A liar is a person who willfully deceives others. Lance Armstrong and Bernard Madoff lied to protect themselves, and in the process deeply hurt innocent people.
A person who lies to himself is just a person, a regular human being like you and me, who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, including himself. We all grow up with a set of beliefs that by the time we become adults, are so embedded that it takes extraordinary methods to remove or modify them.
Jake Robb, a 41 year-old LA psychiatrist, and protagonist in Skin Dance, a mystery, had a long overdue fierce argument with his father. Jake always knew how angry he was at his father, but had never directly dealt with him. When he did, an amazing thing happened.
It was morning, sun shining through the space between the drapes, the aroma of fresh coffee, someone moving about in the kitchen. What was extraordinary to Jake, maybe even a considerable miracle, was that he had slept through the night. The endless awakenings and constant early morning arousal that had been going on for two years hadn’t happened.
Jake spent years lying to himself, not about his anger, but about the other side to all this rage, his love. It gets pretty convoluted, but most of us live with ambivalence, the existence of love and hate that lie side by side.
We’re supposed to love our parents. Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Buddhist-Bahaian beliefs make that very clear. But, what if we can’t love them, and the anger or love is hidden deep inside us? It can effect all aspects of our lives — who we choose as a mate, how we relate to peers, the pain or sense of disconnect that we experience when we’re around the parent or parents that are the object of all this feeling.
Knowing the truth about ourselves is essential. Taking Prozac or Zoloft etc., can help you feel better, but it won’t give you the information that’s hidden in your unconscious. Psychotherapy can be a very useful tool to help you tease out the threads of the past. It won’t do a lick of good to a liar. (Listening to country western music is giving me a whole new vocabulary.)
Art Smukler MD is the author of Skin Dance, a mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, and Chasing Backwards, a psychological, murder mystery.