Narcissists and Pathological Lying
“Narcissists,” many website say, “are pathological liars.” But I refused to believe it…at first. Oh, I know that narcissists have a reputation for prevaricating around the bush, but my reaction upon reading this was, “No! Absolutely not! The narcissists of my acquaintance may be many things, but they are not liars.”
Oh, I don’t mean they don’t tell a polite “white lie” now-and-then, much as we all do. The ubiquitous headache to avoid a boring event. Or the catch-all “too busy” to dodge an unpleasant function. But “black lies”!?! I was incredulous…
…until reading the definition of “pathological.” It means that the person lying doesn’t even know that they’re lying.
That put a whole new complexion on the topic.
The False Narrative
Narcissists are the heros (and/or the victims) of their own mental fairtytale. They live in a False Narrative of their own Fabrication. This is the foundation of their pathological lying.
We all have a narrative and an understanding of who we are within that narrative. For example my narrative is that I’m ordinary wife living very rural and virtually unknown who is a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none, embraces mediocrity (after years of perfectionism) and will never, ever win a drawing or raffle…ever. And I’m absolutely fine with that. Each event in life fits into my Narrative. As life goes on, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I make a boo-boo, but my narrative makes sense. It’s simple and straight-forward.
Some narcissists fancy themselves The Perpetual Victims/Martyrs, always drawing the short end of the stick, always cheated, always abused, always abandoned…through absolutely no fault of their own.
Some narcissists fancy themselves The Rescuers, put on this Earth to rescue those unfortunate souls who can’t reconnoiter their own lives without help from The Rescuers.
Some narcissists fancy themselves as The Example Setters, modeling for others how to live life exactly as it’s supposed to be lived.
Some narcissists fancy themselves as The Creditors and everyone owes them…big time!
Oh, there are a multitude of False Narratives. But in each narrative, the narcissists is the Star of the show, assured of their own perfection. This is the set-in-concrete construct in how narcissists understand themselves, other people and life events.
Force-Fitting the Facts
Every event, every relationship, every mistake, every moment that forms what we laughingly call “LIFE” is then “fit” into the narcissists False Narrative. “Fit” may be the wrong word. Crammed, stuffed and forced may be more accurate. Therein is the crux of Pathological Lying.
Here’s a classic example. On a recent Reality Show, I watched as a quintessential narcissist bossed around, controlled, meddled with and melted-down in alcohol-sodden, obscenity-laced tirades constantly. But when others pushed back against her general obnoxiousness, she instantly concluded that the others were racist against her. She honestly believed her housemates were reacting to her skin color, not her narcissism (to which she is blind). In that particular setting, nothing could’ve been further from the truth. If there had been a moment of racism on the show, the offense would’ve been aired and the offender immediately terminated per the rules. But her False Narrative precludes the possibility that she might be to blame in any way, at any time. Therefore, her Pathological Lie is that the others were racist and their reactions stemmed from racism. This is the lens through which she views everyone, every event, all of life, resulting in pathological lies about situations, events and other people.
Or take a narcissist of my acquaintance for example. She is liberal and vocal with her unsolicited judgmentalism. Everything from throwing away one can (instead of recycling) to having the dearly departed cremated (instead of buried) meets with the sharp edge of her tongue. And that’s why she can’t keep a friend but, “Ach,” she pathologically lies, “it doesn’t bother me.” Being a pariah is no fault of hers. People don’t like her and she doesn’t know why nor does she care. Or so she claims.
Their False Narratives hurt them. But come Hell or high water, the narcissists cling to them year after year, decade after decade. Facing the truth is just too painful. It might destroy them.
The Great Rationalizer
Rationalizing, I would argue, is simply another word for a narcissist employing Pathological Lying to make their wrong behavior seem like right behavior in their own eyes…and ours. This betrays that their consciences are, to some extent, functional. It demonstrates that they know damn well they’ve done wrong….or there would be no reason or impetus for rationalization. For excuses. For long-winded explanations. For brainwashing and mind controlling us to preserve the god-like image they must see reflected in our eyes.
Do you remember all those times things didn’t sound quite right? Those times, as a child, when your Bullshit Meter vibrated? Yes, you remember it. The narcissists undoubtedly encouraged you to ignore, distrust and abandon your intuition, because it was the challenge to their pathological lies. But your intuition is not dead. Treasure it. Your Bullshit Meter always quivers when pathological lies are bandied about.
When I started writing Narcissism Meet Normalcy, my family remonstrated vigorously. The picture I painted of our family was diametrically opposed to the False Narrative they had carefully constructed. My newly un-blinded view of the family did not fit with how we had brainwashed ourselves and each other to understand the family (aka cult.) And it certainly didn’t fit the False Narrative of a wonderful, ideal family carefully polished for public consumption.
Naturally, there was only one answer. I was branded a liar who, how did they put it again? Oh yes,”dramatized [some events] for the purpose of showing [my] feelings and [they] do not necessarily accurately represent actual events.” Translation: “It doesn’t fit our False Narrative, therefore it must not be true.” That, dear reader, is circular reasoning. A logical fallacy. “It isn’t true because we said it isn’t true because we’ve said it isn’t true so it couldn’t possibly be true therefore it isn’t true.”
I’ve got a PTSD diagnosis that says otherwise.
(On a side note, how would a narcissist in the midst of a blackout rage know what they said or did?)
Anything weird, anything that doesn’t feel right, doesn’t ring true, is too good to be true, or is bad masquerading as good, takes a lot of words to rationalize…all signs of pathological lying.
House of Cards
Narcissists react dramatically to any hint of wrongdoing or calling-out because even the most minuscule crack in their façade is not an isolated event, easily forgiven and forgotten. No! Their entire False Narrative, their very lives, are at stake. The House of Cards they’ve carefully constructed shudders and threatens to fall if they’re caught in even one lie.
When you start tugging on the loose string of their pathological lying, they’re acutely aware that their entire lives and their very selves may well unravel. That’s why they freak out. Get angry. Attack us with yet more lies. Unleash the flying monkeys. Call us the liars.
Pull at the loose string of narcissistic pathological lying at your peril. But, sometimes, it’s totally worth it!
Thompson, L. (2017). Narcissists and Pathological Lying. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2017/07/narcissists-and-pathological-lying/