Friday, July 20, 2012

Lying and BPD - Part 4 - Why do you lie?

At this point I think I’ve presented a fairly good idea of what motivates people with Borderline Personality Disorder fall to lying or feel the need to lie. At the same time I recognize that from the perspective of someone on the receiving end of the lies this is not at all how it feels.

Something I hear a lot is,

“My BPD significant other lies to attack ... she distorts and exaggerates events just to accuse me, to hurt me. Even after I repeatedly tell her what she is saying isn't true and try to convince her by presenting her with what has actually happened she still turns a blind eye and repeats her accusations.”

There’s this extremely common perception that we do things with the intent to maliciously hurt people (I’m not saying that none do, but many don’t) as if we made the deliberate pre-meditated decision to make someone’s life difficult. What I think is important to understand, is that what we do, really isn’t about the other person. They may be the one directly affected by our actions, but it’s actually not about them. To us, at the time, it does feel like it’s about them because that’s how our brains work to shield ourselves from blame and abandonment – to make it not our fault that someone would leave us. But it’s not really about you (except as an unconscious way to not give you a reason to be upset with us; i.e. if it's your fault, we didn't do wrong). It’s about us. It’s about us trying to not feel bad about ourselves, who we are, what we’ve done, something that we perceive as being bad about us, that we’re trying to deflect or project onto the person closest to us, in order to escape the feelings of our own shame. When we yell that, “You hate us,” which may be a clear untruth, really what we’re doing is projecting a feeling of hating ourselves. A feeling that could result in our abandonment. I know that doesn’t make the hurt feel any better. I’m not trying to justify the lying, merely explain what is often occurring. I think it’s important to keep in mind that people with BPD don’t think in the same way. Most “normal” (and by normal I simply mean without BPD) people think in a pretty linear way so to them it makes sense that it would be a deliberate attack. However with BPD it’s not so straight forward at all.  

People with BPD also have widely different reasons to consciously lie and feelings about lying in general. Here are some examples of things real people with BPD have said when asked about why they lie:

-      I exaggerate all the time. I like getting sympathy so I make everything into something greater than it actually was. I do this because no one cares enough unless I do and I feel invalidated.
-      I think maybe people with BPD could be prone to lying, because we often see different versions of the truth depending on what mode we are in. If the truth is not something I feel a "normal" brain would understand, I lie. (I don't want anyone to know my BPD thinking).
-      I lie pretty often, only to me its second nature so it doesn't feel like I am doing anything wrong. I definitely lied to myself for a long time about there being anything wrong with me, I was in such denial that when I finally realized it I couldn't function properly anymore.
-      I try to be honest, but I omit things sometimes. Also, I will lie about things to keep myself out of trouble, but not just for the sake of lying. I sometimes lie to my psychologist. Not about events, but about feelings. This is mainly because if I don't remember them or can identify them, I'll make them up.
-      I lie regularly, but only about some things. I'll lie and tell someone I'm not angry, or lie and tell them I'm happy when I'm really freaking out. I do it mainly because pity pisses me off (genuine sympathy I relish, but pity is insulting), or because I don't want someone to think that I hate them, even when I do. I'll lie about relapsing, I'll lie about the lighter burns on my arm, I'll lie about anything that makes me seem abnormal.

This is something I identify with a lot. You may remember that Friend accused me of lying to him because despite hating his wife, I was always civil to her when I was around her. Is that really lying or just being mature? Feelings are a private affair. People get angry at us when we let all of our feelings out, and then they get angry at us for not letting all our feelings out. There’s no winning. {Insert something about finding middle ground, I know.}

-      I'm generally a fairly open and honest person. I sometimes tell little lies, like "yes, I did get some studying done today", trivial things like that. dishonesty beyond things like that is something I absolutely loathe being on the receiving end of, so I try really hard not to be dishonest with people I care about when it's about anything remotely important. Treat others as you'd have them treat you and whatnot.
-      I'm generally fairly honest about things. I'll admit to lying about the odd trivial things like but everyone does that, even people without any sort of mental illnesses. On occasions I've not told the whole truth about stuff like cutting or not eating, but that's more about not feeling comfortable discussing the issue- I have to wait till I'm comfortable with it but will usually come clean about it once I do. It's quite often making sure I can trust the person I'm sharing the information with rather than lying about the issue.

And this is one final thing I need to talk about. Some things I just cannot fathom as being someone else’s business. Often I gloss over each individual reason for my scars if I’m not sure about you. Sometimes I don’t tell my Therapist I had thoughts of self-harm because I don’t want to worry her and I know I have it under control. Is it a lie when someone asks me why I won’t eat their 10,000 calorie dessert and I don’t tell them I have an eating disorder when I say no thanks? I’ll give them a truthful answer, but if it’s someone I don’t know, or don’t know if I can trust, I do not believe they have any right to that kind of information. On this same topic, I am starting to feel like I’m lying to Tech Boy by not telling him this specific thing. There have been instances where he’s triggered me badly but I’m afraid of losing him because maybe he’ll think less of me.  I do think it’s time to sort of fess up to this. The time is definitely starting to feel right. It’s important that the time feels right and that we’re comfortable, especially about hard issues.  Sometimes I think people don’t understand that just because they demand an answer, doesn’t mean that we’re ready to give one. So much of what we go through is about protecting ourselves that you can’t expect us to put ourselves into a vulnerable position before we’re ready. Patience. Patience. Please, patience.

 So how about it? What are some reasons you feel the need to lie? 

There is one last aspect of lying that I think is the most malicious aspect of our protective arsenal. But we’ll save that for Monday… 

***Paragraph layout: Is anyone else having issues with fully justifying their paragraph layout? When I attempt to fully justify my posts in the preview I get all white backgrounds and font changes. I hate this. It bothers me a lot that my lines of text don't all line up the way I want them too. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lies and Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 3 – Lies of Admission

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…

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… 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lies and Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2: Lies I tell to others – Omission

Yes. I am a liar. You are too. Everybody lies. Children learn to lie instinctively. Lies are a part of most people’s lives. Do you feel a spark of self-righteous indignation when I say that?  Have you ever told someone you were fine when you weren’t? Told someone they looked fine, when they didn’t? Did you automatically think of justifications or rationalizations for why it was okay for you to spare someone’s feelings in that instance? It was just a tiny little white lie. But a lie, nonetheless. Lying is very common, and people like to justify why lies are okay in the particular instance that they used them, but then get quite upset when others have the same justification. Personal perspective is what makes a lie worth noting. It’s when that lies become harmful and destructive that people should really be concerned, because people are rarely 100% honest 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean people aren’t generally honest though. 

I don't believe people with borderline are "naturally" any more or less honest than anyone else. I think that circumstances where it might feel acceptable to lie in the interest of psyche self-defense might arise more frequently for someone with disordered thought patterns. A lie might serve as a shield, or to soothe the fear that if the "true self" is seen, that it will be rejected. A lie might serve to keep someone's attention or sympathy. A lie might serve to hide a misdeed out of shame. There are as many reasons to lie as there are people, I imagine. Some people lie to keep the peace, or to avoid an uncomfortable situation. None of that is particularly unique to a disordered thought pattern.

What seems or feels like an exaggeration can also be due to how borderline filtering works. Actions and events tend to take on as much significance as "feels" applicable. This may or may not be indicative of reality, but nor is it likely intended as a lie. A person with borderline might say "Remember when you yelled at me?" when no voices were raised, but to them, thoughts or feelings expressed in a tense situation might "feel" like they were yelled at, and that becomes how they remember the situation.

Previously I talked about unconscious lies. Unconscious lies are untruths that the person actually believes on a conscious level. To be truthful you need the ability to be honest with one's own self, because if you're not honest with yourself, you won't be honest with others. 

So how do you define a conscious lie told to others? I found this neat little list over at Psychology Today. Let’s have a look shall we.

1. Lies of omission: telling the truth but not the whole truth in a way designed to mislead ("While you were gone I watched a DVD"--not mentioning the five people who were also over and who drank beer).
2. Not speaking up when asked a direct question. (Silence when asked, "What did you do when we were gone?")
3. Making up facts that are not true ("I did my homework while you were gone").
4. Embellishing the truth is a way that misleads ("I took care of the cat"-meaning she petted it a few times but forgot to feed him on time or change the litter box).
5. Insisting that a truth known to someone is a falsehood ("I did not have friends over!").
6. "Gaslighting," a purposeful attempt to erode another's reality by denying their experience ("No, the house looks exactly like it did when you left. Is there something wrong with your vision?"). One woman in therapyonce said that nearly all the quarrels in her family was about whose reality would be dubbed the "right" one.
7. Acknowledging the truth but assigning motives that were never there to make yourself look better ("Yes, I had people here but only because I was so lonely without you that I was getting very depressed and started crying").
8. Keeping secrets for the wrong reasons (One of the friends stole the mother's expensive earrings).

Pretty succinct and accurate for as far as we need to go with it. Let’s break this part of the discussion into two parts.

            2.a. Lies of Omission
            2.b. Lies of Admission

Lies of Omission

Lies of omission trip me up a lot. It’s such a grey area of language and communication that it’s very difficult to decide if something is really a lie of omission or just unnecessary in conversation. It’s also subjective, because something I may not find important and omit without thinking about it, could me the pivotal piece of information that sends someone else over the edge.

Technically speaking, if someone asks you, “What did you do last night” and you don’t give a step by step description of every single thing you did last night it could be a lie of omission. You’re not typically trying to deceive someone but most of what we do is pretty inane. Does he really want to know you took a big ole poop between movies? Probably not. But something typical for me is if I stayed in one night because the person I wanted to see had plans, and followed up by asking what I did, often I’d shrug and say that I just stayed in and watched some movies. Which is completely true. I might omit the fact that I drank a bottle of wine to drown the intense feelings of loneliness I was dealing with though. I might leave out telling someone that I also decided to masturbate before bed too.

Okay, now that’s just private. People don’t need to know EVERYTHING! But what if you know your partner has a very big problem with you masturbating and will withhold sex if they find out you’ve been doing it (even if they refuse to satisfy you sexually)?  You don’t want to cheat on them, but you also have physical urges. You know they would be upset if you told them the complete truth. You know you would feel the consequences if you told the truth. So you omit. Let’s put aside the fact that there’s probably some other unhealthy issues going on there if your partner is that controlling and insecure (yes I know someone with this issue). How would you deal with that situation? Is it okay to lie by omission or isn’t it?

My Evil-Ex would lie by omission in very malicious ways. When I was trying to  establish my own friendships independent of him he would stay in and tell me, “Oh I just watched movies with some friends.” But when one of those friends was a woman he was getting drunk because he was trying to seduce her in my absence… that’s a pretty bad omission from my perspective. He would also try and turn it around on me and blame me by saying, “Well if you’d been home I wouldn’t have been tempted.” He was clearly trying to alienate me from people and control me but at the time all I felt was betrayal and panic.

It’s the same with not speaking up when asked a direct question? Or asking a question to imply that you don’t know the answer. One morning I woke up to find the driver side mirror on my new car smashed in. The night before I had stayed out late with some friends and didn’t get home until about 3a.m. He would often wait up for me. When I woke up and came downstairs he asked me, “Hey, do you know what happened to your car mirror?” He’d pick his wording in a way that didn’t necessarily say that he didn’t do it (He didn’t ask “what happened” he asked “do you know what happened”). But it automatically tricks the mind to thinking that if he’s asking the question then he doesn’t know. Of course I went out to look and came back in saying, “Holy crap, it wasn’t like that when I got home. Did you see anything?” From there he avoided answering me directly. I knew what had happened. I had it confirmed for me from someone he’d told a couple months later, but I still knew. When someone doesn’t answer your questions or tries to change the subject they’re trying to cover up their guilt by omitting their involvement or knowledge.

I don’t do things like this but it’s pretty obvious to me why he would lie. He didn’t want to get caught, have to pay for my car, and risk me moving out, but he still wanted to punish me for staying out late. For someone with BPD I can see this being a problem as well. If we’ve done something that we think, that we perceive, might have painful repercussions, even if what we’d done was an accident, then sometimes it feels important enough to hide our responsibility for that thing. When Monroe was moving in I accidentally backed my car into her nightstand. It was the only thing left outside and it was very small so I didn’t see it. As soon as I realized what I had done, my first thoughts in panic were that she was going to be so angry with me and this was a terrible sign for having just moved in with me. She’s going to think I’m careless and will just break all her stuff because I don’t bother to pay attention. I felt like I might lose her friendship over something as silly as a $25 second hand nightstand. It took me a couple minutes to gather myself together, but of course I fessed up and apologized over and over… only to have her say, “Oh don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal. It’s my fault for leaving it out there. I knew it was there but was to lazy to pick it up. It was super cheap.” Even then, I still felt terrible. I searched for new nightstands on the internet and offered to buy her a new one worth twice as much. Which she wouldn’t let me do. I did pay her back though. And that was that. So no, I didn't lie to her, but I wanted to point out the instantaneous feelings that come about that could push someone to lie. 

The point is. Often our perception and feelings color what we know to be the truth. I KNEW she would be angry at me because I felt like I had messed up so bad. The very last thing in the world I wanted was for someone I really liked to be mad at me, even for something that was an accident. I can understand why someone would omit their involvement or knowledge of something to diminish the “inevitable painful consequences” of that perceived fear. That doesn’t make it right, but I can understand the motivation. 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.

People with BPD-especially the conventional type-may judge themselves harshly and expect others to do the same. Lying serves to deflect shame when something might make them look bad, thereby maintaining whatever self-esteem they have on a temporary basis. This backfires on those with BPD who then feel worse for having lied and become paranoid that they will be found out.

It’s a poor way to go about it, because ultimately lying can be a legitimate reason for someone to end a relationship, but often people with BPD don’t think that far in advance. Especially in those of us with problems of impulsivity and impulsive behavior, if one of those types of behaviors happens to be lying there is no contemplation of long term consequences. All someone knows is this it is a problem right now and needs to get as far away from the blame as possible.  It’s not thought out, it’s not pre-meditated, it’s a fast defense.

Everyone has things about themselves we would prefer others not know. But we see the good and the bad and hope others do, too. Someone with BPD though tends to have a very black and white world. Coupled with our sensitivity to rejection, people with BPD believe that anything "bad" would make others reject them. And as you know, we often do desperate things to avoid this desperate outcome. It’s maladaptive. It’s rarely helpful. Often destructive. But the motivation is usually not about hurting you, so much as protecting ourselves. 

In conclusion, deciding what is and is not a lie, what is an acceptable lie, what is hurtful, and what is self-preservation can all be pretty tricky things. And that's all without even stating a lie directly... 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Plague Ridden

Hello Dear Readers,

I deeply apologize for being so inconsistent with my blogging lately. I am sick again. Very, very sick. Respiratory virus, sore throat, fever of 100 deg F (which may not sound like much but my normal body temp is around 97.4 deg F, not the standardly recognized 98.6 deg F), eye infection, nausea from the medication they've given me... in short I'm a hot mess. I can barely function and sitting up is a great effort. I feel absolutely terrible both physically and in my heart because I feel guilty for neglecting the topics that I wish to discuss and post on this blog. I promise that the moment I start to feel even a little better I will resume posting with my regular fervor and frequency.

::air hugs (because really no one should come within 100 ft of me)::


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