Don't Tell Lies!

Friday, July 17, 2020

I clearly remember what my earliest memory is but unfortunately, it is not a happy one. The memory appears to be more of a flashbulb memory formed in response to the strong feelings evoked by the confrontation with my father. Before delving further into the memory though, I would like to provide a little background first. 

    I met my father for the first time in person when he returned to Pakistan from Canada at the age of three. He left Pakistan within a few months into marriage by himself to the shock and disapproval of my pregnant mother leaving her alone at her brother-in-law's home. This separation would become the main crack in the foundation of their relationship due to no development of a bond or intimacy strong enough to hold over time and distance. Living with the in-laws did not make it easier either. There would be phone calls and occasional presents from my father but for the most part, being a toddler, he was as real to me as the existence of Santa Claus. 

    Returning back to my memory, it was the first time I fibbed about something and my father found out. I don't even remember what it is I lied about at that age which I guess my brain found irrelevant with the reaction I received. At the age of four, having met my father for the first time, I was truly terrified of him. Back in Pakistan, nobody other than my mother ever raised her voice at me, and the rest of the male figures surrounding me utterly adored me to pieces. Now here stood this man overshadowing me, huffing and in rage and demanding to know why I had lied to him. My flight and fight response was fully activated. Being in survival mode, I decided it was best to continue with the lie so this scary moment would pass if he believed me so I stood my ground and denied lying. Bad decision. It was the first time in my life but unfortunately not the last that I would be spanked.

    To the future parents out there this situation presented an issue that should be discussed. Physical punishment will not teach your child whatever lesson you are trying to teach, least of all stop them from lying to you again and there is a very good reason for this. The experts also unanimously agree and according to the American Psychological Association, "Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children" Smith, B. (2012, April). 

    As a child who went through this experience, I can clearly state that I did not learn my lesson at all. When I became scared that something I did would get me in trouble when asked about it by my parents, I wanted the quickest solution with the chance that I could escape punishment completely. I would be presented with two routes in my head: tell the truth and get hit for doing something wrong or lie and have a slight chance of getting out of being hit entirely, or get hit when caught. This is a lose-lose situation. I am sure not all situations turn this way, but my situation escalated to a point where my parents would sit me down in front of them to let out their frustration and show how angry they were at me and then when asked why I did something, I would remain dead silent. I eventually chose the route of complete silence unknowingly picking the fifth amendment, so that I could hide within my head till the entire event blew over. 

    I also learned that in order to survive, I need to hide everything from my parents because they will never discuss anything with any logic or reason attached to it. Being a curious child, I would always find myself learning about things I should not be or inserting myself in situations I did not know may hurt me. Despite that, there was no way I would run to my parents for help because I would not receive help there only judgment and punishment. The silence was the safest place to be always. 

    Now you may think this behaviour would only be found with my interaction with my parents but that could not be farther from the truth. I became a habitual liar about everything and when I say everything, I mean I would lie about things that did not require lying. Do you see how absurd this situation is? I learned that I could lie to make the other person temporarily happy by telling them exactly what they want to hear or tell them things I know would excite them. I was not interesting but I learned how to gain other's attention for the short term with the same hope that my lie would never be discovered. I am sure by now you can guess how my relationships would turn out because of this. 

    I would like to say I never lied to my friends but I have. I am happy to at least give you the good news that I worked hard on removing this habit from my life. It was not easy, with a lot of slips in between. If I had taken the route of asking and receiving psychological help, my progress may have been less traumatic than the episodes that pulled me into the habit in the first place but, in our culture, you do not go to the psychologist unless you are hearing voices in your head. 

    But there is help out there and it is possible to train yourself out of the habits formed from childhood trauma. Having said that, this will not happen organically on its own or be fixed by another person. The initiative will have to manifest and push out of you. It does take a lot of effort which is why it is important as you move forward in life to build strong relationships that will provide you the support you need to make it through. It is not the child's fault for forming these lines of defense to survive through situations they have no control over in life so blaming yourself for what you went through will not help you move forward or heal. Despite this, there is always a way out. For me, it was my friends who became family and understood the darkness emanating from me yet accepted me anyway. I found my guiding stars out of the darkness warding away my demons.

Until next time,


Photo by Daric Beyer on Unsplash

Smith, B. (2012, April). The case against spanking. Monitor on Psychology43(4).

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