Monday, 7 October 2013

Lying as a way of avoiding distress.

Masking the truth

This is a topic I find quite painful to discuss. It brings up a lot of shame, leaving me feeling as if I tumbled naked out of a warm bed into a cold room and there was no time to cover up before a crowd arrives to view my embarrassment. Yet, I feel it's important to talk about this. After doing a good deal of reading on shame recently, I see how confronting it head on seems to be the only way to dissipate it fully. 

I must have been about four years old, when my nursery school teacher turned to my mother with a furrowed brow, a concerned tone and said something along the lines of ... "Some children lie, maybe to get out of trouble or to play 'make believe'.... that's harmless and can be corrected as the child grows older, learning it's not nice to be dishonest. But your little one's fibs are troubling. She truly believes her made up fantasies are real. I don't think she sees the difference between reality and fantasy."

When I was in second class in primary school (8 years old) I told my teacher and friends at the time that my Mum was expecting another baby with my Dad. My parents had been separated since I was four, it was a messy break-up, with lots of anger, manipulation and public arguments.  So you can imagine my Mother''s surprise when she came to pick me up and the other Mum's were congratulating her on her pregnancy and recent rekindling of her marriage. Looking back now, I think I did it to try and solve the problem. If I told enough people I had a happy family, then maybe it would come true. I remember fully believing what I was saying was real. This particular lie had a horrible outcome, it was of course found out and I was humiliated by having to publicly apologise and recant the lie to all my classmates. It not only filled my heart with shame, but compounded the reality of my distress of living within a fragmented family.

Another example is a bit more recent. I don't tend to tell people I had to leave my university course because of illness, I mince the truth, I brush it off, say I did finish and quickly change the topic. There are sooo many other examples, but I don't feel able to disclose them just yet. but I can allow you a glimpse at some conclusions I have come to about my lies.

I lied to avoid the distress and the chaos in my life. However, the truth can and does emerge at times which leads to more chaos in an attempt to avoid the past and the destruction that always follows. I can understand why so many family members and friends started to distance themselves from the me. This then started the cycle of avoidance and low esteem. The feeling of abandonment and the lies. No one likes to admit to making mistakes or "wrong calls".

It was about control with me. When my life was so out of control, I could have a little through lying. Sometimes it was to avoid conflict. I couldn't stand anyone being mad at me. I often find myself lying simply because I can't stand one more moment of my real life. Sometimes the lies are of how I wished things were or happened instead of what the real situation is.

When I am really distressed I can't tell the difference between lying and telling the truth because I say what I think people want to hear. I don't tell whoppers as I am too terrified of being rejected if I am found out - but I fudge, exaggerate, deny things and change my facts all the time. I only just discovered this as I have been lying to myself for so long too about this! It's really hard to realize and admit that lying comes so naturally to me that I don't even notice I'm doing it. I would characterise it against the DSM criterion 'frantic attempts to avoid real or imagined abandonment' - I would say my pathological lying is part of my ongoing attempt through frantic 'relationship management' to make others happy and therefore unlikely to reject me.

People with BPD often experience deep and entrenched shame; lying may be one way to conceal mistakes or weaknesses that increase shameful feelings. People with BPD are often also very sensitive to rejection, so one function of lying could be to “cover up” mistakes, so that others will not reject them.

I think I lie lie as a means of protecting myself from rejection or a survival technique, and it did seem that a good deal of my lying was some kind of defence mechanism to avoid any intense feelings of failure and self-loathing.

Given that a BPD hallmark is interpersonal relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation, the person with BPD may distort facts aimed at the person with whom they desire a personal relationship. … In the moment, their desired objective, whatever that may be, takes such precedence over speaking the truth or behaving honestly that the potential consequences of their conduct are reduced to shadowy details.”

Sometimes we may judge ourselves harshly and expect others to do the same. Lying serves to deflect shame when something might make us look bad, thereby maintaining whatever self-esteem we have on a temporary basis. … We believe that anything ‘bad’ would make others reject them. … Lies may mask real feelings and put up an impressive fa├žade. Lies may help make sense of why things happen to us in our mixed-up identity.

In other words, some of us with BPD lie to avoid abandonment or to avoid self-hatred.

What are your experiences with lying and the presumption of lying?

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