further down this dead-end road, then nothing is truly wasted. Oftentimes, these lessons are not obvious. Particularly in the screened culture we live in, the easiest way out is to be distracted or to rug sweep what we do not want to face up to. But distractions and rug sweeping don’t offer a real “out,” they just sink us deeper.
We are meant for more. We are meant to blossom and thrive and even light up those around us. But we can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t be of any service to those around us if we are perpetuating unprocessed pain. Anger and dissociation are the easiest choices. Until you face the darkness and are able to speak the truth and rid yourself of the shame, you can never be the authentic and genuine person you want to be. The one that is at peace with themselves. The one that has set themselves free.
So all you have to offer is a version of you. The version you have created- that you think the world wants to see. You can share your light but it’s a dim glow at best and often those around you preserve this version of you because they are caught up in their own denial and beliefs of who they are when they are with this version of you and they fear the truth, and so begins the merry go round of rug sweeping, lies, secrets, denial and distraction.
As I’ve spent a good part of the last 12 months by myself, spending periods of time disconnected from social media, confronting and reckoning with my shadows, I’ve learned the following lessons, which I hope will help you find the courage to turn around and light up sooner.
The opposite of lies isn’t truth; the opposite of lies is bravery. It’s courage.
When we think that truth must be in the opposite direction to where lies are, we are mistaken. They are not opposites; they are located in the same place, at different depths.
The juxtaposition of lies and truths as opposites and mutually exclusive in nature is a misdiagnosis of the most common pain of all. Consequently, not only do we hurt more, but we are further away from the real truths that are actually displaced and masked in the lies we tell. The lies we live. To address the root causes of why people lie, instead of looking away, we should be digging deeper.
To help us switch from a path of disempowerment to empowerment, we must first figure out, where are our pain points? Where do we hurt the most? What can we not speak about? What are we hiding? What are we sweeping under the carpet? What masks are we wearing?
Our lies give us access to the person we wish we were or could be.
Why do we rug sweep? Why can’t we speak our truth? Why do we distract ourselves? Why do we want to be sedated? Because for some it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Because perhaps it’s too hard to face the reality of a situation. Some people cannot face, admit or own what it is they really want. What it is they have done. Sometimes it’s easier to believe what we want to believe, rather than face the truth.
Because the truth can be too painful.
Most of us struggle with thinking that we are not enough at some point. Our survival instinct is to reach out to whatever offers most comfort, and most of the time, truth does not offer comfort. Consequently, we make up the difference by lying. Masking. Rug sweeping and by-passing.
Sometimes, these embellishments are to impress others. Other times, these lies are to soothe ourselves from the pain that comes with secrets and failings, from the trivial to unmentionable. Almost always, these lies build an illusory sense of self and, therefore, placement in and relation to the world we live in. The lies we tell ourselves cause the most damage of all.
We are often told to, “fake it until you make it,” and some of us eventually make it, but that isn’t the only output from following this mantra. A lot of us end up stuck just faking it, while others develop imposter syndrome. “Making it” is the bullseye—but there’s a million other places we often land and injure ourselves. What are those places? We don’t ever share those stories, the more common ones.
Our lies are a function of the shame we carry.
This is because our deepest truths—truths laced with shame—are not always comfortable. But being punished for the lies we tell doesn’t bring us closer to the truths we seek.
If truths are shamed into lies, more shame will only bury us deeper. It’s easy to say that “the truth will set you free” and from my experience, it absolutely does— I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t want to be free—but if you look closely at what is actually shackling those trapped, it’s not lies, it’s shame. It’s shame that make things unmentionable, whether it be lies, secrets, failures, or regrets.
So to say that truth will set us free, we must ask: has shame been addressed or handled in any way? We simply cannot arrive at truth without addressing the shame factor. And maybe it’s not your lie? Maybe it’s the lie of another that you rug-sweep because really admitting the truth to yourself is too painful. It’s too painful to face the truth that your life is not what you want it to be, your partner or friend are not who you thought they were. It’s easier to just believe the story you tell yourself and convince yourself and everyone else that all is great. But that is just another lie-lying to yourself and in reality lying to everyone in your life by perpetuating a life that is based on untruths, fantasy even and this will slowly fester in you until it boils over putridly in bitterness and resentment.
Lies and rug-sweeping always protect someone.
But who is this? Most of the time it’s ourselves and sometimes it’s other people. And how often have we realised only too late that we protected the wrong people? Because those who truly love us should be able to accept and withstand whatever hell our truths may unlock- even if the friendship/relationship is forever changed- the truth should be able to be spoken. Whatever those truths are-speak them and whatever comes next, at least comes from a place of truth. Comes from a place of authenticity. A place of courage and strength of character and ultimately a place of love. Love for yourself and love for those that deserve honesty.
I have in the past been both the recipient and giver of some lies, of omissions, of silence and of rug-sweeping, so I understand the excruciating pain and paralysing fears on both sides. And if we are all completely honest with ourselves, we would admit that we have all been there at some point. It’s easy for us to choose the path of least conflict, but it’s difficult to accept or reconcile what deception leaves us with. For me I had to speak it. I had to ask for it and hear it and hope the other person was able to speak their truth. As hard as it was, it was the only way to begin the healing process. It’s the only way to be the authentic me and the only way to shine my light.
No one can grow or evolve without nourishment, and lies, silence, distraction, rug-sweeping and denial may offer temporary comfort, but nourish us, they do not. They drain us. They slowly poison us. They keep us in this fantasy world that at some point will come crashing down around us. It’s a slow destruction that ultimately stunts our healing and growth. It’s worth challenging ourselves to take a closer look at who it is we are protecting, and for what reason we are withholding our truths. What is stopping us from being our most vulnerable selves? Our most authentic selves?
Lies and rug-sweeping indicate that we are still living in fear, that we don’t feel safe enough to speak our truths. That we are afraid of judgement. That we lack self love.
It takes real courage, strength, and bravery to be honest, and often times common social dynamics simply aren’t set up to offer us this safe space we need. In the absence of safety, when we don’t default to lies, we default to silence, we default to denial, all of which keep us injured and endangered. Because fear and silence are the easiest ways to live, and we are all more cowardly than we wish we weren’t.
We can accept that there is truth in fiction, and often more in fiction than in real life, so why can’t we have some degree of compassion in treating the lies we tell? The things we hide? The things we bury?
In the modern age of chaos and anxiety, the only certainty is that many have become better liars. We have become better at denying our rawness, who we really are and what we really want. We have become better at finding distractions, rather than deal and address our shadows. We stray further away from happiness as we perpetuate the very misinformation we fight, and distract ourselves with fiction that gives us temporary escape and comfort- temporary happiness that can never endure long-term until we face our truth. All the while we continue to rug-sweep and distract ourselves from facing what needs to be faced for real growth.
Some never truly resolve the fundamental questions that plague them, leading to common deathbed regrets, as well as what we perceive to be unmentionable failings and secrets that are strangely commonplace. What also is rarely spoken of is what these things, secrets, rug-sweeping, denial do to us. They slowly seep through every part of our being. They affect our health in ways most cannot imagine or admit but again denial takes its hold- so we deny the impact it has.
There is a crowd of self-help books, you-tube videos, podcasts and social media posts pushing us to figure out our truths and dreams, but perhaps the way to the answers we seek are within the lies we tell, in the darkness of shame. What if we explored the very common lies we tell through a lens of compassion as opposed to the common disgrace and punitive default? What if we all had the courage to speak our truth? Not dance around the outside of it but really be honest in whatever messiness that entails.
It’s been said that a different language presents a different vision of the world. Our lies are a synthesised language of behavior and words, and ultimately act as a vessel to give us access to the person we wish we were, or the circumstances we wish we had. By looking at the world through the language of our lies, we are highlighting our blind spots.
The retelling of our lies strengthens only the mythology of our imagined realities, and the mirage in the desert, leaving us thirstier than ever before. Only by recognising the functions of our lies, are we able to assess what we are missing in real life, so we can replace our lies, our omissions, rug sweeping and our silence with content that is nourishing for our soul instead of depriving.
To know ourselves is to know our lies, our secrets, what we have buried. To know our darkness and our shadows. What we cannot talk about will always have power over us. While truths are not the opposite of lies, a rich life is the opposite of a life of depravity, the latter of which is the only destination our lies and rug-sweeping are ever able to afford. The truth is like a successful surgery, it hurts but cures. A lie is like a pain killer, it gives instant relief but has side effects that last forever. If you can find your courage to dig deep into your darkness and face the truth, speak the truth and bring everything out from under the rug- then you can heal. You can grow and you can truly set yourself free. Your beautiful light can only shine when you have stripped away all the facades, all the bullshit and stand their bearing a naked soul that only holds the truth of who you really are.
“Three things cannot be long hidden. The sun. The moon. And the truth”.