Archive for the 'lying' Category

Betrayal and revisiting the past

October 7, 2013

I came across the piece in the NYTimes on betrayals and lying late in the game yesterday, after the comments had closed.  (It’s called “Great Betrayals” and is written by Anna Fels.)  Which maybe is a good thing, because my experience of having to consider a revisit to the past, in order to revise it in light of later information, was not really about lying.  It was about an abrupt change in a very close relationship on account of our having adopted children with African heritage — a close relative of the person in question insisted that they break with me and my family because of them.

In addition to having feelings of incredulity and hurt to process, I found myself wondering how to look at the twenty-five years of history I had had with this person (from the time I was a child, until well into my thirties).  Did I know them?  Had I ever really known them?  All those long conversations over so many years, over so many cups of tea, I think I thought I did know them and had known them.   But clearly there were other aspects to them which I hadn’t known.  Had I known about them, I don’t think we would have been so close, and certainly I would have been more prepared for the relationship to end over the adoptions, and would have tried for it not to have been so abrupt.

Intimacy premised on incomplete or inaccurate understanding — the flaw in the understanding certainly explains why the intimacy ends.  Does it somehow invalidate the intimacy as it happened?  No, I think the intimacy was real, it was just that the person was an illusion.  Kind of like the concept of “Mama’s Bank Account” (by Kathryn Forbes), you rely on something that is not really there but it benefits you to think it is.

(I know, some people think this is what God is, too, but I actually find God a whole lot more reliable than human beings — if we’re going to use reliability as a measure of existence, for me, humans wouldn’t “exist” first.)

Anyway, I do think the intimacy is real, and in the case in question, that the relationship allowed me to experience a love which I am sure helped me grow into a healthier person than I otherwise would have been.  That, in turn, allowed me to handle my life more easily, including when this relationship ended.

To me, the hard part are the transitions, the beginnings of “moving on,” when there is no obvious next such relationship.  I think I’ve actually tried to replicate this past relationship a number of times since it ended.  They all end similarly, with the person’s commitment to me being much more vulnerable to being sacrificed to other needs than either the person or I realize.

What’s the lesson I’m not learning?  Maybe, as my friend Kelley from high school used to say, “Take what you can when you can and be grateful,”  maybe not to expect relationships to last indefinitely, and maybe to try not to give more than I can comfortably give as a gift.

As to what people might learn from reevaluating a relationship after a lie has been revealed, maybe it’s similar to what I’ve described for this other pattern of surprise and hurt.  And maybe both such kinds of experiences serve as ways of breaking the ties that bind, so that we can move on to new relationships or move on to a life oriented towards something else.

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Treasuring up

November 30, 2012

The first time I started to learn ancient Greek was while I was in high school.  This boy I liked wanted to learn and my mother agreed to teach both of us.  I forgot how long we did it for, I want to say a number of months, maybe the length of a school year, I don’t remember.  Anyway, the primer we used started with a line from Matthew’s Gospel, I think, about treasuring things up on this earth.  I think the verb was from an easy conjugation.

Anyway, I’ve been mulling over a spiritual story about a young girl who treasured up food and clothing and wood and other supplies while awaiting the return of an older male who would protect her and take care of her.  She didn’t use the stuff, she just arranged it neatly, almost the way it’s sometimes done in the burial chambers of the very rich.  In not using the supplies she was storing, she actually hastened what she feared — that she could not survive on her own.

What I’ve been wondering about is the relationship of her behavior not only to her fears about her ability to survive on her own (she didn’t know how to create a fire, for example), but to a sense she may have had at some deep level that this man had lied to her that he would come back.  Would an attempt to deny that the promise was empty have resulted in the behavior, maybe as a way of trying to assuage the anxiety about the lie itself, as well as about difficulty of surviving on her own?  The man may have thought he was setting her up with hope and good habits by telling her to make things ready for his return, but such a strategy I’m thinking could end up with both a clinging to the expectation of his return and a deep-down recognition that he wouldn’t, and the behavior resulting from the latter might undermine the effectiveness of his strategy.

Just a thought.  I’m no psychologist.

I do have a sense that the empty promise and the behavior were linked.  I’m wondering if the girl felt safer treasuring things up that she would need, and preferred to actually die feeling more in control, in contrast to using the stuff, and wondering if she could replace it as needed, and actually surviving longer.  I’m not sure how long she would have survived even if she had used her supplies.  As I said, she couldn’t make a fire, so she might have frozen to death if the winters were cold.

I am curious about what function that treasuring up served, how it may have  related to these multiple factors:  how it could have allowed her to keep up the pretense of believing the man would return as he said, been an attempt to keep a promise she might have made him in return (for example, to be a good girl and collect supplies), and also been a way in general of displacing her anxiety about survival.

Small talk

August 20, 2012

Late last night I had another iteration of a pattern that goes back a very long time for me, at least until I was a pre-schooler.  It has to do with warming up to present a need of mine to someone I think can meet it.  It occurs when I don’t bring up the need directly, because I’m pretty sure I’d get a negative reaction, so I start with something akin to small talk, in an effort to start a dialogue, so I can see how to negotiate and modify my request before I present it.

What I’ve found is that it often doesn’t work.  The other person sticks to their own agenda and doesn’t take my responses as a prompt for a discussion, the other person dismisses me enough so that I go away without ever getting anywhere near communicating what I need, etc.  As a pre-schooler, I once ended up with chocolate milk poured over my head.  This time it was just what felt like a dismissive email.

I’ve tried the direct approach in other situations, and that hasn’t worked either.  It usually results in an empty promise, I suspect to make me feel better in the moment and with no regard to how I’ll feel later.

Maybe I tend to zig when I should zag — maybe I use indirection with those with whom a direct approach is needed.  But I suspect the real lesson has something to do with why these people will never meet whatever need it is I think I have, regardless of how I reveal it, and what I am to make of that.

Convincing lies

August 10, 2012

I’ve often wondered what makes a lie convincing, and it occurred to me that since people labeled as narcissists or alcoholics are said to do so routinely and are also said to dwell excessively in a false self, the answer may involve a lack of connection between a true self and a false self.  Because, I’m thinking, if we detect a lie by detecting a discrepancy between what the true self is saying and what the false self is saying, and if in the case of someone dwelling exclusively in a false self, there is no second “tone” with which to compare the first (the true self is not heard, at least by mortal human beings), then a lie will not sound different from the truth coming from this person.