Lies are not the same for narcissists and psychopaths as they are for the rest of us. When a narcissist lies, it splits the world off into two realities and forces us to choose the one in which we want to live.
In the article “16 Faces of a Psychopath,” the author writes that in their world, “they don’t lie because lying is not a relevant issue for them. The idea or image of truth doesn’t exist with the psychopath, so he cannot lie…. there is for him no difference. He says what’s convenient, what comes to his mind, but never figures out ‘Is that now really true, or not’? There is something in normal people which wants to see the truth and wants to be truthful, but if that internal sense is missing then the word ‘lie’ is senseless.”
Robert Hare, one of the world’s experts on psychopaths, agrees in his book Without Conscience and writes: “Many observers get the impression that psychopaths sometimes are unaware that they’re lying; it is as if the words take on a life of their own, unfettered by the speaker’s knowledge that the observer is aware of the facts. The psychopath’s indifference to being identified as a liar is truly extraordinary” (p. 48).
They are well aware that other people hold to a version of the truth, but since they speak as if there is no truth, when you try to call them on it, narcissists will try anything to get out of a what you tell them is their lie–even when you have proof: denial, gaslighting, deflecting, blameshifting and more. “When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed– they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener” (Hare, p . 46).
Yes, they contradict themselves– and that’s why we keep having to ask them about their behavior. And that’s why we know they are telling us lies. The nonsensical pathological lying is one of the red flags that can lead us to the knowledge that we are dealing with a narcissist.
But if you pay enough attention, there is truth in some of what say.
Many of their statements are like sheets of plastic wrap stretched too thin and easily punctured. They rely on the fact that we will take their statements at face value because we don’t want to know the truth.
Most of the time, they are right.
The truth hurts. The truth can be painful.
And yet, the truth sits right in front of us. We just have to accept it.
We do that by taking what they say and comparing it against other statements and actions, like a logic puzzle that can be solved. When you do that, you come to realize that you don’t need to know the truth of their statement.
The truth was in what they did.
Let’s look at an example, using one of the biggest “lies” they claim to tell.
Unraveling the Lie and Seeing the True Self
First, let’s visit the mind of a psychopath again and consider this scenario as provided in the previously mentioned article:
“A psychopath… may have gone to the bank and ‘conned’ the bank manager in order to get money, and what he or she said to the banker in regard to that is not necessarily concealment or lying [in the mind of the psychopath], it’s just ‘part of the story’ that goes with getting the money, and he does that very well and that’s the adapted or successful psychopath. He says what the banker wants to hear and for the psychopath who says it, that’s it -there is no truth or lying.
“The psychopath sometimes has an understanding that other people distinguish between lies and truth and will often adjust himself and behave in accordance with these facts. But the ‘liar/contract breaker’ psychopath completely refuses to recognise the social sense of lies/truth, and lives only by saying and believing “what is convenient” in any given moment.”
In this scenario, the psychopath said what the banker needed to hear in order to get what he wanted. Psychopaths are not concerned with a consistent truth or that people are dependent upon one. They will tell people that which they wish to believe at any given moment.
If this is the case, then consider a common statement that may have many variations that they tell you, in which they admit to a supposed outright lie they are telling someone else.
There must have come a point when you were trying to figure out what was really going on with one of the men or women in your narcissist partner’s “harem,” and you asked about it.
At first, there may have been denials or gaslighting.
Sometimes, if those don’t work, the narcissist has to escalate the cover story to the next level. He or she may admit to it, but then have an excuse. The excuses may range from anything to “I was lonely” (the pity ploy) to “You drove me to do it.” (blameshifting).
But did you ever hear the distraction or flattery excuse? “Yes, I did it, but it was a mistake. S/he didn’t mean anything. I was just telling him/her what s/he wanted to hear.”
Think about that one for a second.
I was just telling them what they want to hear.
Your partner just told you everything you need to know.
Either they’re capable of going to someone else and pretending to lie about their emotions (sometimes saying the same things they say to you!) knowing it will make this other person believe those feelings are real…
Or they’re lying to you at that moment and they are actually being truthful in what they are telling the other person. That means they are lying to you.
But don’t think you’re no better off than you were. You have your answer. Keep going.
The very fact that your partner told you this, the fact that he or she is talking to you at this moment, speaks to the fact that he or she can’t be genuine in their feelings with the other person. So they did tell you the truth.
So, that means it’s you they love, right?
But then why did they go to the other person and say and do those things in the first place?
Put two and two together. Your partner just told you the truth.
I just told them what they wanted to hear.
“He says what the banker wants to hear and for the psychopath who says it, that’s it -there is no truth or lying.”
Your partner tells everyone what they want to hear.
Your partner tells you what you want to hear.
In fact, your partner said that too because you wanted to hear it.
And yet, it doesn’t mean your partner wants the other person instead.
Your partner wants everything from everyone, whatever he or she can get for as long as he or she can get it.
Your partner is loyal to no one.
The hardest part is accepting it. I know, because it means letting go of the dream. I remember the moment when all of this began to fill in some of the gaps for me and I began to pull away, not wanting someone who could treat me like this object.
Letting go of the dream means letting go of someone who can tell you to your face that they tell people what they want to hear, and really let the cheapness of what they say sink into your consciousness.
Feel the disgust for when you realize that their intentions are to be loyal only to themselves. Let it guide you toward the exit and the better life that awaits you without them.
Even if you don’t yet believe it’s out there.
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Hare, Robert. (1999). Without Conscience. The Guilford Press.
Psychopath Research. “16 Faces of a Psychopath.” Accessed March 17, 2019.