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Why Are You Lying To Me?

How many times have you asked someone, “Why are you lying to me?” Or sadly how many times has someone ask you that question? Learn from therapist, Ginger Aldridge, MA, LCMHC, LCAS, cohosting with Chris Love, CSAC on the subject of lying and the underlying motivations and dishonest coverups everyone does to self protect.

SI | E2  A clinical discussion on why we all lie.

Chris: “Yeah, I get lied to for sure, probably daily given the age group of the young men I work with…and yeah I can say I have lied…all of that unnecessary, when I look back.”


Ginger: “I can remember one my earliest lies. It was to my teacher in 5th grade. I didn't actually lie, I just cheated on a math test and I remember him looking at me and saying nothing. I knew he knew and it still sticks with me on the guilt and shame I felt at that moment." 


There are over 30 books published, as well as countless articles written and research conducted on the behavioral act of deception. We observe and experience major tears, confusion, anger in therapeutic sessions all day, every day, because of the impact of dishonesty in our relationships. Below are some takeaways.

Often a person will be sitting across from me and I just know from experience and the impulse of shame that what they are saying is not true. I will say straight up, “why are you lying to me?” After we have sorted out what may or may not be the whole truth, often there is a confession that carrying the deception was a burden they were glad to lay down.  I had a colleague once tell me I was being harsh as if the word ‘lying’ needed to be layered in softness. He suggested I use a softer word like dishonest, less than honest or maybe even take their lie and let it be hidden until they ‘felt’ like being honest. That ‘avoidance’ or ‘softening’ of a wrong direction often will not suffice, because the offense of lying can essentially kill the patient. It is important, at times, to describe the act in a such a way as to break through to the benefit and promise that the truth will be a more noble path. Sometimes, though, I do let the lie simmer. In the dark. Waiting to emerge and allowing its emergence to help the person slowly birth the internal suffering that lie is causing. It comes down to knowing the patient and knowing what they need in order to be free and clear from the shame that deception causes. 


"Let’s embrace an accepting fact that lying is a human trait. We cannot not lie. That’s why it is important to reflect and note the explicit and implicit justifications. I say justifications because lying is not required but we will always be quick to justify an unapproved behavior. And we all can grow and become better when we examine the conscious and unconscious reasons for lying." 


Let’s review a few succinct reasons people lie with my own added perspectives:


Number 1. The Love Lie

Goal: To create compatibility

 A loving lie is done to merge and maintain a positive connection. We justify ‘loving lies’ because they preserve relationships and are done sometimes to bring what we label as love into the conversation. “I love your hair,” or “I loved that gift,” is an example of a justified method of merging a connection. We deem them minor alterations so as not to harm another for no real reason. However, if you habitually become a loving liar, you will rob others of hearing something they may be able to hear. Or for that matter need to hear. Maybe that blue eyeshadow you have admired to boost them up isn’t doing them any favors. A lack of courage can often be a part in telling loving lies. We all take part in this behavior, but it is wise to evaluate your motivation. I have gotten into a lot of trouble having three daughters and being very honest about the outfit they want me to hype up. I have learned from them, they sometimes (mostly always) want the loving lie! I prefer the truth. Mostly! We sometimes just have to acknowledge receiving and giving loving lies. What I suggest is that you reflect, so that you can be intentional and aware of receiving, needing, or giving loving lies.


            Here are a few unconscious reasons I think we use for telling a sweet, Southern, I want you to               feel good lie:

            Attention seeking. 

            To be seen as complimentary and supportive.

            Manipulation in maintaining a position of influence with a person.

            Curiosity to see a response.

            Elevate the person in how they see themselves.

            Impress the person by seeing you as an approval provider.

            Prosocial kindness to begin or strengthen a new relationship.


Number 2. "The Avoid It Lie"

Goal: Escape from external and internal pain.

 This is the big reason children are deceptive. Avoidance is a reactive behavior to maintain a neutral or positive position in a situation. Lying to avoid a negative consequence is linked to the limbic system to protect and prevent a negative event. It is a child response taking over the adult mind. The main reason a child lies is to avoid punishment. It is the most common reason a person chooses to manipulate the truth. 


            Shame is the driver in avoidant deception. 

            Here are a few unconscious reasons for telling an avoidant lie:

            Avoiding disappointment.

            Self-protecting to how a person wants to be seen.

            An Intimidated response to a possible threat.

            Manipulation to maintain control.

            Indifference to the person or to the outcome of the deception.

            Minimize the damage.

            Maximize the illusion that honesty exists in the relationship.

            Suppress shame for a behavior agreed upon to be wrong.

            Denial in acknowledging the impact of a mistake.

            Hiding information to protect an agenda or position.


Number 3. The "You Feel Deep Pain From It Felony Lie"

Goal: Escape capture at any cost. 

 Relationships are a key area where felony lies occur. A felony lie is where you challenge the sanity of another. Betrayal is a felony lie. It damages another person at a soul level. It could in many cases be what we would call abuse. The way to identify felony deception is to examine the before and after of the experience. You cannot tell a felony lie until there has been an uncovering of the truth.  If, before you know the truth, the person makes comments such as “you’re crazy” or “you are delusional” it is an attempt to escape capture. Once captured, they continue to make defensive justifications, minimizations, and rationalizations attempting to put the blame on everyone but themselves. I call this the Lie of Ultimate Selfishness.  


            Selfishness and fear are the drivers in avoidant deception. 

            To manipulate outcomes and protect self.

            Deceiver has feelings of justified superiority.

            Deceiver has a strong need to control the situation and avoid negative consequences.


Number 4: The "I'm Really Angry At You" Lie

Goal: To harm another person

 An angry lie is to cause harm but not to kill. It usually comes in the package of passive aggressiveness and aggression and is often easily spotted. 


              Anger and underlying negative emotions are the drivers in angry deception.

              To be vindictive.

              Deceiver is emotionally driven by hurt or rejection.

              Deceiver’s lies emerge from resentments and beliefs of injustice.


Number 5. "I Plan On Being Deceptive For My Own Gain" Lie

GOAL: To gain an edge or financial win.

This is an intentional act. An example would be to make oneself look better by enhancing a resume with exaggerated or false information. Businesses are held accountable in some situations, but many consumers have been ‘taken’ with deceptive gain campaigns. 

Greed and entitlement are drivers for deceptive dishonesty.


            To gain financial advantage.

            To manipulate a business strategy.

            To intentionally control an outcome.

When honesty saves your life.

In many 12 step programs, denial and dishonesty are central topics to explore in a journey focused on recovery. In many cases, dishonesty can lead to death whether that be a real physical death or just the death of everything that matters. In this case, it also means the accompanying habit of lying to yourself. Working with a sponsor can lead to an amazing journey.  Making the practice of honesty part of a spiritual practice brings a new level of self-respect and restores confidence. 


Final Thoughts

One study shows 59% of adults lie 1-5 times per day. So take it in stride that staying honest is a skill and must be an intentional goal. Since some of our lying is to ourselves, we must also spend time reflecting thoughts, feelings and behaviors on who we want to be. If you can process thoughts before actions, pause and ask, “what is my motivation?”  That thought can get you funding maturity, spiritual fitness and on building integrity. The result of monitoring thoughts, feelings and behaviors is growth.


When you are honest it is scary. It is liberating. You look better. You feel better. It builds confidence. It builds respect. When you are honest with someone, they may feel better, worse, hurt, or upset in some way, but that is not in your sphere of control. the other person gets to feel how they need to feel. The other person gets to choose what to do with your honesty.


Being honest with yourself does the same thing. It allows you to move out of avoidance, denial, fear and into the present moment. The present is the place we are always trying to return, even though we forget how amazing that can be. We are automatically pulled in to the past and into the future where no peace exists. Honesty brings us into the present where life happens.  


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