I was motivated to write this blog because when thinking about the topic within my practice, I thought, "ooh, that's a hard one." I want to dive into topics that are tricky, uncomfortable, and maybe not always black or white. Lying is something we generally all consider as an immoral, inappropriate, and shameful behavior, but most people could probably say they have done it in some way at some point, dating all the way back to their childhood.
We would never want our reputation to be associated with being someone that lies or is a liar. This type of image would trickle into all aspects of our life: relationships, jobs, and responsibilities. If people can't trust and believe what we say as fact or truth, then what credibility do we really hold? So why do people lie, and how do we deal with it?
The first thing we want to understand when we discover that we've been lied to is the intention behind the lie. Was the intention to deceive and betray, was the lie in some way used in an effort to protect us from a truth we may not be able to handle, would the lie expose that persons most deepest vulnerabilities, or was the lie used as a time passer to maybe delay some kind of gratification that was soon to come.
Once we understand the intention, we can better understand this lies relationship to our own ego. The hardest part of overcoming someone lying to us, is what it makes us feel about ourselves. We maybe feel taken advantage of, foolish, vulnerable, or weak. We feel like we don't deserve it but maybe part of us does because we somehow allowed it to happen. We feel like we've lost in some way, or that we are now less than what we were before. It feels like something has been taken from us, and an easy and immediate way to respond is to tell ourselves we shouldn't or we are unable to trust others again.
However, if we can step away from this connection between the lie's intention and our sense of self, we are able to experience some clarity. We must emotionally detach from the persons actions and the ability we think that they have on our feelings and self worth. We can start to realize that the intention behind this lie, though it impacted us, is associated with the liars sense of self, instead of our own. It takes courage to be honest, real, and truthful, because if we are always those things, our weaknesses are bound to show. There is not a person on the planet that never messes up, falls behind in a certain area, or is able to always feel completely comfortable in their own skin. This is apart of our work and our growth in this world. Lies are generally used to cover up our faults in some way. Therefore, this lie is not about you being someone that deserves to be tricked, deceived, or made a fool. It's about that person's inability to face their own short comings and insecurities.
When we are reacting out of emotion, we lack the ability to form an outside perspective that doesn't involve us feeling like the victim. In order to do this, we must first forgive ourselves. It's okay that I was lied to because it doesn't change who I am or make me any less of a person. You aren't a mind reader or a psychic, and you wouldn't have been able to predict the future. You can also realize that you are the only person that is able to control your emotions and reactions, so how do you want to feel? Do you want to be unhappy or do you want to feel at peace. It must be a conscious decision on your part in order to move on. The last step is to develop empathy for the person that lied to you. Though you may have your initial reaction of feeling hurt, anger, hatred, or annoyance, going through the detachment process can allow us to hold space and compassion for the person who has lied. We may seem them as the afraid, weak person that we've seen ourself at in moments of weakness. We may notice they are coming from a place of low self worth not behaving in a way that is serving their greater good.
Holding space for empathy and compassion towards the liar does not mean we have to forget what they have done and resume life as usual. It puts us in a position of having to evaluate our boundaries with the person, and therefore, things in the relationship may have to change. Ask yourself what it is that you need. Sometimes the only way to move on is to move forward, but this can also involve needing to walk away. Has this lie transformed your life to the point that you must make critical adjustments? Change is never easy, and the process can create anger and resentment to what or who has provoked this changes initiation to occur. Get in touch with what it is that you really need, want, and desire. You don't have to uproot your life because your ego or others in your life tell you that this lie is not something you should tolerate, but make a change because you are whole enough to move on, are able to overcome challenges without being paralyzed by fear, and the situation you are in is no longer serving your needs. The other option is to stay the course, without personalizing this person's behavior or taking it on as your problem. As I prefaced at the start of this post, overcoming a lie is a tough process, but the process is sure to strengthen you into a truer and stronger version of yourself.
-Grace Stevens, LMHCA