Confronting Self-Deception

By RoseAnn Foster

According to Cortney S. Warren, we are experts at deceiving ourselves. In fact, she argues that our inability to be honest with ourselves often causes massive amounts of pain, regret, and unhappiness. As a clinical psychologist and Phi Beta Kappa member, Warren has been exploring the phenomena of self deception since graduate school. She recently wrote a book, Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception, and gave a  TEDx lecture on the topic. 

Warren graduated magna cum laude from Macalester College and received her doctorate at Texas A&M University in 2006. After earning tenure at University of Nevada Las Vegas, Warren did something relatively unthinkable: she resigned. Although this act shocked many, she recognized her own desire to spend time with her young daughter and use her expertise to reach the general public. When asked about leaving, Warren said, “I am very aware that if I miss out on these years with my daughter I will be left with a great deal of regret. No amount of money or fame that is worth my time more than she is.” Furthermore, as a clinician, Warren wants to help people better understand themselves and lead more fulfilling, happier lives, which is what she believes is the fundamental purpose of psychology as a field. She felt she wasn’t adequately accomplishing that goal by only publishing peer-reviewed articles. Warren now intends to write a blog for PsychologyToday called Naked Truth, consult with the media, do more public speaking, and continue her research as an adjunct professor for the UNLV and the University of Nevada School of Medicine. 

To make the decision to leave her position of tenure, she had to be honest with herself.  Warren admits that she had to make peace with her fear of letting down herself, her mentors, and face the fear of what comes next, all of which are the types of questions and situations that can cause one to deceive oneself. These types of fears cause emotional reactions, which Warren points out are key to understanding oneself and detecting one’s own self-deception. In a recent article in Psychology Today, Warren writes, “Generally, if we are emotionally reactive to something or someone, it is because we are being reminded of something painful, raw, or unresolved in our lives. In these areas, we are going to struggle to admit the truth.” In the rest of the article, she outlines additional methods and keys to honesty with oneself. 

Warren firmly believes that honesty with oneself is an important part of living a happy and fulfilling life. She hopes that her book and TEDx talk on the topic help others to become more honest with themselves and thus, live with less regret.

RoseAnn Foster is a senior at the University of Mississippi majoring in English. The University of Mississippi is home to the Beta of Mississippi Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.