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Lies We Tell Ourselves & The Novel The Trespassers

Lies, Truth, Truths,The Trespasser,Tanya French,therapy

Lies bury truth. Lies we tell ourselves can be especially hard to escape. This is captured by Tanya French in her remarkable new novel in “The Trespasser“. She is an author at the height of her craft, building characters a reader can care deeply about in all of their human complexity. I adored this book because it is psychologically astute about finding the truth as both difficult and important which is what I do as a therapist working with clients.
I like detectives because they chase after the truth, that is most often, buried in lies just like any truly good therapist. Seeking the truth is a delicate business because we hide from it so easily. The first lies we each tell are to our parents (I remember mine, do you?), then we lie to ourselves. We all tell ourselves stories that take on a life of their own. As a therapist it’s my job to help people see the lies they tell themselves and then discover the more complex truth and how to deal with it.
Truth seeking is a delicate business for both cops & therapists.
I fell in love with Antoinette, the main detective character, because of how self-protective she was. So many women in real life don’t have enough self-protective energy. My initial thought in writing this review was to use it as a vehicle to inspire people about using more imagination about ways to protect themselves even while recognizing that our main character was completely overdoing it. She’s overdosed on it but I had to admire her warrior-woman self image. It reminded me of Sigorney Weaver in the 70’s and television’s Annie Oakley in the 60’s. Warrior woman inspired me while growing up in an era generally lacking that kind of respect for women. Both Elizabeth Blackwell and Eleanor Roosevelt inspired me in real life as courageous women being as heroines.
Antoinette is a fighter for truth. She is even able to recognize how she has deceived herself with the stories she tells herself throughout the novel. History shows us that it much easier to perceive ourselves as victims than to recognize how we may also be perpetrators. The truth is nuanced and complicated. We all want to be heroes, we all want to be the good guy. It is looking at our own dark side that is the real stuff of heroes and heroines.
By the end of the book Antoinette is peeling away the layers of the story she had been telling herself. I was doing the same thing she tells herself, getting lost so deep inside the story in my head that I couldn’t see past its walls to the outside world.
It’s the outside world where someone else’s point of view is considered, that the truths they see may be real. We all love to cast blame and write our own stories as being righteous and true, we enjoy living that illusion. These are the factors that make relationships such tricky business. When we get stuck in our own story we may well lose out on an authentic relationship with another. A martyr marries an alcoholic and suffers, the alcoholic goes sober and changes their own life while the martyr continues to treat the sober alcoholic as if nothing has changed, that their own hero role continues to be holding both of their lives together.
We all get stuck in stories. In therapy I challenge my clients stories as a way of getting them focused on the truths of here and now. Like Antoinette in this novel, a good therapist needs to be focused on unraveling the truths that lie under the stories we tell ourselves. The author Elizabeth Strout gives a profound analysis about truth, quoting Franz Kafka “books should take an ax to the frozen sea within us.” The Trespassers does that. In an era of false news and manipulated realities, reading about seeking the truth is more important than ever.

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