A GUIDE TO LIARS: how a liar’s mind works

Part 1 (previously posted): you’re surrounded
Part 2 (below): how a liar’s mind works
Part 3 (coming soon): living well is the best . . .

Part 2 of “A Guide to Liars” 

The mind of a pathological liar has a sub-terrain with shifting plates of distorted perceptions and assumed privilege that split the worlds of the rest of us, our sense of what is real and what is the order of things. Their fault lines turn our lives upside-down. Whether that is through a Ponzi scheme, infidelity, false claims of expertise, embezzlement, or other frauds the patterns are the same, both of us and for them. In part 2 of this guide, we will look at them.

Reality #3: liars lie because they want to

In most societies we no longer need to lie to save our lives or remain healthy. Chronic liars choose to lie because they feel it serves them better and faster than honesty.

Yes, there may be differences in the brain structure of some pathological liars from that of the rest of us, specifically a lack of development in the area that differentiates truth from fiction that usually matures around age six; and pathological liars have been shown to have more white “wiring” matter and less grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of their brain than other people.

Nonetheless, the primary differences between chronic deceivers and the rest of us  is not our ability to tell reality from fiction but between our levels of greed, capacity for empathy, sense of privilege, and concern for “right” and “wrong.”

The interior fault lines of frauds have them experiencing inferiority and superiority at the same time. Their sense of superiority tells them they are above the normal rules while their sense of inferiority urges them to disguise their inferiority by acting above the rules.

Reality #4: liars and narcissists experience themselves as the center of the world

A subset of the colluding delusions of superiority and inferiority is “power corrupts,” where wealthy or other powerful people feel exempt from the rules (honesty, fidelity, paying taxes, for example) and they feel that what they want should be theirs because they are a “cut above.” Ethics and morals are revised to support an isolated life of privilege. Erasing the poor and deprived from your mind and actions is, by the way, moral deception.

Wealth is a test of character. I’ve lived around rich people. Most are deeply caring, welcoming, and generous. But I’ve heard others actually say they deserve whatever they want because they’ve worked so hard. Never heard a single mom working two jobs say that.

But not all frauds are wealthy and not all work hard. Most want fast and easy rewards and deception is the tool of choice – identity thief, scamming the elderly, faking resumes, embezzling, having affairs.

It’s easiest to do this when you experience yourself as the center of your world so completely that you feel yourself to be the center of THE world. Self-delusion, deception of others, and narcissism are the holy trinity of liars.

Narcissists have diminished empathy. They do not have a mature compassionate interior self. They lack the “ping” of relationship. They do not viscerally feel others as completely real. This makes deception of others easy.

As a character disorder, narcissism is notoriously difficult to treat because 1) narcissistic liars are not motivated by caring overly much about anyone else, 2) they get their way often enough that they have little incentive to change, 3) they are not troubled by their consciences as much as the rest of us, and 4) they feel superior to therapists. One study I read boiled down to “If you’re involved with a narcissist, turn around and run. Now.”

Reality #5: liars have skewed guilt meters

Most liar’s ability to cipher out what they should or should not feel guilty about is non-functional and nonsensical. One can have sympathy when this condition came from horrendous early experiences, but be careful. That was then, this is now.

Liars may or may not express remorse, some even beg forgiveness, some make promises, but there is an agenda behind it that is not about taking care of you or changing. (Did I mention the other ex-husband, the one who was physically violent? That’s how I learned that begging for forgiveness, even on your knees, and making promises can also be calculated lying.)

Reality #6: some liars lie as a way of life, or just to do harm

While most liars want to gain something – status, money, sex, admiration – others lie out of habit and/or the desire simply to harm others. One woman in the San Francisco Bay area is infamous as a broadband liar with a specialty in gratuitous character assassination. She convinced many of us that one ex-husband was so crazy and violent that for years I and others assumed he was in and out of institutions. In fact, he is a mild-mannered expert in the Far East, retired professor, world traveler, and author of many successful books.

She tried to destroy another man’s reputation by starting rumors he was a pedophile, and fabricated a case against another ex-husband as a compulsive spender buying wine at $1000 a bottle and suits at tens of thousands. Swearing to this under oath, in order to get special financial consideration in their divorce, didn’t faze her.

Often people who lie specifically to do harm also use “suck up” techniques on people they perceive as powerful or “above them.” It is two sides of the same coin used to climb an imagined ladder. Bring some people down, get other people to lift you up.

Reality #7: liars are usually very angry and almost always fight dirty

When most of us “try on” the feeling of lying – whether overt, covert, or by omission – we become uncomfortable because to deceive others is to alienate ourselves from our integrity. It separates us from our core being. We betray ourselves the instant we betray someone else. We lose our mooring when we lose our morals.

That is, bastardizing your integrity to deceive or do harm exacts a heavy price. When you are not honest with yourself, self-delusion, dissonance, and confusion move in. Your internal mirror is broken, so instead of seeing your shadow side, you project it onto others. What you unconsciously or only semi-consciously don’t like inside yourself you see as the qualities of other people, i.e. Pogo: we have met the enemy and he is us.

This projection makes deceivers formidable enemies because in their minds it gives them license to fight dirty. They see you as trying to cheat them, feeling entitled, and not giving a f**k about them. Their projection is seamless and may feel like the most real thing in their world. They can smolder in righteous indignation and rage to take you down. (Did I tell you about the former employee who cyber-stalked me and whenever someone wrote an article about me, she contacted them to tell them the “truth”? She had fabricated vital points of her resume, read and sometimes kept my private mail, and . . . so it goes.)

As projectionists, liars blame. As narcissists, they do not make mistakes. Failures in business, life, marriage, and family are caused by someone else, by the people who were supposed to do their work for them.

Mix together projected demons and narcissistic privilege. Stir in that even honest people who substitute short-term rewards for long-terms gains are usually disappointed.

And that is how chronic liars become so nasty.  I hope you never need to review this material.

Reality #8: liars’ abilities to perceive and grow are compromised

The dynamic is: once you’ve compromised your integrity, your capacity for self-examination is compromised. Your interior mirror is foggy if not outright splintered. You have no true way of seeing yourself, even the good parts, which everyone has somewhere.

In any case, most deceivers are so heavily invested in fooling themselves there’s no incentive to look deeply. The mirror, splintered or not, is not looked into or missed.

Now, everyone wants a sense of self. This desire is so strong that in order to grow – that is, to change ourselves – we feel we must have something to hold onto during the transition. For most of us that “something” is a baseline belief that we can trust our integrity. We feel our core essence will stay true even as we change. We believe we will find our way to larger truths and nuances and complexities and relationships, even if a tad wobbly. This allows us to mature and develop, have sophisticated beliefs, and nurture multi-level evolving relationships.

Liars, not sure their centers will hold through uncertainty, tend to freeze in place, clutching the same perspectives, worldviews, sense of privilege, and belief, usually that they are more clever than the next guy.

IMPORTANT: I can think of few things more courageous than a chronic betrayer or deceiver owning up to himself or herself to do the work to rebuild authenticity, to peal back the layers, to distrust his or her personal story. It would take such courage of self-examination, deconstruction, and reconstruction! The initial work is so important that the secondary work of personality reconstruction and of any recompense or apology to others is … well, secondary. Necessary, but secondary.

Part 3: living well is the best . . . will be posted soon. Learn the principles of recovery and why honesty is the best policy.


2 thoughts on “A GUIDE TO LIARS: how a liar’s mind works

  1. Well. I agree with some and don’t with others. But what you wrote s interesting and valuable. I’m troubled by the generic use of the word Liar without a more parsed out specified definition.. As with most of the word, and especially humans, there are many shades of grey. This seems to refer to a specific type of liar. Perhaps it is educational, perhaps poetically, dynamically cathartic? But, the generalities don’t grab me.

    I think i tend to gravitate towards your meaningful, but poetic pieces,done with gravitas or not, more fully.

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