Since not long ago I came across a notion that started a chain of fundamental transformations in me. The discovery was so powerful and confronting that I wasn't able to withstand its effect and up until now its realization keeps on haunting me. The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, turning the head away, keeping silent and not acting becomes unbearably uncomfortable.
This evil notion is self-bullshitting. Harry Frankfurt, who introduced this concept in his book “On bullshit” distingwished between lying and bullshiting. The main difference between the two is intent and deception. People who are lying are focused on truth. For them, truth is a valid construct and it is intentionally avoided or violated. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and is to that extent respectful of it. In the case of bullshittig, truth is completely irrelevant. The one who produces bullshit has no interest in truth altogether, truth just doesn't exist. Bullshitting manipulates us into indifference to the truth.
The idea that the truth doesn't exist is the biggest bullshit. By giving in to this proposition we are building a state where self-deception rules the party and we are caught into a spiral of manipulated and imposed desires. Most of the time these desires are not even ours. We are bullshiting ourselves not because we want to, but because the machinery that feeds on our attention is much more sophisticated than our resilience to the seduction of salience. Salience is the key mechanism that directs our attention.
I often catch myself in situations when I bullshit, I say things I have no idea about. I am not aware of this fact though, I am not lying just simply spirited away by the salience which drives me towards illusionary pleasure. I follow along until I find myself living the plan that has already been laid out for me. Finding myself unhappy and miserable in the middle of bullshit not knowing how I got there.
But those wonderful moments when I can admit to myself that I am full of bullshit, it can stream out and connect with the sense of reality free of pretence and hypocrisy. What a great relief. Those moments of lightness are so precious and so wonderful. Despite shame, discomfort and self pity the experience of being in touch with the truth, even for a short moment, is fundamental for our capacity to create meaning and escape self deception because once you see it, you can't unsee it. It triggers change. Even for that reason we must be grateful for the existence of bullshit in life. We will never be bullshit-free but i am carefully optimistic about the possibility of using it as a tool to recognise the truth. Conscious engagement with your own bullshit will inevitably give you an insight into who you are, it is the best way to realize what is salient to you and see your weak spots.
Perhaps you can discover a little bullshit moment today and be surprised how easy it is to find it in your life and how pleasant it is to wash it off yourself by recognizing its presence.