Donna Anderson’s important latest post reminds me that one topic which will never be worn out is that of the psychopath’s lies and their impact on others.
This week I want to very briefly introduce yet another take on this inexhaustible topic. Everyone lies, but there’s something else at stake in the case of the psychopath’s lies.
To illustrate: you might say about any regular (non-psychopathic) person, “Things would be better if s/he was to lie less often. Her/his soul or psyche would be healthier as would her relationships.” That’s true. Now try this on for size and notice how wrong it seems: “Things would be better if the psychopath was to lie less often. His soul or psyche would be healthier as would his relationships.”
Weirdly, this is patently not the case. The psychopath will be just as sick/evil no matter how many or how few lies he tells. It’s not a quantitative but a qualitative matter.
It is commonly said that a defining characteristic of psychopaths is that they are pathological liars. This is right if you mean that they are profoundly dishonest and not to be trusted. It does not mean, though, that psychopaths lie a lot. They do lie a lot and those lies cause havoc. But as I hope my illustration above shows, lying less will not make them better people.
So, how does this work? The thing about psychopaths is that even their truths are lies! Or rather, whether or not they happen to be telling the truth or a lie at any particular moment is not what makes them psychopathic. What makes them psychopathic is that they use and destroy people; truth or lies are for them just so many weapons for pursuing their prey.
M.L. Gallagher said a lot when she wrote this:
He is the lie….
From hello to good-bye. I love you to I hate you. You’re beautiful to you’re ugly.
It was all a lie….
When friends or my family ask, but what about this, or what about that, I tell them. It was all a lie. There was no truth in him.
If I spend my time trying to figure out fact from fiction, all I am doing is trying to prove — I wasn’t so stupid. See, this was true. That’s why I fell in love with him.
Truth is. I fell in love with him because I believed his lie.
When I discovered the truth, I was so enmeshed in his lie, I couldn’t find the truth in me. And so I sank.