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.

6 thoughts on “WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LIAR AND A PERSON WHO LIES TO HIMSELF? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. He who lies to himself is a sad,lonely person who is trying to hide from reality. He usually succeeds in hurting both himself and others. There can be no peace in that person’s mind until he realises the importance of self-honesty. Unfortunately,many live their lives out hiding from themselves.The inner hurt this causes has led,among other things,to physical and mental illness.


  2. What can be difficult to get your head around is that it’s possible to love someone but not necessarily like them. This is so difficult to come to terms with when they are your parents… or indeed, for some people… their children. I know of people who get on much better with their parents once they are adults than they ever did when they were young. Usually because it’s so confusing when you are a child and your parent doesn’t live up to expectations… they aren’t like the ones in the sitcoms or the adverts, they are all too human.


  3. Art,

    I don’t think there’s much difference between the two different types of liars. BTW, I read “Chasing Backwards” and ordered Skin Dance, which I haven’t had a chance to start reading yet…..no lie!!!!

    Anyway, a liar fabricates a story that serves his/hers personal agenda. Unfortunately, a lie starts out as a simple “explanation” for what didn’t go right, but eventually morphs into a twisted, complicated story to cover up the original mistake.

    Fortunately, this syndrome typically is rampant in politicians and not with your clients:-) We have the real world to deal with.



  4. Arthur, I have posted the link to your article on every site. I really hope people will read it and become aware that, in one way or other, they may be lying to themselves and that this brings consequences in the long run.


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