All liars are not created equal. Some lie, but in the end, they don’t have a serious mental illness. On the other hand, another kind of liar, the psychopath, lies routinely. Their failing is part of a personality disorder that is characterized by a pitiless, conscienceless emotional complexion. How do tell if the liar you know is a psychopath and not the other kind? Here are some symptoms.
Psychopaths lie regularly and well.
All of us (well, most of us), tell a white lie now and again to spare the feelings of a friend or to avoid a fight. Psychopaths lie systematically about any and everything. Deception is a central part of their disorder and they become experts at it.
Their lies are driven by more than one motive.
Cold-blooded despots like Stalin and Hitler were psychopaths. Their lies were a means of manipulation in their efforts to dominate those around them. They would also lie to hide their crimes or illegal activities.
Psychopaths can appear very convincing.
Lying seems to be as effortless a blinking or breathing for a psychopath. They lack empathy, which allows them to lie convincingly while looking you straight in the eye. Since they don’t feel shame and are often very skilled actors, they easily give the impression of being guiltless. (think Hannibal Lechter)
They play on your sympathies.
Your natural tendencies to want to help people in need are the very feelings they prey upon. It is quite common for them to have bogus disorders or injuries. The comfort they feel with open deceit leaves the door open for lots of opportunities to exploit others.
For psychopaths, “truth” is ephemeral.
Their feelings are shallow compared to yours. Their “truths” are only momentary verities. They might, for example, declare their love, while in the heat of passion for a woman, and moments later are in hot pursuit of another. Temporary pleasure, in the moment, is the focus of their actions.
They leave trophies of their lies.
Their cruelty leads them to need to leave tangible proof of their deceit; those things left behind are called “trophies.” It is a way of exhibiting their lies for all to see. Trinkets of an affair left in the home for their wife to find are a good example. It becomes a game of catch-me-if-you-can for them. They could also be spending time texting one woman while having a liaison with another. It is the thrill of living on the edge that inspires them.
Psychopaths have their own language.
For the psychopath, everyday phrases have a different meaning. “You are the only one for me,” said to their lover, might mean, “You are the one of a long line of women who have given in to me.” In the same vein, “trust me” might actually translate into “what a fool.”
They are gurus of denial and minimization.
They are smooth and superficial when their lies are discovered. When confronted with their falsehoods, they quickly accuse their prey of imagining things or overstating the event. In turn, their denials compound their lies. They are quite like Svengali, in that they can almost hypnotize their victims with their lies and excuses.
Psychopaths are addicted to deception.
People suffering with this disorder—and it is a very real disorder, and they do suffer— have no desire to stop lying. One of their biggest emotional highs comes from deceiving someone of the opposite sex who trusts them. It really doesn’t matter how much trouble they cause with their lies, they just don’t have the moral compass that you do, guiding them to improve their behavior.
Psychopathic liars have particular personality traits.
Their repeated lies are part of a personality profile that is reflective of their condition. In addition to the previously listed unscrupulous tendencies, desire to dominate, and lack of empathy, they are often also bored, narcissistic, remorseless, and charming.
So take care in your interactions and listen to what people say. This sort of thing eventually does always show up and it is up to you to be on guard.
Safe is always better than sorry and it can all start with that lie you ignored this morning.
SEE A LIFE COACH IN BATON ROUGE
Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.
Psychopaths and Pathological Lying: Why Do Psychopaths Lie? (2011). https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/why-do-psychopaths-lie/
Pathological Lying: A Psychopathic Manipulation Tool. (n.d.). https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/pathological-lying-a-psychopathic-manipulation-tool.296/