“What prompted you to study Psychology?” my boss asks me. I shrug. “It’s been something I always wanted to do. I am interested in how people and their brains work”. That’s not a lie. But of course, I never told him about my last relationship with a narcissist and how I had to learn all about this personality disorder, so I could heal from my trauma.
“I am quite good at reading people”, he replies. I smile weakly before he adds, “like liars, I can always tell when somebody is lying, always.” I don’t reply. I know the world he lives in too well. Not too long ago this statement could have come from me. It feels like a lifetime away now. I was a very different person then. I was naive, but I didn’t know it. I believed people are innately good. The awakening was the most painful experience of my life, and I don’t wish it on anyone.
I see no reason to burst my boss’ bubble. So I just nod and smile. I get him. We think we know so much about humans until we meet someone whose behaviour constantly goes against everything we believe in and value. And yet, we cling to our beliefs when we interact with someone who pretends to be exactly like us. It takes a long time to figure out the difference between the mask that narcissists put on and the person that is hiding behind.
My ex was adamant that he would never lie to me. I still have the screenshots of some of his messages, stating I was the only person he could be truly honest with. While at the same time, he was seeing a dozen other women. I believed him. I wanted to believe him. And although I would have claimed to be able to spot a liar, with him, I never had any idea.
It’s not lying as you know it
Narcissists or sociopaths have no empathy. They are focused on themselves in anything they do. So when they are lying there is no regard for the person they are lying to or lying about. All that matters is that they get their own needs met.
Studies have shown that some narcissists and sociopaths are even able to pass polygraph (lie detector) tests. Because they are not showing the physical symptoms a healthy person shows when they are lying. This is because they don’t believe there is anything wrong with it. In their minds, they are simply looking after themselves / doing what is best for them.
They might lie when the truth is a better story, but because they lie about anything and everything it is very hard to spot. If you are in a relationship with a healthy individual you might find it easy to spot if their behaviour changes or their composure when they say something. Narcissists will most likely lie from the very first date.
Lying is their normal, which makes it incredibly difficult to tell what is real. Additionally, there is usually always a grain of truth in every lie a Narcissists tells.
To them, it’s not lying
Narcissists are lacking whole object relations. This means to them everything and everyone is either black or white. People are either good or bad. In their mind, a person cannot be a good person and make a mistake or do something wrong. Since they see themselves as eternally good, they can’t admit to ever doing anything that would be considered wrongful.
So instead of lying, they twist reality to suit their needs. According to Psychologist Erin Leonard PhD, they really believe their own lies. This is because in their minds they simply twist the reality to match their beliefs. This is an extreme form of cognitive dissonance.
According to a report, Donald Trump has lied over 10.000 times. Many times his lies were easily uncovered as it is all recorded. However, when confronted he doesn’t apologise, but attacks the media, says it was misremembered or his words were taken out of context.
This is very typical narcissistic behaviour. Narcissists could never admit they would have done anything wrong. In order to protect their fragile ego, they continue to lie and gaslight, even themselves.
This also means that you cannot “catch out” a Narcissist when they are lying. Let’s say you caught your partner cheating. A healthy individual will admit it / apologise or talk about it. With a Narcissist, even if you have solid proof, if you confront them by the end of the argument, you will be the one apologizing. They are skilled at arguing, twisting the blame and finding all the excuses in the book to justify their behaviour.
How to spot when a narcissist is lying
The first hurdle is of course to identify that you are dealing with a narcissist. This is often the biggest step with a majority of cases being undiagnosed. It took me a lot of reading and support to clearly label my ex as a narcissist.
When it comes to the lies themselves, Psychologist Dr. Todd Grande identifies 5 characteristics that distinguish the lies that a narcissist tells from those of a healthy person:
1.They are overconfident in their lies
This means they consider themselves great liars and underestimate how well others can detect their lies. At the same time, they also underestimate the damage their lies can do.
2. They engage in blatant lying
This is lying to exploit or dominate other people. Or they lie to exercise revenge.
3. They lie to make themselves better in comparison to others
For example, they spread rumours about other people to look better in comparison or exaggerate about their achievements.
4.They repeat the same lie over and over again
This goes back to their view that whatever lies they tell, it is their version of the truth. And it is also a form of gaslighting, if they repeat something long enough the victim will eventually believe it.
5. They lie if the truth will not benefit them
According to Grande, a Narcissist will lie about knowing or seeing something if it doesn’t directly benefit them. For example, if they would witness an accident they won’t report it or act as a witness. They don’t care if their statement could help others.
The dangerous assumption that victims already know
I recently wrote an article about my narcissistic ex’s wife and the fact that no one tells her about all the women he is seeing simultaneously. A lot of comments suggest that she already knows, they call it female intuition.
Personally, my female intuition has not failed me, up until the point where I dated a narcissist. I have been with people that cheated on me and lied to me. I have always been quick to spot it. I have always trusted my gut instinct over what men told me and it has worked out well for 33 years.
Yet being with my narcissistic ex was a completely different ball game. I dated him for 1 1/2 years and I had absolutely no idea that a) he was highly abusive and b) that he lied about anything and everything.
I just never imagined that there are people in this world who fake their entire lives. And this includes relationships.
I never imagined that I could fall in love with someone who has no regard for me, or anyone else over getting his own needs met.
I still think I can spot a liar, but with narcissists, I only trust what I see or hear from others. And if I would ever think one of my friends is being played by a narcissist, I would tell them everything. I urge anyone who has experienced abuse at the hands of a narcissist to keep speaking out about it.Awareness is the key. Don’t assume people can spot a liar. Too many victims are still trapped, like my ex’s wife.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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