In session with Naomi, we discussed her ongoing moral dilemma about whether to disclose. She vacillated between an agonizing sense of guilt for occasions in the past when she hadn’t been honest, to a dry-eyed cynicism in which she’d argue that she might as well go on hiding the truth because she couldn’t undo the past.

“I realize that I’m lying to myself. I can hear it, but I don’t know what else to do.”

I offered a couple of suggestions and she looked at me scornfully. “That’s never going to happen,” she scoffed. Her plight felt hopeless; no solution seemed possible.

The connection between lying and hopelessness got me thinking about my book on psychological defense mechanisms and Meltzer’s view of them as lies we tell ourselves to evade pain. It certainly seems true in Naomi’s case: she feels utterly hopeless about her situation, mostly because to be honest feels as if it would expose her to unbearable shame. She feels so damaged, so “tainted” as to be beyond repair. Nothing can be done and no improvement is possible.

This helps me understand such personalities and even to feel some sympathy for literally unbearable pain, a sense of damage so pervasive and hopeless that all the person can do is lie about it — to himself and everyone else. At least in manic-depressive illness, the person tries to “cure” the damage, even if it’s a magical sort of cure.

In anti-social personality disorder, the truth is negated and replaced with an entirely fictional “reality” instead.

Lie detector photo available from Shutterstock.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 0 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


    Last reviewed: 12 May 2012

APA Reference
Burgo PhD, J. (2012). Anti-Social Personality Disorder and its Roots in Hopelessness. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 5, 2015, from



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Nance: My experience with working online is that brief counseling and/or coaching works better than psychotherapy....
  • Noreen: It’s going to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this enormous post to increase my...
  • Katie: A very touching and provocative story. Never heard of this possibility. Amazing diagnosis. Thank You!
  • abi normal: Agree to some extent, but dont like the way bpd’s are stereotyped to have murderous rage!!!!!...
  • agun: Where any of his criticisms valid?
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!