Do you know someone who is addicted to lying? This person might twist the truth in so many directions that you wonder how he or she keeps up with the lies.
Most of us, too, would be ashamed of lying. We'd hate ourselves for being so crafty.
Yet chronic liars literally can't stop lying, and they learn to enjoy the game of manipulating others.
"I dated a guy who invented himself straight out of a romance novel," laughs a friend of ours we'll call Rita. "This man could rattle off his shining military background, an advanced degree or two, and convince any listener he'd made significant money trading stocks.
"The truth is," says Rita, "he works as a pharmacy tech, he's got one year of community college, and the closest he's been to making money in the stock market is selling off stocks that netted him about $500."
While some people lie to gain wealth or avoid the firing squad, most chronic liars got into the game of lying a different way. To avoid getting hurt or attacked, they began to cope by lying.
Fear can trigger almost anyone to lie.
For example, imagine that angry police officers came to your door. If they said to you, "We're here to take your brother into custody. Is he home?" you might find yourself saying, "He was here, but he's at a friend's house now."
"People who lie a lot often have unstable or abusive parents," says a psychologist we'll call Aaron. "People learn to lie to avoid some type of punishment or criticism. Once you get really good at lying, it becomes second nature to you."
A woman we'll call Anna fell into this trap. Anna says an abusive mother-in-law and her ex-husband were cruel to her for years. She told us that she learned to lie smoothly and cleverly during her marriage.
"I would practice my lies over and over," Anna told us. "I would rehearse my comebacks, just in case someone challenged my first lies. I could cover myself, no matter how fast someone fired questions at me. I lied about everything, even things I didn't need to lie about."
If you're dealing with someone who lies a lot, it's important for you to ask yourself this question: Do I make it difficult for him or her to be honest?
A businessman we'll call Todd says he made his sales team squirm so much, he built a department of liars. "I was so uncool back a few years ago," he confesses. "I'd make people think I'd fire them if they didn't perform. They learned to fabricate their number of calls each day and everything they attempted."
If you're the parent of a toddler or a teenager, you can encourage lying without knowing it. All you have to do is increase punishment and decrease your patience. Your child will learn to invent his own truth to escape your wrath.
"My husband used to lie constantly when we first got married," says a nurse we'll call Sarah. "His first wife tormented him for every little thing. I had to confront him and reassure him that he didn't need to lie about where he was going or how much money he'd spent. People who lie are putting up a shield. It's tough to get them to trust again, but my husband is slowly learning."
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at www.usawellnesscafe.com . Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)
©2015 Person to Person