Confabulation: a lie told truthfully.
It is the idea that when we are in the midst of a hard situation, usually an intensely painful situation, we become desperate to make sense of it, SO we make up stories.
Our brain* chemically rewards us for these made-up stories and therefore we believe them as truth.
(*Our brain likes things neat and tidy, like patterns and answers to unknown questions)
Brene Brown first explained 'confabulation' in her best-selling book Rising Strong. Even though I devoured that book a few years ago, the word never struck me until I heard it again during her conversation with Oprah on the Super Soul podcast.
When they discussed this concept it hit me like a bolt of lightening.
'Confabulation' perfectly explained what I did around my health struggles, body insecurities, food anxiety, and complicated personal relationships... basically anything that caused me distress and confusion.
(AND sometimes I STILL do it, even when I know I'm doing it...our brains are amazing things)
'Confabulation" accurately describes what my clients, who are desperate to heal their wounds around food and body image, are doing all the time.
Confabulation is SO common.
We take thoughts and opinions, media and marketing, rational and irrational fears, MAKE huge assumptions and create false stories to fill in the gaps, and THEN we magically absorb them as truth.
It happens in a nano second. And we believe it for a lifetime.
We don't even realize we are "lying truthfully" while we think or say things like:
- I would be more attractive if I lost weight.
- I would be better if I had better clothes and a better haircut and better makeup.
- I am lazy. If I wasn't so lazy I would have a cleaner house, a better body, and a more fabulous life.
- EVERYONE else seems to be doing life better than me.
- I should be happier than I am. Something is wrong with me.
- I am the ONLY one that seems to be frazzled. Everyone else has an easier time than I do.
- I just need to work harder, get more done, and have more discipline and THEN I will happier.
- My husband doesn't love me anymore. My partner or parents or kids want me to be more successful.
- I am unlovable as I am. Once I improve this thing they will be proud.
- No one likes me. If I had more friends or followers or likes I would be happier.
- I am not fun. I need to drink to have fun. I need to spend lots of money and be more adventurous to have fun. Everyone else has more fun than me.
- I don't have a purpose. I am not creative. Some people are born creative or with a specific purpose and I am not one of them.
- I am not good enough.
- I am broken.
- I am unable to be fixed. I shouldn't even bother trying.
- It's all my fault.
These may sound like super-dramatic or overly-harsh statements but I promise you they are true in my experience as a coach.
Confabulations are not serving us.
They are LIES that just-so-happen to look like truth.
Only when we start to clearly see how damaging this unconscious habit has become in our day-to-day lives can we start to make small shifts to create lasting change from a place of kindness, love, and compassion.
Brene Brown, again in Rising Strong, explains how tragic the consequences of these 'lies told truthfully' can be:
"The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.
When unconscious storytelling becomes our default, we often keep tripping over the same issue, staying down when we fall, and have different versions of the same problem in our relationships-- we've got the story on repeat."