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Archive for January 24th, 2011

Pants on Fire

“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.” ~ Pietro Aretino

I’m prompted today to do some research into lying … reasons for, roots of, ways of dealing with … and have come across some interesting material.

I’m not surprised by the huge number of lying-related sites online since sooner or later almost everyone finds themself trying to cope with a liar, but the consistency in the various reports has been eye opening.

Seems that lying should be easy enough to suss out and lead one to twig early on that you’re dealing with someone who has a very casual relationship with truth. The problem is, however, that honest people never quite get how deep the lying thing lies.

There are several diagnostic terms for types of liars …

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused – it is done to get one’s way). Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others. Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self-centered ways.

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit. Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions. Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small. For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right. Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary. For the most part, compulsive liars are not overly manipulative and cunning (unlike sociopaths), rather they simply lie out of habit – an automatic response which is hard to break and one that takes its toll on a relationship (see, how to cope with a compulsive liar).

The terms Pathological Liar, Habitual Liar and Chronic Liar are often used to refer to a Compulsive Liar.

Not that attaching the correct ID is helpful:

Ultimately, making this type of distinction may not be that useful. Because in either case, the outcome is typically the same: dealing with a compulsive or pathological liar is very difficult to do. And unfortunately, sociopaths cannot be changed.

Although having a liar in your life is annoying at best … soul-crushing is more often the result … it seems there’s little anyone can do to change the situation, and that includes the liar.

And like any behavior which provides comfort and an escape from discomfort (i.e., alcohol, drugs, sex), lying can become addictive and hard to stop. For the compulsive liar, lying feels safe and this fuels the desire to lie even more.

Making matters even more complicated, compulsive lying is often a symptom of a much larger personality disorder, which only makes the problem more difficult to resolve (see, narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder).

As a manifestation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, lying is a foundation stone and a basic in relationships and there’s no way to avoid the fact that involvement with a narcissist will mean being lied to.

Another symptom of narcissism is pathological lying. Purposeful lying is narcissistic and is born from a need to manipulate in order to control. This characteristic began at a very early age. The narcissist never matured to the level where he accepted essential emotional truths: lying creates distrust and separation with others. It destroys relationships.

To be honest (and therefore vulnerable) terrifies the narcissist. He fears this will equate to being controlled by others. He needs to uphold lies so people don’t discover the truth of who he really is. The narcissist finds comfort in not being pinned down, and not being accountable. More lies are necessary to cover up a previous lie. The pathological lies become malignant and the high-level narcissist scripting an illusionary life begins to believe his own versions. This is why pathological lying is so hard to detect, and may even pass a polygraph. Additionally the narcissist doesn’t suffer a guilty conscience. He believes he’s entitled to lie. It’s the only way he knows how to operate in a world of ‘me versus you’ without the emotional resources to trust. The tragic thing is: narcissists genuinely believe everyone else thinks and feels exactly the way they do. They don’t trust anyone. The narcissist makes sure he gets you before you can get him.

The quotes refer to “he” because it’s reported that 75% of narcissists are men, but knowing a few females who wear the assignation proudly … or not … it’s not an attractive quality in either sex, although they certainly wouldn’t see it that way.

That research into lying led to narcissism is interesting and the two do dovetail in disturbing ways. It makes too much sense that one who lies lives in a self-centered circle in which others are meant to be drawn into an orbit where gravity is controlled through whatever means available, and lying, to a liar, is an easy method of control. There’s no doubt that the person on the receiving end of lies stands on ever-shifting ground, and that imbalance works to the advantage of the one in charge of the circle.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you>” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

So, after a lot of reading I’m left with a sense of sad futility. There’s just no helping some or fixing broken people who have no idea how visible their fractures are to the rest of us. Of course, not caring one whit what others think or how much damage can be done is pretty handy, but I still find it heartbreaking.

That humans are flawed is a fact no one can ignore. That flawed people do damage is another. That this particular flaw is so prevalent is most disturbing.

I do hate being lied to and knowing I’m just one of many hearing the same bloody lies doesn’t make me feel any better about it. (Classically, narcissistic liars insist their behavior is specific, although this is far from the truth. Everyone gets the same treatment since it’s never about YOU, but always about ME.) At least I have the good sense to recognize the lies and understand it’s not my reflection glaring, and that helps a bit, although it does little to relieve the frustration that comes with endless strings of useless lies.

Still makes me sad, though, and especially sad for the liar who just can’t stop. It must be a very stressful and disappointing way to live, and although it’s easy enough to say, “Just stop lying and start telling the truth, FFS,” it’s apparently not that simple for those so hooked.

As with any addict, consequences can be dire, the damage spreads beyond the individual and there is no dignity in a life of lies … which is why, I suppose, the word shameless fits so well with liar, although shameful works, too.

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