So we’ve covered that everyone lies. There are unconscious lies and conscious lies. Those conscious lies are generally either Lies of Omission where you neglect to add all of the information to deliberately deceive someone. Then there are lies of Admission…
To lie by admission means you knowingly tell a falsehood or untruth to manipulate or deceive another person.
The question is why does someone with BPD feel the need to lie in the first place?
I stated this yesterday but it’s worth reiterating: People with BPD are very sensitive to rejection and deathly afraid of abandonment. Lying is a way to maintain the interpersonal relationship with someone they are afraid will abandon them. It’s also important to see that how a person with Borderline Personality Disorder understands a situation is heavily influenced by their emotional state. How they perceive a situation through their eyes and through the filter of their emotions can make what they understand as the truth very different than what someone else would understand as having happened. When someone is overcome with strong emotions it can be impossible for them to incorporate information that doesn’t fit with or justify the emotions their feeling. Lies can be motivated by the inability see information that doesn’t support how they feel. It’s this emotional dysregulation that causes someone to become incapable of seeing the truth if it doesn’t match how they feel. This can lead to the flabbergasting effect of understanding a situation one way and having the Borderline in your life tell you something completely different as if they absolutely believe what they’re saying. Because they do, and from their perspective they actually are pointing out/or generating the “facts” as they know them.
A quick example I like: After an intense conversation someone with BPD may accuse you of yelling when no voices were actually raised, because to them the emotional intensity of the conversation was so charged that they felt your reactions were stronger than you may have actually experienced them.
I mentioned yesterday about impulsivity. Impulsivity and poor impulse control means someone may not consider the impact of their words before they speak. In that moment, the desired objective, whatever that could be, takes such precedence of speaking the truth or behaving honestly that the potential consequences of their actions are never even considered. If someone is in a heightened emotional state and they fear a bad reaction to something, a lie becomes a way to shield themselves from the pain of what could come from the truth.
People with BPD often have trouble relating to other people, causing instability in their interpersonal relationships. Not being alone, and not feeling lonely can take an unreasonable priority in our life. This can make someone with BPD feel as though they need to secure extra assurance from others to help you maintain the relationships, which can result in the impulse to lie. We can tell people things that we think will make us look better in their eyes.
I struggle with this a lot. Because I have such a perfectionistic/failure type schema complex I feel like if I’m not absolutely perfect for someone it’s extremely difficult for me to internalize why they would want to remain friends or in a relationship with me. So obviously I want them to think the best of me because that’s the only reason I can imagine someone will want to stay around me = if I’m perfect. I require a lot of self-talk to get through this. It helps that I have a lot of very validating friendships as well.
Along these lines often people with BPD experience deep and entrenched shame; lying may be one way to conceal mistakes or weaknesses that increase shameful feelings. A lie can be a way to avoid judgment by another person or judgment of themselves. Because of the sensitivity to rejection, a lie can function to “cover up” what we perceive as mistakes, so the people we care for won’t reject us.
I often lied / downplayed how bad things were for me in relationships (especially with Evil-Ex) for fear that I would be judged because of how the other person treated me. Most of my friends didn’t understand the level of abuse I was dealing with until after I ended the relationship because I was so ashamed of “how I was letting him treat me” even though it wasn’t actually my fault that he was abusive.
If we happen to have actually made a mistake (because we are actually human) and have been at fault, perhaps for a car accident or mishap at work, someone might try to pass the buck or rationalize the mistake because being viewed in a negative way is something we try to desperately avoid.
In short: the truth is stressful. That sounds silly, but it is. The key is to learn to tolerate the stress that being honest can bring on, particularly the uncertainty of whether the other person will still like you if you confess to the truth. [source]
Something else that can happen is our frenemy the self-sabotaging behavior. People with BPD are pretty much known for those traits associated with self-destructive behavior. It’s the hallmark of many of the DSM criteria. Typically you think of things like doing drugs, binge drinking, promiscuous sexual activities and gambling but persistent lying can be common when people seek to cover their tracks and avoid rejection by loved ones.
Sometimes people also can’t help it. Even when they want to tell the truth. I found this interesting note over at Borderline Personality Treatment that says:
“The tendency to compulsively lie may be attributed to the structure of your brain. A recent study conducted at the University of Southern California (USC) shows that if you have a history of lying, your brain might actually be structured differently than that of a person who is generally honest.
White matter in the prefrontal cortex (the front part of your brain) is responsible for masterminding a lie, which includes weighing how the other party will respond and suppressing your own emotions to limit or eliminate the appearance of nervousness. Gray matter is the substance that curbs the impulse to lie to make things easier and holds people to their principles.
In the USC study, compulsive liars showed a higher percentage of white matter and a deficit of gray matter.”
That’s pretty interesting if you ask me. But I don’t want people to think that’s an excuse or justification for lying.
It can be difficult to maintain a relationship with a sibling or significant other with BPD; however, it is very important to understand that people with BPD often engage in destructive behaviors not because they intend to hurt you, but because their suffering is so intense they feel they have no other way to survive (and this can be done unconsciously). Lying may be one example of this survival mechanism.
Tomorrow I’ll share some comments from people with and without BPD. How Nons might think of something and how someone with BPD could think about the same thing…