The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Names have been changed to protect both the guilty and the innocent.
Everyone lies. Lying is inevitable. There are lies which are technically harmless, often resulting in no consequences. There are also lies that are harmful and can be very dangerous. Lying is not something that many people can do well. Lying can come in many different forms such as small fibs in order to be deceitful, lies to make someone appear better looking than they might actually look, or larger lies, which one may use to protect themselves. Lying even comes in the form of makeup, which many women put on everyday, covering up their faces, or changing their facial features to appear much different than they actually look, though men, are in part, to blame. Regardless, both men and women lie to each other everyday. It is a part of being human.
The problem with lying is that you must remember the lie you told and if you continue to lie, you must remember those lies in order to keep your secrets. Once one lie is proven to be a lie, the entire structure of lies crumbles. It is almost better to tell the truth simply because it is easier. The truth is not hard to recall, whereas a lie must be thought out before it can really work. Lying can also be detected in different ways. The pupils may dilate differently, or a person may begin to feel uneasy, which makes a person appear to be lying. When one tells the truth, there is a confidence, a comfort, and a relaxed tone to the well-being of the person.
Lying comes in the form of several names such as chronic liar, compulsive liar, and pathological liar, and the most severe form of lying is that of a sociopath.
A sociopath lies to manipulate others with little concern for who they are lying to, even if it is harmful or fatal to the other person. Sociopaths may be charming or charismatic, lying to establish trust, but almost always driven by some goal.
Compulsive or chronic liars lie out of habit and are often suffering from a mental disorder. Since lying is normally established in childhood, lying becomes a reflex, a comfort, and a completely normal way of life. They are fearful or insecure at heart. Since lying becomes commonplace, the truth becomes hard and lying becomes easy. Some common signs are: lies designed to make them appear smart, brave, or important. They exhibit a defensive behavior and may cross their arms in front of their chest, blink frequently, are unable to look you in the eye, put on a fake smile, or go into too much detail in an effort to make you swallow their story. They sweat and may have a history of ruined relationships. They may react belligerently if the victim shows slightest signs of not believing them.
A pathological liar, or Pseudologia Fantastica, also lies habitually, chronically, and compulsively. It is a way of life and the truth becomes uncomfortable. The lies develop early in life, often in response to difficult situations at school or in the home. They are not intending to be manipulative, but develop it as a bad habit. They differ from sociopaths.
Pathological liars usually start telling small lies during childhood and become comfortable in telling these lies, especially if they get away with it and feel their lies are not harmful. Getting caught in their lies may or may not sway them from lying. As they grow older into adulthood, they learn to tell bigger detailed lies that may start to turn more harmful. Just because they began lying in childhood does not mean they become good at telling lies. The easiest way to spot or tell if you are dealing with a pathological liar is to befriend them and speak with the people they surround themselves with. If they do not have many friends, it may be for a reason. If they have a lot of friends, than all of those friends may be consumed in the same lie, believing the same story.
Pathological liars often fabricate lies in order to gain attention, are bored, have low self-esteem, want sympathy attention, or want to feel important or feel like they have accomplished a great deal. Most of all, the pathological liar is very insecure about themselves. They may come from broken homes or even a regular household and prefer to lie over the truth.
The reaction of a person who is caught in a lie may be defensive, quick to fabricate other lies, or may seek revenge. Alternatively, the person may feel upset they were caught in the lie and have a tearful meltdown.
Pathological liars may not want to live in reality because of their surroundings. They may feel they are not happy with their current situation and prefer to be in a completely different situation, but are unable to do anything about it, so they create a fantasy world or fantasy reality in which they live in order to feel safe and comfortable in. In reality, they may wander from job to job, have a hard time holding steady relationships or friendships, and may be estranged from their family, or even attempt to separate themselves from their family and closest friends in order to continue living in their fantasy world.
There may be other personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder.
Now that you have an idea of what a pathological, chronic, and compulsive liar is, here is a very interesting real life situation that involves a teenager who has been living a fantasy life for over a year and continues to live his lie and fabricate new lies and false stories that he believes are completely true and based in fact and reality. This teenager is an African American with an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother who has lived in America his entire life.
While the story is not solely mine, I will use “I”, as the person who is talking through me, and I am reporting it through this confession.
The signs I defined above are of a chronic or compulsive liar. He exhibits some of this behavior. But he is able to keep calm, look you straight in the eye, does not look away, waits to see how you react, and feels you out to see if you are knowledgeable of his lie or not. If he sees that you are willing to listen and believe his story, and you have not broken his fantasy lifestyle, he will continue his lies and his stories for as long as you believe them.
When I first met him, he said he came from Japan. He said his name was Kasumi. He said he was given a girl’s name because his “mother” had wanted a girl. He said he was in America living with his “adoptive parents.” His “mother” from Japan had sent him here after a major hurricane in 2012 hit Japan. He said his “mother” was blind. Later on, he said his “mother” came to visit him and spend what would be her last week of life with him. Once she returned to Japan, she had passed away from cancer. He said he now knew why his “mother” sent him to America – and that was to protect him and his “siblings” from knowing the truth about her health. He said he wanted to go back to Japan and said his “mother” had put away extra money for him and his “siblings.”
His “siblings” were his three younger sisters, all of whom had Japanese names. He was very detailed with how they grew up, their names, and where they were now. Later on, he added that he had two brothers. In reality, he actually only has two sisters and a brother.
He continues his story. He stated that he grew up in a remote village and after years of training in Japan, he had developed his own style of martial arts. During the day, he said he would train in martial arts and at night, he would go to school. He said he lived in a remote area with no wifi internet, television, or other forms of entertainment. His “mother” would make him to practice calligraphy for 3 hours a day. One time, he said that he did not want to practice calligraphy, and since his “mother” was blind, he put his sister in his place to do the work for him.
He was very into Bruce Lee and martial arts movies and loved the movie Dead or Alive. He said he had an Aunt, he called “Auntie” and everything seemed to be centered around what “Auntie” wanted or said. He respected her most since she was Japanese. “Auntie” was very racist and did not like any non-Asians coming over her house, so therefore he had to play with his friends outside and no one could sleep over his house. Everything that “Auntie” said was the final word.
“Auntie” once sent him to the flea market to seek a Geisha outfit and a few martial arts outfits. He attended high school and never seemed to have money, so I would always give him a few dollars so he could have lunch. When I confronted him that he should ask his “Auntie” to fill out the paperwork for free lunch, he claimed his “Auntie” did not speak, read, or write any English. Later on, he said his “Auntie” had gotten pregnant with her third child. Each of these children had names that he seemed to pronounce well as if they actually existed.
In Japan, he said it was often cold and that made him very used to the cold, going as far to say that he did not have pain or feelings in his skin in the cold (claiming to have a form of congenital analgesia), so he did not mind the cold weather in New Jersey. He said all he ever ate was sushi because that is all he knew and the only food source he trusted. When taken to a fast food place, he acted as if he knew nothing about the items on the menu at McDonalds or Wendy’s, including a shake, fries, and several hamburger items.
When asked to recite Japanese words, he was able to recite some phrases. I never asked him to speak full sentences, but he was able to recite quite a few phrases. He also named towns in Japan that he had visited often or that he went to from his remote village in order to gather food and clothing from the markets. He recounted endless tales of living in Japan and recited them with complete details.
In America, while attending school, he said other students made fun of him and he was getting bullied because of his accent and where he was from. He said that his teachers were sometimes mean to him too and said that his English was not very good and so it was hard to do his homework. He had me help him with his English and Spanish homework.
One time, he came over and said that he had amnesia and did not remember who anyone was. He put on the act of not remembering anyone. I wondered later on how he even got over my house. But he continued the act and I was never really sure if he developed new memories or if his memory ever came back. He never told me.
He spoke about a hermaphrodite he met, that he had a conversation with, wondering if it was a boy or a girl – but in reality, there was no hermaphrodite.
While in America and over my house, he made up a story that he had to go to another town every night, an hour away, and would be driven back every morning to his “adoptive” parents house. In reality, this did not make sense nor was there time for him to do all this considering he would come over to my house, and then I would drop him off to his “adoptive parents” house in the evening. It might be doable, the drive, but it really just did not make any sense.
He acted as if he did not know anything about God or Jesus and that he had no belief system or knowledge of Christmas or any American holidays. He also told another story about how he named his rabbit “Sushi.” He even showed a picture of his bunny rabbit. He said that he came home one day to find his rabbit dead on his bed. When I asked his real mother if he had a rabbit, she had no idea what I was talking about.
He came up with another story that he was sparring with a professional martial artist he called Horoki-san, showing a picture, and explained the details of his martial arts. He said they really liked his martial art moves and he was supposedly invited to sparr at a Dojo in New York.
Had I spoken to his real mother about his amnesia or asked her about his “mother” who died, I would have found out sooner that none of his story was real.
His real mother had called me one day, asked about her son, whose name was Omar, and then a whole conversation was sparked, leading to the realization of his consistent lying. She said that he makes up stories and believes his stories are completely true. He lives fantasy lives, in fantasy worlds, makes up people that do not exist, and actually believes the lies he is telling are the truth. He believes them so much that even when his reality is broken, he will try and avoid the person who exposed his lie in order to continue living his fantasy life.
He seems to regret and despise his real family, claiming that he especially does not like his mother, and even refuses to acknowledge his siblings, the only people who know the truth, and could tear down his wall of lies. He continues to live his fantasy world and does not let any exposure crumble him completely. His behavior and attitude towards his family is that of disgust, but that is probably expected from any teenager. To those he can and wherever he can, to whoever still knows him as his fantasy character, he continues to remain in character.
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Make of the story what you will. He is a psychologist’s dream and makes for an excellent case study. While he does fit the description of chronological, compulsive, and pathological liar, he has not done any real harm to anyone, other than living as a great deceiver. He has done minor manipulation claiming to not have enough money for lunches, buy video games, or other things he wants. As he grows into adulthood, his lies may be much more deceptive and harmful. He may develop other behavior that is harmful. For now, it is too soon to judge what he may or may not do, or what he may lie about next. But this is the true story of a pathological liar.