That’s a facile and clichéd answer, but, more often than not, an accurate one.
Sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, borderlines and histrionics lie for many reasons. Self-preservation (e.g., to avoid jail or other unwanted natural consequences for their bad behavior), to manipulate or exploit others to get money, sympathy, power, attention, security, a relationship or whatever their current currency happens to be and/or to make themselves look good or more successful than they actually are. Sometimes, these individuals lie when the truth would serve them better or they lie simply because they’re bored.
They also lie because they enjoy the buzz or adrenaline rush from “getting one over on” or “outsmarting” their target. Dr Paul Ekman calls this rush duping delight.
. . . duping delight, the near irresistible thrill some people feel in taking a risk and getting away with it. Sometimes it includes contempt for the target who is being so ruthlessly and successfully exploited. It is hard to contain duping delight; those who feel it want to share their accomplishments with others, seeking admiration for their exploits.
. . . The presence of others witnessing the successful liar typically intensifies the delight experienced and increases the chances that some of the excitement, pleasure, and contempt will leak, thus betraying the liar.”
I have had clients describe this phenomenon in relation to the sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, borderlines et al in their lives and have witnessed it firsthand in some of my past personal relationships. In previous articles, I have referred to it as the Sociopathic Smirk. The smirk that says, “I just tricked you” or “I just pushed your buttons.” These individuals derive pleasure from both.
Dr Bella DePaulo’s research on lie detection finds that the closer one is to the liar, say a spouse, partner, family member or friend, the more difficult it is to spot their lies.
When you’re in a relationship, you not only have the experience in knowing the other person, you have certain motivations to see your partner in a particular way, and you especially don’t want to think that they are lying to you.”
If your partner is abusive and/or disordered, you have probably been gaslighted and told that every nasty or dishonest thing your partner does is your fault. “It’s your fault. Your face shouldn’t have gotten in the way of my fist.” “I wouldn’t have had to cheat if you were paying attention to me 24/7/365, even when I wasn’t paying attention to you.”
Once you have been groomed to doubt your perceptions and, literally, what you are seeing with your own two eyes, it adds to the difficulty of spotting their inconsistencies, contradictions and straight up lies. It makes it even more tough if you still care about or love your abuser. You don’t want to believe what you know is true — or false. However, your emotional, psychological and perhaps physical survival depends upon learning their “tells.” Even the most practiced pathological liars have tells.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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