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Lying on the Couch

There are lies, damn lies and then there’s therapy.

While it would appear counter-productive to lie to your therapist it happens all the time for various reasons. Sometimes the lies are blatantly obvious, sometimes they are steeped in the unconscious and sometimes the lying is more by omission than sheer deceit.

I can’t lie to save my life. Face to face people know instantly the moment I’m not telling the truth. My English heritage gives the game away. I’m paler than a ghost and I glow in the dark. So when I lie, my face turns red. My children are the product of me and my red-headed husband so they really didn’t stand a chance when it came to telling porky pies (lies). I catch them out all the time when their face flushes a delicate shade of beetroot.

Even when I wear foundation, my neck flares up like the 4th of July and it’s so blatantly obvious there’s no point denying it – but I do. My facial expressions reflect what I’m saying (or not saying); I shift uncomfortably in my seat and feel a desperate need to scratch the back of my neck. Body language and spoken word are not in synchronicity with each other and it takes a brave client to connect the two and verbalize it without fear.

If I tell a lie over the phone my voice breaks and I swallow. This is why I try to tell the truth all the time. It makes my life easier when I don’t weave a tangled web to deceive.

I can’t even fib in an email, at least not to my very intuitive and shrewd therapist. She knows me so well she can spot an untruth 30 miles away – literally. But I still feel the need to twist the truth occasionally with her, until I’m ready to come clean. She’s also bright enough to recognize my need to protect myself and doesn’t out me till I confess, even when my face gets so hot it could light up a barbecue.

So if the truth is somewhat hidden behind the couch, the elephant in the room is trumpeting loudly. The amorphous pachyderm fills up every nook and cranny in the hermetically-sealed environment and presses heavily against my chest, sucking all the oxygen from the room. We can both feel the elephant, run our fingers over its rough, wrinkly skin and smell the nature of the beast, but acknowledging the obvious is just not on the agenda. It’s not quite lying but……

I recently outed the elephant and revealed myself in all my inglorious glory to both my therapist and my husband. It wasn’t easy or pleasant; but truth shall set you free. The elephant in the room finally spoke. I have to deal with this now but with the non-judgmental help of two great people who I should have trusted ages ago.

Why do we lie to our therapist? Because the truth is so terrifying, admitting it would make it real and something we would have to face head-on and deal with. Keeping it below the surface, bubbling and simmering gives us time to work it out unconsciously until we feel safe enough and are ready to bring it out into the open.

Lying on the Couch

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2009). Lying on the Couch. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jul 2009
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