Lies, Damn Lies and Delusion

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Lie – to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive

Pathological Lying – long history (maybe lifelong history) of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned

Confabulation – to fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory

Delusion – a belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder

 

I posed myself a question in response to my MILs flat out denial that she had a) sent any play money to us at Christmas (see post “So you survived Christmas…”) b) had intended it to be malicious and had in fact c) sent it to our youngest child but had to put all of our names on the parcel because we had made it so difficult for her to send the children more than one gift despite having sent that child more than one gift already. You’ll notice how these answers contradict each other.

The question was “does MIL know she is lying”?

YES! you all shout, but the really scary answer is probably no, she doesn’t.

It creeps me out to write about this because it genuinely is very scary for me to have someone in my social or familial circle who is so out of touch with most people’s version of reality. I am strongly empathic and can in most circumstances easily put myself in another person’s shoes, feel their feelings and see their perspective. Even if I disagree strongly with their views on something I can still see how their life experiences have led them to hold the position they have. Sometimes it is a bit trickier, some people are harder to figure out as they are very reserved and reveal little of their deeper feelings. And then occasionally you meet someone who is a mindfucker.

My definition of a mindfucker, excuse my French, is a person so incomprehensible that trying to put yourself in their shoes actually causes you psychological harm. The MIL is one of them.

My therapist describes it more politely as “off the Bell Curve”. Here is a Bell Curve.

blank bell curve

 

I love the whole Bell Curve thing, I first learnt about it doing my A Level maths course aged 17. Almost all measurable characteristics in nature produce this graph; the length of blades of grass in your lawn, the heights of 4 year old kids, the weights of new born puppies, the number of cakes you have eaten this year and so on. Most people/things cluster symmetrically around an average or mean value in the middle and the numbers of people/things who have significantly more or less of the measured characteristic fall away from this peak values either side. IQ is the classic example of a characteristic which produces a bell shaped curve when measured in people.

If you look at the picture you notice the areas right out at the edges labelled with the purple arrows? Those are the places where the extremes are found, I am actually at the far right of the bell curve for female height as I am 5 foot 10 inches which is taller than the average height for a man in the UK. But that doesn’t make me abnormal, I’m within the “normal” range (i.e. on the bell curve) just not in the “average” range, in the top 2% range instead.

My MILs behavioural responses are off the bell curve, so unusual that they are not found in almost everyone else in the population, beyond the 2%. That is pretty much the definition of a personality disorder.

Lying

So how does that link in with her lying? Let’s review some indisputable facts:

My MIL sent a parcel wrapped in Christmas paper to us at Christmas with a label on it “to husband, FCW, child 1, child 2” inside was play money, plastic coins and fake notes.

She sent each child a gift, some books each and a joint present labelled as such.

We had requested that all family members send each child one gift as otherwise they are deluged in presents

My husband asked her about the play money present as she has previously tried to give us money with strings attached and been cross when it was refused. This gift of play money seemed to say “fuck you, I’ll send money this way then, ha ha”.

This is how she replied, all of this happened in the course of one conversation:

  1. “I didn’t do that”
  2. “I don’t remember sending any such thing to you”
  3. “Well I meant it to be for child 2”
  4. “You made it so difficult for me to send more than one gift to each child”
  5. “I had no choice but to put everyone’s names on it”

I see someone making shit up as she goes along, reaching some vaguely plausible story by the end of the conversation which absolves herself of any wrong doing and (bonus points) manages to make herself a victim of someone else’s unreasonable demands.

She knows at statement 1 that she is being called out for something. She probably hasn’t listened much to the accusation but the tone of voice and content of the questions leads her to go on the defensive and she instinctively denies everything. This is a lie reflex similar to that which small children have who are scared of a punitive parent “I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me”.

Then she has had enough time to start being a bit more clever and tries to deflect criticism by hedging her bets a bit ” I don’t recall doing it” this is deliberate, she knows this is a lie. How come? Because of what she says next “it was for child 2” not “oh yes, goodness me I forgot, that was for child 2”.

Notice also how she doesn’t apologise at all for going against our request for one gift per child. She is on a roll now and has had enough time to conjure up a scenario where she can come out smelling of roses (in her mind). She was the helpless victim of our wicked rule.

Then here’s the scary part, she erases the entire first part of the conversation from her mind and believes the story she has come up with, actually believes it to be the truth. If questioned today on this subject she would repeat the finalised version of this story, that it was for child 2 and we made it so difficult for her to be that generous with our unreasonable demand she felt unable to openly label the gift as such so in desperation put all our names on it. She would deny any recollection of the first part of the conversation or say she was confused and flustered because of the aggressive tone she was questioned with.

She is a liar, there is no doubt in my mind that she knowingly says things she knows are false in order to get herself out of sticky situations. But then something else happens, a layer of bizarre gets iced onto the cake of lie and she can concoct a story where she is the blameless one, clever one, heroic one and she believes it. She reaches the point of believing her own lies.

I thought this was called pathological lying but it’s not. Pathological lying is when you spend your entire life making up random shit about everything for no personal gain, you just can’t separate made up from real. Confabulation is a form of making things up found in people with memory loss who instinctively try to fill in the gap with a story, their brain is trying to help account for an absence. It is a symptom of brain trauma and some neurological conditions. She isn’t doing that either.

No she is lying and then becomes delusional, she believes her lies. The lies can be concretely shown to be lies, real evidence exists to counter them, the first part of the conversation above is an example. How can she say “I didn’t do that” and then say “you gave me no choice but to do that” one of those two statements is a lie at the very least. But still she believes her version and interprets any disagreement as wilful attacks upon her good character.

Lying is normal, we all do it. Social white lies such as “can we have biscuits when we get home?” “no we ran out” when actually the answer is “no I’m worried about all the crap you eat but can’t be arsed to have a fight about this in the school playground” are normal. The number of times a person lies everyday fits a bell curve, some do few, some do lots, most fit in the middle. How many of your lies you believe to be true when pressed also fits a bell curve, with some people easily admitting they are lies, most people grudgingly admitting most lies, some people really resisting admitting their lies and then some tiny percentage of people who say they never lie and always believe them to be true. These people are way off the bell curve. Hello MIL.

This is why I find it a mindfuck, in order for me to follow that train of thought from conscious lie to delusion I have to amputate some really crucial parts of my own mind: the parts where I see other people as just as sharp and astute as I am, the parts where I see the effects of my actions on others, the parts where I have any moral accountability, the parts where I accept I am flawed and can do the wrong thing, the part where I recognise the difference between what is in my head and what is real. Going there is scary for me and the realisation of what my MIL must be capable of if she can do this is horrifying. Worse, what if she isn’t capable of doing anything else, what if this is how she thinks, ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME!

Delusion

This is far from being the only example of my MILs delusional thinking. She invented a story first reported to her divorce lawyer and documented in detail as a result, where her ex-husband grabbed her bum cheek in the queue for service at a restaurant. This was in order to portray him as a really bad person. Next this story was related to me about the second time I meet her and it was an anatomically graphic account of how while sat at a table in the restaurant her shoved his hand forcibly into her lap and indecently assaulted her. That is what was described it to me over afternoon tea, in her garden the second time we met. You see how that conversation isn’t even normal!

Next time she tells the tale her two children were sat opposite her at the table so that is why she was unable to cry out or do anything. Now my husband remembers the trip to the restaurant but has no memory of anything untoward happening. He and his sister were in their mid-late teens at the time so their recollection is pretty good. Notice how the story changed and became more elaborate.

She has delusions about other things as well, she believes she discovered some remarkable chemical law which would have revolutionised the subject. She thinks that the radiation from her mobile phone if left on wakes her 30-40 times a night. She found a painting in a second hand shop and believes it is one of her ancestors and is wearing a necklace she has inherited despite the necklace not matching the picture and her having no evidence that the painting is really her ancestor at all. She believes she has psychic powers and knows the location of a girl abducted in a notorious kidnap case. She believes young waiters in restaurants flirt with her because she is so attractive. She believes she is stronger and more physically capable than she is and has injured herself several times as a result.

Narcissism is so horrible when acted out on other people due to the lack of morals, awareness of others feelings, the lies, the manipulations. But under it all is someone so profoundly disturbed that they are unable to ever accept that they do wrong, their brain cannot compute it. Every single action is designed to protect their desperately fragile self worth and delusion is better than a lie. Delusion says “I am not that person, I didn’t do that wrong thing”, lying says “I know I am but I can make capital out of saying I’m not”.

She really has to believe that she isn’t that person, the whole structure of her personality is set up so as to avoid ever having to consider that possibility even to the extent of denying reality. That is a truly sad and scary place to be. For the first time ever I feel sorry for my MIL.

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13 Comments

Filed under Communication problems in NPD, Controlling behaviour, defence mechanism, delusion, Denial, Describing narcissism, diagnosing NPD, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, lies, narcissistic mother, Understanding narcissism

13 responses to “Lies, Damn Lies and Delusion

  1. JD

    I can hardly believe you wrote this post. I just finally had a “come to Jesus” with my MIL this past week as It reached epic proportions with her. I. AM.DONE! She is bat shit crazy and her lies are beyond COMPREHENSION! For years she has told me and my husband about her prophylactic mastectomy. Her mom died of breast cancer. Her two children don’t know why she had the mastectomy, but she did. In the last 20 years in this CRAZY family there has never been any knowledge of her ever having had cancer. But low and behold, she told me just the other day, that she was disgusted with the way our family dealt with my breast cancer diagnosis and follow up autoimmune disease that I was just diagnosed with. She told me she was so angry that our community rallied behind our family in bringing meals, helping to drove our three children to school, sports, etc. while I underwent three surgeries in a year. Not to mention she was so upset that I only sent a thank you note instead of call to thank her for the half dead orchid she “hand picked” for me. This is where the lie comes into play…she revealed that she in fact had breast cancer, and it was just no big deal. She also revealed she had the same auto immune problem. NOBODY has any recollection of any of this going on in her life. Let’s just say, that I finally unloaded 20 years of crap back on her…and boy did it feel good. She told me, “I don’t do sick.” I said, “Good, you don’t have to!” She didn’t like it one bit that our friends got us through the rough patch, she didn’t like that my family was there helping us with the kids, she didn’t like the boundaries we set up to protect ourselves from the toxic waste she lives in and likes to spread to me primarily and I told her just THAT! I laughed and said, so you think I was supposed to not have anyone help me, and her reply was yes, that nobody had helped her. I said, “it sounds to me like you are making me having cancer all about YOU.” She fumbled, got frazzled. She was shocked that I had finally stood up to her ugliness. I could care less what the fall out is. Frankly, no-contact feels pretty good. She tried to accuse me of yelling my responses to her, but I simply smiled and said, “I think you think I am yelling at you because I am finally standing up to you and you don’t like that one bit.” She is a sick bitch! And after 20 years my husband, finally understands that the kids and I aren’t going to have anything to do with this kind of CRAZY! I told her that much as well. She is friggin delusional!

  2. Al

    Ha, ha. And then you get articles mailed to you about how truth/falsehood are not as black and white as you might think.

  3. Mandy

    You hit the nail on the head with the paragraph on the mindf**k, very well stated! Especially including how N’s cannot relate to recognizing “the affects of…actions on others”, for me, I think that’s the biggest crazy-making, mind bender. It honestly trips me up badly.
    I also loved the second last paragraph “Narcissism is so horrible when acted out on other people…”
    People who have not experienced this have NO idea just how trippy and agonizing it is. FCW, you did an excellent job summing up these points.

  4. Xavanna

    Reading your blog has really helped me clarify all the lingering unease and spine I had about my MIL. I already knew she has NPD. So many of your posts and stories have really highlighted how serious my MIL’s behaviour has been.. To many outsiders she probably appears a caring and helpful person, but I know it is all self motivated. This post about the delusions really hit home. So many times she has fumbled over stories, changing small parts etc and making out we have got it wrong. Thank you for sharing your stories. It is nice to know I am not alone.

  5. greenstar

    JD – Thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery and good health. Good for you for standing up to mil like that! I can only hope that some day I too can find the strength and conviction to let it all out with my mil in the same way that you did. Very inspirational!

    As I was reading this post I was reminded of my nmil’s “memory lapses”, how she claims to not remember certain things happening. I remember when my husband and I were dating and I asked him about it his response was, “she’s always been like that.” Found it weird, but oblivious to her treachery and wanting to be liked by his family I never brought it up in an effort to not embarrass her. As the years went by though it became obvious that she does not have a “memory problem” in the traditional sense, as she’s certainly able to recall many events/conversations/etc quite accurately. It’s more like the delusion that you describe, FCW, shaping memories or events into whatever form fits her current objective. If she doesn’t feel comfortable the way a conversation is going she “doesn’t know what you’re talking about.” If you are trying to remind her of something she said, holding her accountable for something — even something innocuous, she will just outright deny ever saying it. Essentially this just cuts the conversation down, because how can you “prove” to someone that something happened when there is no memory of it for her? No one in the immediate family has the gall to challenge her on it I’ve noticed. And so there it is, it never happened and history is rewritten.
    And the mindfuck. Here it is. One time, I swear to god, I was reminding her of a conversation we had at a restaurant. She doesn’t remember that, blah blah blah. I kept on. “Remember you said (this) then I said (that)?” She finally says, “oh right, and you said (whatever).” “Right!” I said, happy she finally remembered. Shit you not, the next thing she said was, “No, I have no memory of that.” WTF??? That certainly shut down that conversation. I had no idea how to continue after that. She obviously remembered the conversation having JUST stated verbatim what had been said, then totally denied having a memory of it. Whatever that is, delusional, pathological, gas lighting, just plain old lying, I don’t know. But yes, a mindfuck for sure.

  6. Kate

    Thank you for this post. We have come to the place where we assume everything the MIL says is untrue. She lies for convenience, habit and because it comes naturally. Some of her lies are so ridiculous they are hilarious, others are more sinister and give an insight in to what she is capable of doing to people. Your blog has really helped me to pinpoint to my husband the dysfunction that exists in his family. It helps to know other people are having similar difficulties.

  7. JD

    The only way to manage the lies is if both parties see the dysfunction. I am stuck with a partner that finds it all too painful to acknowledge the truth: accepting they never had a healthy mother (or father for that matter) with a healthy form of love. The side of our family (my family) that demonstrates healthy love, then becomes the bad guy. Creating a whole new set of dysfunction because when you try to set boundaries around dysfunction, lies, mindfucks, etc. the other side of the family accuses you of trying to build a wedge. Anyone who is not married and tied to this crap should head for the hills.

  8. Male in his 40s

    I haven’t posted in a while… FCW, My psychologist – our former marriage counsellor used to get me to be empathic towards my wife and I was until the day I received the second of two affidavits, with around 70 false allegations that she has presented to the court in an attempt to take our children from me. Her and her Mother (the NMIL) are in it together. They even falsified loan documents in an attempt to try to get the court to get me to pay her mother $50,000.

    All I can say is that they are sick people. Whether they know they are lying or not, it doesn’t matter. They live in a fabricated world that suits them. They are delusional and they are psychotic My wife has now started gaslighting my daughter as has the Grandmother.

    Anyone who has followed this blog for as long as I have will have seen the many posts I have made as I have gone through my journey.

    I have a few things to say. You cannot beat a narcissist – even if you are the strongest willed person – they are like the terminator. You cannot reason with them and you cannot stop them. They will destroy you or be destroyed.

    If you are in a relationship and the MIL shows any of the red flags, do not commit any further to the relationship and absolutely do not have children with them. It is like Rosemary’s Baby – they think they own your children.

    And don’t feel sorry for them. They have no remorse, a severe lack of judgement and no capacity to understand how their actions harm others. My postman has been sacked as a result of my estranged wife’s actions – does she care? NO. She has blamed me for reporting the mail tampering that happened…

    So all I can say fuck-em. When my MIL (will be former by that stage) pops her clogs, I will be playing Ding Ding the Wicked Witch is Dead at full blast to a bottle of Moet. And I’ll send a bottle of factor 50 sunscreen to the funeral – she’ll need it where she is going…

    Some good books to read guys: Splitting by Bill Eddy and Randi Kruger, People of the Lie by M Scott Peck (gets a bit heavy) and In Sheeps Clothing by George Simon (the latter being an awesome book to understand the Cluster B’s manipulation tactics).

    A lie is a lie. My daughter and son know it as a sack of concrete on your shoulders. Tell another lie and it is another sack and eventually it will crush you. I taught them that from an early age because I knew that my wife was a pathological liar and so was their Grandmother. Both are without doubt NPD.

    Take care everyone – these people are dangerous

  9. GoldenGirl

    It has been a while since I commented but once again excellent post FCW. I have to say that I have come to a point of feeling sorry for my NMIL as I truly believe something horrible happened to her (imo at the hands of her father) as a child. Still low contact and her influence on my husband continues to be a struggle. We have endured more problems than you can imagine due to my husband’s upbringing (or lack of). Thank you again stay strong everyone and yes, agree with the above comment, THEY ARE VERY DANGEROUS.

  10. bionicvalkyrie

    This has been so very helpful to me. Thank you.

  11. annon

    I never knew how to describe it, could not find the words, but know exactly what you mean. I can feel sorry for her, but that won’t help me.
    My NPD MIL is arriving to the region we live in and staying for an extended period of time (she lives overseas, or not anymore, I am not sure. She also told my husband she is coming back to town for christmas and I am not sure if I should be worried, or I am in denial of what she might be capable off.
    Last time, a verbal altercation turn into an attempt of physical assault on me that was stopped by my husband. She has created an elaborated lie about this episode, as she always does in the manner you describe above. This time I have not bother to learn it, but I know her extended family bought it.
    Obviously, after this I went no contact and she is not welcome at my house anymore. In her view, this is like a declaration of war and she is coming back for more. My plan is to simply not engage and keep my no contact policy in place, yet I live in a small town and chances are I will run into her. I am worried that keeping my stance would make her aggressive in ways I have yet to see. She has been harmful to people and animals before, but the way she tells these stories it was all by accident and she has not responsibility for any of that. Either way, the behavior has more to do with negligence than direct aggression, even if the negligence is somewhat intended and equally harmful to her and others.
    Not sure if or how much should I be concerned. This is the first time I go completely no contact and I don’t think she ever experienced someone setting real limits for her before. Anyone has any experience/advice that could be helpful?

    • Hi Anon, you ask for some advice so I will draw on my own experiences but you should follow your emotions, follow your gut when dealing with her as your situation is unique to you.

      You sound like you are dealing with the lies and story fabrication appropriately, do not believe or attempt to comprehend any of it, it is all lies crazy blah blah lies crazy blah. Don’t waste a precious second of your life on it.

      As for the extended family, who cares? You are not married to them they have their own lives, issues and opinions. You do not dance to their tune, be strong and rest assuredly within your own sense of right and wrong.

      As for the declaration of war, to be expected I’m afraid. Disordered people often get worse for a period of time when new boundaries are enforced with them. Think of it like a child throwing a tantrum because you took away a toy they were misusing. Just like a good parent you need to keep calm and maintain your stance. The tantrum will pass. This is normal behaviour in a disordered person who’s intentions have been thwarted. It won’t last forever.

      If she is telling stories of how she is harmful to people and animals then she is doing so to create an image of herself in others’ minds of a dominant, aggressive, not-to-be-messed-with person. This comes from a place of fear within her, the exact opposite of what she is describing. Narcissists have core of shame and fear which they hide even from themselves under all the disordered behaviour they enact. So this talk of how she hurts people and animals could be talk designed to intimidate people so she continues to get her own way.

      Narcissistic people can have rages where they get very angry and very angry people can lash out but these rages are spontaneous usually, a heat of the moment reaction to a comment from another. If you are not speaking to her then this should not occur. When she talks of hurting people and animals does she laugh? Is it amusing to her? Is she sorry for it? Is it a sort of boast? Narcissism can overlap with antisocial personality disorder aka psychopathy and one sign of that is a lack of empathy at others pain and a history of physically injuring or killing animals and people. However, if she has gone her whole life without being arrested for crimes involving animal cruelty or assault then I doubt she will start now. Antisocial personality disorder results in a high percentage of criminal convictions and is common amongst inmates in prisons.

      Unless she is directly threatening you ( in which case start recording evidence and go to the police) I suspect she is more likely to act out some character assassination of you in your shared social group. Please do be reassured that very often many people see a disordered person such as your MIL for what they are, she will not be liked, but people tolerate it as they are raised not to be rude. Few people will believe what she says and those that do are not people you should worry yourself about. Good luck.

  12. Eileen

    This exactly sums up my mother AND my mother in law. And, to some extent, because they are most like them, my sister and SIL. I, too, have come to the conclusion that they are absolutely deluded and not evil lying monsters. I feel sorry for them, too, but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping my distance from them. That they are so thoroughly manipulative and mindfucking is the reason I need to keep my kids from them. I certainly don’t want them to grow up as confused as I was and doubting their own perception about things. It was a nightmare to feel like I was crazy because of the constant denials, lies, and delusions and I’m only now learning to trust myself.

    Thank you for this site. It is very validating. xx

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