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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Stop Lyin'


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Common knowledge of lies

One of my favorite songs from rapper Kevin Gates is “Stop Lyin’,” from his By Any Means mixtape. Lyrics include:

Own up to your bullshit! Yeah, it’s about that time. Damn, don’t you look foolish? ‘Cause you know, I know you know you lyin’. Yeah right, uh huh, yeah right, mhmm. Yeah right, stop lyin’. Yeah right, uh huh, yeah right, mhmm. Yeah right, stop lyin’.

According to a 2014 interview, Gates stated:

I attended college in prison. I was in jail, so there ain’t no going to no classes. They have programs in certain facilities where you can earn good time and then you get time taken off your sentence. But as far as going to classes, it’s not like that. You study and then an administrator gives you a test. I got a Master’s in psychology.

Given that Gates’ declaration of a degree is credible, it’s likely that he understands the concept of logical common knowledge, of which one source reports, “There is common knowledge of p in a group of agents G when all the agents in G know p, they all know that they know p, they all know that they all know that they know p, and so on ad infinitum.”

In a blogpost entitled Your Thoughts Ain’t My Thoughts, I quoted cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who addressed common knowledge in game theory by explaining:

I know something. You know something. I know you know it. You know that I know it. I know that you know that I know that you know it, ad infinitum—or not. This is where we each know something but we’re not so sure that the other guy knows that we know it.

Considering the concept of common knowledge, and in consideration of Gates’ song related to deceitfulness, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—a Russian writer who was a Soviet dissident—reportedly stated:

“We know that they are lying, they know that they are lying, they even know that we know they are lying, we also know that they know we know they are lying too, they of course know that we certainly know they know we know they are lying too as well, but they are still lying. In our country, the lie has become not just moral category, but the pillar industry of this country.”

Thinking about common knowledge of lies, I understand how effortless it is to self-disturb over perceived slights—breaches of trust in relation to irrational beliefs. After all, if “I know you know you lyin’,” I may upset myself by concluding such an action shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to be.


Practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I use the ABC Model which demonstrates that we do not become upset by actions (e.g., someone lying to us), though we instead disturb ourselves in regards to what we believe about such occurrences.

As an example, suppose person X lies to person Y. This constitutes an Action.

Understanding that deception is in use, person Y assumes, “Person X must never lie to me, because I can’t stand liars!” This represents a self-disturbing Belief.

Not due to the Action, though because of the unhelpful Belief, person Y then becomes angry, feels tightness in his shoulders, and punches person X in the face. This Belief-driven effect illustrates a Consequence.

Rather than an Action-Consequence connection, REBT clarifies that we upset ourselves with a Belief-Consequence connection. As such, person X’s dishonesty does not cause person Y’s emotions, bodily sensations, or behavior.

Though person Y may hope for person X to be forthright, he may wish she would be truthful, or he could prefer for her to be a reliable source of information, person X is not subject to the demands of person Y. Therefore, person Y requesting, “Stop lyin’,” rather than requiring person X to “stop lyin’,” is a rational and not emotional appeal.

National Debt

Sometimes, people may get lost within the variables I use in my blog (e.g., persons X or Y). To demonstrate an REBT approach to the common knowledge of lies, I now turn towards a concrete example with which one may better identify.

According to one source, “President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a bill that suspends the U.S. [United States] government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, averting what would have been a first-ever default with just two days to spare.”

It’s difficult for me to grasp how much $31.4 trillion actually is. Perhaps you, too, need clarity regarding this matter. Per one source:

As of May 1, 2023, the U.S. Treasury’s official figure for the debt of the federal government is $31.5 trillion, or more precisely, $31,457,398,880,451. This equates to:

· $93,988 for every person living in the U.S.

· $239,763 for every household in the U.S.

· 66% more than the combined consumer debt of every household in the U.S.

· 6.2 times annual federal revenues.

· 121% of annual U.S. economic output [gross domestic product].

Setting aside the discrepancy between $31.4 trillion and $31.5 trillion from the aforementioned sources, I don’t know how I could possibly afford just under $94 thousand—a figure that shows little indication of decreasing anytime soon. Do you have that sort of money to simply give away?

One may rightfully wonder how national debt reached a level of 6.2 times annual federal revenues. Explaining this, one source reports:

Notable recent events triggering large spikes in the debt include the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, the 2008 Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic. From FY 2019 to FY 2021, spending increased by about 50%, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tax cuts, stimulus programs, increased government spending, and decreased tax revenue caused by widespread unemployment generally account for sharp rises in the national debt.

To be clear, an almost 20-year military campaign in countries that were arguably invaded wrongfully, a recession which was partially caused by similar lending practices which are now enabled by the Biden administration (e.g., negligent home loan lending), and governmental overreach during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the national debt.

One may conclude that rationally-minded actors may reason that the very government that caused the national debt issue is the same entity not to be trusted with a solution to the problem, given that Biden recently stated, “In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion. No President has ever done that.”

When fact-checked regarding his claim, one source states, “The Biden administration has not reduced the national debt by $1.7 trillion. It has increased by about $3.5 trillion during Biden’s term in office. The national debt has not decreased year-on-year since the late 1950s.”

One may now consider that reasonable people would choose not to trust a government whose central figure blatantly lies. However, one would be wrong in maintaining such a belief. According to one source:

Public concern about federal spending is on the rise. In a new Pew Research Center survey about the public’s policy priorities, 57% of Americans cited reducing the budget deficit as a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year, up from 45% a year ago. Concern has risen among members of both parties, although Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are still far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (71% vs. 44%) to view cutting the deficit as a leading priority.

It boggles the mind how partisan this matter is. I don’t have just under $94 thousand to give a reckless-spending authority and I question whether or not the reader does. Nonetheless, there is a presumably emotionally-fueled section of the public who criticize Biden for negotiating the debt limit—as though they can withstand more debt. Per one source:

Some Democrats and progressive groups have sharply criticized Mr. Biden for negotiating over the debt limit at all, denouncing the spending cuts and work requirements and saying he cemented Republicans’ ability to ransom the borrowing limit whenever a Democrat occupies the White House.

Why stop at just under $94 thousand? Why not $940,000 thousand or $94 million per citizen? One imagines people don’t know, don’t care, or know while caring though simply pretend as though irresponsible spending won’t burden them. Consider how one source admits:

The last time the government had a surplus was in 2001, when debt rose only 2% due to interest costs. Since then, the largest jumps in U.S. debt have been during the Global Financial Crisis—which saw three straight years of double-digit growth rates—and in 2020 due to trillions of dollars of COVID-19 stimulus.

What rational actor would conclude that redistributing money during government-initiated authoritarian COVID-19 response measures—during which the government forced many people not to work, which reportedly decimated nearly 40% of small businesses—wouldn’t contribute to national debt?

The answer is obvious—it isn’t realistic to think that spending more of what one doesn’t have will lead to wealth or at minimal debt resolution. That’s a wacky suggestion.

Add to this the fact that foreign competitors own a sizable portion of U.S. debt, and the matter becomes more concerning. According to one source, “Investors in Japan and China hold significant shares of U.S. public debt. Together, as of September 2022, they accounted for nearly $2 trillion, or about 8 percent of DHBP [debt held by the public].”

To be exceeding clear, one source states, “The ruling Chinese Communist Party ‘represents both the leading and most consequential threat to U.S. national security and leadership globally.” China now owns a significant portion of U.S. debt.

Likewise, and though it’s considered an ally of the U.S., Japan is a country the U.S. twice nuked. We currently maintain a number of bases on Okinawan soil and our military forces aren’t welcomed by all. Japan now owns a significant portion of U.S. debt.

Given all of this information, one may conclude that when members of the U.S. government lie about our national debt, as Gates stated, “I know you know you lyin’.” This common knowledge approach to our national woes isn’t some hidden awareness of which only I maintain access.

From a Solzhenitsyn perspective, we know that the government is lying, they know that they are lying, they even know that we know they are lying, we also know that they know we know they are lying too, they of course know that we certainly know they know we know they are lying too as well, but they are still lying.

Moreover, in our country, the lie has become not just moral category, but the pillar industry—a nation in which debt is big business. Presuming the reader accepts this claim, it is reasonable for one to ask, “Ok, Deric, I’m sufficiently worried, so what may be done about all this?”

I cannot prescribe to others what they should, must, or ought to do. Nonetheless, I can address how I’m not disturbed by what I believe about matters stated herein. Consider the following ABC Model to illustrate how I frame this situation.

Action – U.S. authorities continue negligently spending when our national debt is between $31.4 trillion and $31.5 trillion—equating to $93,988 for every person living in the U.S.

Belief – Instead of disturbing myself with an unhelpful, unhealthy, or unproductive belief, I choose an effective belief by stating to myself, and with understanding the difference between debt and deficits:

While I wish the U.S. had a surplus like we did in 2001, the fact of the matter is that we don’t and haven’t for decades. I may prefer that things were different, though I unconditionally accept that I have no control and little influence regarding this matter. As well, while I’d like for government actors not to lie to me—especially when they know I know they know I know they lie—the truth is that I don’t know of a single politician who doesn’t lie. Therefore, I can tolerate the discomfort of my belief regarding national debt and a lyin’ government.

Consequence – As a result of this favorable belief, I’m left mildly annoyed—which is preferable to anger. Aside from this emotional consequence of my effective belief, I have no unpleasant bodily sensations. Additionally, rather than self-disturbingly whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining, I productively write the current post as a means of helping others.


Suppose Kevin Gates’ reference on the song “Stop Lyin’” is a request, rather than a requirement. He doesn’t disturb himself if whomever he alludes to disregards the invitation.

In the same manner, I use REBT as a means of pragmatically reducing self-disturbance over the fact that you, every U.S. citizen, and I currently owe the U.S. government just under $94 thousand—a figure that is steadily increasing. I’m truly not disturbed about my beliefs regarding this matter.

How about you, dear reader? What do you do when you believe unhelpful things about the actions of the world? What unpleasant consequences of your assumptions do you endure? If you would like to know more about how to disturb yourself less, I may be able to help.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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