This is the final post of the series. Part 1 focused on that you are surrounded by liars and they are well-disguised. Part 2 examined the mental-emotional processes of deceivers, scammers, and narcissists and how their minds work differently than ours. It looked at delusion, empathy, guilt, entitlement, and conflicting impulses of superiority and inferiority. It touched on how liars project their qualities onto you, allowing them to blame you and fight dirty.
This post focuses on you and how to recover from injuries by deceivers. While it is not necessary to read Parts 1 and 2 to appreciate this post, you are encouraged to read the entire series – and file it nearby, just in case.
Part 3 of A Guide to Liars
Reality #9: your right to joy is inviolable
You have a right to joy. No one has a right to take that away from you, and you should not let them. I am not talking about fighting for goods or reputation. I am talking about your happiness.
Your first duty is to yourself as a miraculous creature on this earth. This is different than an aggrandized sense of your importance compared to other people’s importance. Your joy is intricately tied in with the joy and care of those around you. They are inseparable.
Your job is to sort out how best to care for yourself in relationship with others. That includes sorting out who supports you and your happiness and who doesn’t, and if any one person’s support matters or doesn’t, and, consequently, who should then be in your life and who shouldn’t.
Your job also includes protecting yourself in ways that will not set up or continue cycles of damage, i.e. the boomerang hit me in the head again effect. Winning battles with liars is seldom a productive goal, or realistic. Winning the battle to return to joy is both productive and reclaims – or perhaps claims for the first time – the golden chalice. It is realistic, and it can expand you into new levels of compassion, greater understandings, and more nuanced relationships. It also gives you the muscle, experience, and desire to help others.
Besides, you’re too good to keep down.
Reality #10: betrayal demands grieving
Betrayal is a kind of death, whether of your plans for your future or as the end of a relationship. Especially painful is to be betrayed by someone you loved and were, or are, committed to, someone you identified, or identify, your being with.
Betrayal by your mate can be as painful as a physical death. I have had recent widows say to me, “This I can survive, it is easier than betrayal would have been.”
Your trusted mate slipped away, abandoning you to face a stranger who is willing to harm you a lot and who, unfortunately, looks exactly like your missing mate – has the same gestures, same mannerism, same hands. Love does not turn around quickly. You stand, grieving the loss of your dearest friend as you have to become a warrior against a sudden enemy. It is immensely confusing.
And it will have the same grieving cycle as for a physical death even though you try to fast forward it because of the circumstances, even though people may not understand why you don’t instantly hate your betrayer. One day, months or years later, the grieving will be over. There is a release. It may be quiet, but you know when it happens.
I’m just acknowledging that for those of you to whom it has happened or are in this process; and I am telling those of you it hasn’t to remember that when this happens to a friend, male or female, that love isn’t turned off by fraud or savagery by their mate. It takes time and the grieving process is mucked up.
We have to learn to save ourselves with as much elegance as we can muster.
Reality #11: even stunned, you need to do some things immediately
So, you’re reeling, your world has been turned upside-down, your money was scammed, your spouse blind-sided you, the child isn’t yours, the list goes on.
Gather your team immediately. Contact your friends and ask for support, secure your funds, get therapeutic help if you need it, find a great lawyer, make a budget, change your will and estate planning if pertinent – and start preparing yourself to walk away if it comes to that.
My double-life husband who never expected me to leave nonetheless had a lawyer by the next morning. A really nasty lawyer. It foretold what was to come. Do NOT expect deceivers, once exposed, to play nice. They might, I’ve heard some do, but for most you have become an obstacle to what they want now.
That said, do not engage in tit for tat. It is bruising and he or she is the pro, not you. I once watched a self-made Park Avenue lawyer swear under oath the truth of a story he totally fabricated, complete with detailed conversations, time and place. Now, he was a pro. You, however, whether in court or other conversations, need to rely on truth. It has to do with your relationship to yourself. It has to do with honoring your future.
Regarding your lawyer (if that’s where you are): check and re-check that they are doing what they agreed to do when they said they would do it, change them if necessary, see them only with a note-taking friend if you get confused, micro-examine and negotiate their charges, and strategize with them when to be tough and when to be yielding because most lawyers are stuck in either being “tough” or “compromising,” which can be another word for “giving in,” sometimes too soon.
Your lawyer is not in love with you, and he or she has other cases. You know better than they what might be best in dealing with your “adversary.” Trust, with scathing self-examination, your intuition. You get to mix it up, gentle one day, unyielding the next.
With your “adversary” – mate, business partner, other – save records of all communications, past and on-going. I advise witnesses. Taping conversations is allowed, just not as evidence in court if you didn’t tell the person you were taping that you are taping them. Reasons to tape? Liars change their stories, deny or forget what they said, renege on promises, and set you up.
I personally have never taped anyone without their knowledge, but I have refused to have conversations unless they were taped. It brings some element of carefulness and rationality to a conversation.
While it may feel weird, even alien, to strategize against someone you may have loved and/or trusted and/or worked with, get it though your head that he or she is strategizing against you. Get clear that someone who deceived you does not have your interest at heart and does not have a viable concept of justice. Instead of seeing their culpability, most liars blame you (specifically or as a representative of humanity) and they want revenge. You’ve messed with their projected happiness, you caused their troubles. She or he will not wake up tomorrow and stop lying because it seems like a nice thing to do.
Other concerns: eat well, dress beautifully, exercise, dance, change your hair, take a shower or bath very single day at least once, cry often, hug, don’t drink too much, never ever listen to sad music, and watch only happy movies – or movies where good conquers evil. I watched the entire seven year series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in two months. My daughter brought the set over as immediate first aid. It was a brilliant move. Little girl kicks the crap out of evil non-dead people. (I love Angel, but ultimately preferred Sting.)
Reality #12: revenge is a two-way sword
There is fighting to reclaim – material goods, reputation, and other losses – that might have been taken away from you or at least to get some recompense. Then there’s “getting even,” which is about your anger and hate. “Getting even,” as usually used, means deliberately injuring the other person, business, corporation, or organization for personal vengeance, as a vendetta.
I believe that people are accountable for deception and calculated harm – rape, scamming, fraud, all of it. I also believe in going public, which you may have noticed. That is, I am not willing to cover up for liars, deceivers, bad actors. The shame is not in being deceived, it is in being a deliberate deceiver. I believe in holding up mirrors because I believe people should act decently towards others. If public knowledge, transparency, helps stop that, then good. Note: people who deceive, like other abusers, usually continue unless revealed.
That said, I’m not an expert on hate or anger. Fewer women than men are. It is men I hear say “I’m going to get that s.o.b.” and “(S)He’s gonna wish (s)he never messed with me.” Problem is, you can’t cut others without inflicting self damage. Hate corrodes. Revenge gives away your moral core.
I’m not saying women are nicer than men. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. What is sure is that we have learned that the court system is weighed against us, we are physically weaker than men, and society is quicker to condemn our bad behavior, i.e. we have training in anger management and creative solutions in order to survive.
But let’s say you, male or female, are in a rage and feeling hate. (Hate is the hard top coat over the “softer” and more “vulnerable” emotions of grief, fear, and humiliation.) Therapists, friends, time, exercise, and art are aids to get past that, but first you must be willing to get past it.
Important: to get past rage and hate, to reclaim your right to joy, you must recognize that actions by you with the goal of doing harm, even in exchange for harm done to you, makes you (also) an aggressor. They change you in negative ways, and will cling to you through your life. Anyone can do harm. It takes more courage to find and walk the path where you receive justice as best possible without perpetrating gratuitous cycles of damage.
What you want is an end to it, what you want is to live well again, which is, after all, the best revenge. But you want to live well on your own, reclaiming your joy without constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure your injurer knows you are living well. Move on.
Now, this does not mean you can’t have some fun in the “make it public” area. A woman I knew in Brazil took out a huge billboard on the busiest street of Rio near her husband’s office that showed a photograph of his fancy sports car with its license plate. It said the person driving that car was having an affair. It was the first he knew she knew.
A woman I don’t know did something similar with a huge photo and announcement at Times Square in NYC. There are ways to vent and regain a sense of personal power that expose but are essentially fair. As one of my husbands said, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want on the front page of The New York Times.
Reality #13: trusting again is a choice. Choose it.
Trusting again is a decision. You can, if you wish, stay outside of humanity and intimate relationships and never invest again, financially or emotionally. But do you want to live fully or not? Do you want to be creative or not? Do you want to be juicy or not? Do you want to dance or not? Do you want to expand your life and work and contributions or not? Do you have the courage to trust yourself to trust?
Will you answer to your fears or to your right to joy?
Now you’re older, wiser, have more compassion, and have learned what matters most to you, what is to be cherished and celebrated for its rarity and beauty. Cherishing and celebrating require sharing yourself and that requires trust.
Trust and gullibility are not the same thing. Enlightened trust is not gullible, it is grounded and watchful and does due diligence. It looks carefully, and checks for discrepancies. Not everything, every proposal, every person is to be trusted. Now you know. You know to look for the gems, usually people, and savor them more than you did before.
And now, when you do trust, you understand in advance that there may be a gap between what you prefer to happen and what may actually happen. But understanding that the gap may occur, you are prepared to leap over it or go another direction. Your trust can be both adventurous and flexible.
Without trust you cannot experience the warmth of people who want to be with you, who want to be nearby, who want to know about your life and be, in one way or another, loved by you and to love you.
Reality #14: you can forgive if you want to
Yes, I know forgiveness is essential to happiness and good health. I also know that so long as you don’t forgive, whoever abused you by any kind of deception has a hook in you. They may or may not care, but you sure feel it.
I’m not airy-fairy about forgiveness. For me it is somehow irrelevant. I just don’t want bad behavior to continue, and I think people should be accountable, but I’m used to that many liars appear to get away with deception, and I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t find these people very interesting. I find people of truth and courage to be interesting.
I also probably don’t like the exchange of deceivers owing me an implied apology. It leaves a kind of connection while I prefer neutralization.
If, for you, neutralization includes an internal act of forgiveness, then do it the quicker the better and again and again if you need to. Work it out. Come to it. Bring your full self back to joy. Don’t leave part of yourself behind, snarling in the dark.
Reality #15: . . . just to know, deceivers don’t get away with it
Even when liars appear to have gotten what they wanted, they are, unavoidably, alone. Surrounded, they are still alone. It’s unavoidable because they are not really there. There’s only a stand in, a fake, a deceiver, a pretender. People lose their own good company when they deny their authenticity. They sacrifice their right to joy, which always comes from inside, from the honest place, the hard working place, the place of love with others and recognition of kinship, the place of “two or more gathered . . .”
Reality #16: honesty
No one hasn’t been hurt. No one hasn’t lied. Most of these hurts and lies have been, or could be, laid to rest. They don’t need resurrection. They are compost.
Having free will, we make choices. Honesty works best over time because it keeps our own good company and, by processes I could not possibly explain, celebrates our right to joy.