Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why lying to you makes narcissists feel smart

People make light of things in order to minimize how bad they are. I think I know why narcissists and other pathological liars think lying is funny and means that they are smart and you are stupid.

On my first trip to Europe, first trip to Rome, we hadn't been in Italy five minutes before the first time we got ripped off. When thousands of lira are less than a dollar, a fresh American can easily not notice a couple extra zeroes.

I got so sick of being viewed as prey, that I was in no mood to buy anything from any Italian that day we were resting in St. Peter's Square and a guy approached us with some 35 mm slides of the Vatican to sell us.

And I should have been interested in those photos, because our camera was on the blink.

I didn't mean to be a jerk: I just felt it would be rude to tell him to get lost, so I let him make his pitch. (Now I know that hawkers and telemarketers hate it when you waste their time like that and that they would rather you hang up or tell them to buzz off.) I just kept shaking my head and saying no I didn't want them. My sister saw me as the perfect bargaining tool, so she let this go on. (She may have even encouraged him for all I know.)

Maybe he and his fellow crooks had been surveying the herd for easy-looking prey (= stupid young American babes in polyester) and he had bet them that he would take us for a lot. Or maybe it was just that, having targeted us and having given us his whole spiel, he was too personally invested in the effort. Whatever, his ego wouldn't let him take no for an answer.

He pestered me to the point that I got up and started walking away. He followed! He just HAD to make the sale. My sister later told me that she kept listening for his price to get low enough as he was rushing after me, bidding lower and lower and lower with me adamantly not interested in buying what he was selling.

"We'll take it!" she suddenly blurted.

You should have seen the look on that poor man's face. He had apparently gotten so carried away he went below cost. He told us he shouldn't be selling the package to us for that price. "That's the price you quoted," I snapped.

As if he needed justification - this I can hardly believe - he said, well, he wouldn't feel so bad if at least these photos of the Vatican were going to a Catholic. So, he asked me if I was one, and I was (then), so I told him so.

He acted like he didn't believe me.

You can imagine how that struck me. Why did he ask such a stupid question that gave a non-Catholic reason to lie and put a Catholic in the position of sounding like a liar if she tells the truth?

Here was this crook, setting me up with that question and then acting like he didn't believe me.

Something - some switch inside me just clicked. I told the biggest whopper I could think of fast enough. "I sure am a Catholic I think," I said snorting. "Uh my brother's a priest and my uncle's a bishop."

That was before I learned how dishonest other people are - back when I NEVER lied, no matter what. So my sister's jaw dropped as she gaped at me, totally stunned to hear me say that.

Guess what? Now he believed me!

Lying to him was a blast. I thought it was hilarious. I thought he was stupid for believing my lie = I thought I was much smarter than him.

Which is what pathological liars think when they lie to you. But they conveniently unknow that they are no stranger that you shouldn't trust. That hawker had no reason to believe me because I was a stranger. But if I had been his friend, I would have been betraying a trust in lying to him. So, when people we have close or intimate relationship with lie to us, that is a far different matter.

We have every good reason to trust them, and they are betraying that (sacred) trust. We have every good reason to assume that they truly have the friendly relationship with us that they pretend to have. Unless we have reason to doubt them, it would be wrong for us to doubt everything our wife, husband, child, friend, or co-worker says. When we are fooled by a narcissist's lies, that's because we're innocent and honest, not because we're stupid. And it's because the lying narcissist is a creep.

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At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

This dovetails so well with my observations of Ns that they lie so smoothly and even manipulate and fool the most savvy and intelligent yet when it comes to basic human understanding or common sense they can be COMPLETE DOLTS.

And how, even when caught, they keep lying, keep trying to keep their target apart because god forbid the targets talk, compare data and the illusion of their intelligence is seen for the house of cards it truly is.

Good one Kathy!

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family narcissist likes to brag about the lies he tells to get over on people. Somehow, he expects everyone to believe everything he says, even though he makes no secret about his lies to everyone else. Can't resist the brag, no matter what the subject.

And he isn't happy to just brag about how clever he is when he fools his wife, child, or close friend. He smirks while he adds that part of the reason (apart from his genius) that the lie worked or is working, is that the trusting person he is lying to is stupid in some way.

"I just told her ...(fill in the blank), and she bought it because she doesn't even know ... (fill in the blank)."

In his voice, you can usually hear the contempt he has for the innocence of the family member or friend that he has suckered. Of course, he only lies because these people are unreasonable in some way and leave him no choice.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Louise said...

This makes 100% sense to me; Barbara is completely right. Among Lil Sis's personal effects were disks containing every email she ever sent or received and the lies she told to people were amazing in their scope. Also, many of us have met each other through a blog set up in her memory.

At one point, the lies were just to family who lived 3000 miles away(she had moved from one coast the other), then when they didn't give her the response she was going for, she discarded them as she had everyone "back home". She forgot that family WILL check with each other via phone on stuff! But she learned quickly to pick victims who would automatically believe her charm and apparent weakness, as she was a very petite woman- she portayed herself as helpless and as a victim of many abuses.

When she eventually ended up in the mid-West, she then was armed, skilled and ready to label all of her family on both coasts as abusive, as well as every person she had ever known. And she was so accomplished a liar that she was able to pull it off for years. She even fooled medical professionals and counsellors.

Only after she suffered the loss of her "celebrity" husband and all of the well-wishers disappeared did she find herself utterly alone. (as well as chemically dependant on RX meds) That was why she "came back" last spring- to find out if we could all be used again. Oh, did she resent everyone in the midwest THEN! She hated them all for "abandoning" and "using" her.

Within 24 hours of calling me for the first time in a decade, she told such an amazing lie that I questioned its truthfulness. She saw I could not be swayed- so I became her nemesis. And I refused to let her have access to him, and later, to me or my kids.

Her friends and family have been comparing notes in the 2 months after Lil Sis' death and it has been eye-opening. It's painful sometimes- but it takes all of the questions we had about her bizarre never-ending dramas and makes sense of it all.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Louise said...

I just got an email from a pal of Lil Sis- until she saw photos I have posted of us together through the years and read some of my posts on a memory blog, this friend believed that Lil Sis and I were identical TWINS! Seems she had told her pal on the West Coast that doozy about 15 years ago. Poor thing is in shock...

Why? Why tell such an unnecessary and easily disproveable lie? EASY- to test her new pal's potential as a victim. Sadly, the pal passed the test for years- she never once thought to verify what she was told. Who would?

But it also made LS's lies of how awful her family on the East Coast were sound even more horrible- what kind of twin sister could be as horrible as LS told her pals I was? It added to LS's apparent vulnerability and made people feel sorry for her- she could use them better that way. Sick, huh?

At 5:23 AM, Blogger catzzy said...

I have had a four year, on and off relationship with a person who I suspect is a narcissist.
I have never understood his inability to feel any empathy when I am in pain, nor any guilt when he is the cause of that pain.
He lies, repeatedly, and when caught, I am amazed that it becomes my fault and I am attacked with such cold disdain. My fault because I looked, or snooped - rather than his because he lied and got caught.
We are now at an end and I am sitting here surrounded by boxes, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I walked away the last time and he came back, promising the world, deliving nothing. It was almost as though he only really had to prove that he could get me back; not actually do any of the things that were conditions on my return.
I have always said that he was a strange mixture of conceited in the extreme - continuously seeking the lime light, but underneath it all, lacking in self confidence - the other women are proof of this to me; for I have never understood a need to prove himself in that fashion, when he has someone in his life who loved him more than anything. I see now, that I could never be enough; no one could and no one ever will.
I suppose in the end, I realised I can't fix him and he can't admit to a problem, so can't fix himself.
He is so destructive a personality, that the actual visual difference in me, within just one year, makes me want to cry. Gone is the self confident, happy woman. Merely a ghost is left in her place.
In the end, I think you have to save yourself.

Carol - Australia

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

"I walked away the last time and he came back, promising the world, deliving nothing. It was almost as though he only really had to prove that he could get me back"

I don't doubt that at all. They MUST win, and everything is competition with them. That way you didn't leave him. He won, because he kept right on using you.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger catzzy said...

Must win... What an awful way to look at the world. At people that love them.

I however, will look at the world and all who are in it a little differently from now on.

The lying I think is one of the worst traits of this personality, for in the end, you question everything... and they are experts. Even when you know the truth and put it before them, they continue the lie. This is such an astonishing trait - and one that builds an all consuming frustration - because you know!

I found a quote by T.S. Eliot that I am going to print out and stick where I can look at it every day.

Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important
They don't mean to do harm -
But the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle;
To think well of themselves.

- T.S. Eliot

Another quote that struck a chord with me was "Never love anyone, that can't love you back" - and that is a rule I will take forward with me.

Thanks. Reading this has been enlightening and helps me to walk away without looking back.


At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do they lie?
Because they can.
And you're so right, it does make them feel smart. Unless the lies are outrageous, they are going to be believed. Because normal people don't go around lying as a hobby, or to make themselves look good, or to assassinate someone's character.

When I discovered that my N was a habitual liar, I felt like a fool. The last part of your post: "When we are fooled by a narcissist's lies, that's because we're innocent and honest, not because we're stupid. And it's because the lying narcissist is a creep." Really struck a chord with me. I kept thinking back then, how didn't I see this coming, am I that naive?

What I should have been thinking is that you are supposed to trust your friends.

The interesting part was when my N's mother came to visit from out of state. They were dropping by my home so that we could meet. My N, called me on the phone before they stopped over, and asked that I not mention a story he had told me about his father, or to bring up the story about his mother winning a brand new car in a raffle.

They came over for about ten minutes, we chatted, then N said that they were going out to eat at a restaurant a block away. When his mom suggested that I join them, he quickly jumped in and said that he had already made a reservation for two, and the restaurant would probably wouldn't be able to accommodate a third person. (This was on a Tuesday night.)

He was keeping us separated, he had probably told me a million untrue stories about his family, and my spending any time with his mother would have revealed that.


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