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How to Stop Compulsive Lying

How to Stop Compulsive Lying

You are in the middle of telling an elaborate story. You have the attention of the room, and everybody is listening intently. You are the centre of attention, and as you go deep into your story, you get more and more enthusiastic. You are in your element. There is only one small issue – everything you are telling is a complete lie. It’s not even half true. It’s not an exaggeration but a blatant lie. You don’t care. You are aware you are lying and that the sympathetic or impressed reactions you are getting from your peers is completely undeserved, but you do not mind at all. That is because you are a compulsive liar.

Liar Liar

There is a difference between being a standard ‘liar’ and an actual compulsive liar. All of us lie, to say that you don’t would be a lie in itself. An everyday liar would tell the odd white lie throughout the day, such as answering ‘fine’ when asked ‘how are you’, or ‘yes it looks great’ when asked ‘do you like my new haircut’. These white lies are actually good for society as they don’t hurt anyone and can help in making society a better and happier place. Compulsive liars however will tell extremely elaborate stories that do have the potential to hurt others. Like the person who tells everyone in their workplace that they have a terminal illness to get sympathy and benefits that they do not deserve. Compulsive liars tell very large lies that tend to go on for long periods of time (such as a pretend girlfriend), and will often tell lies to help cover for existing lies. When you are talking to a compulsive liar, you are more likely to get a lie than the truth.

Why lie?

Sometimes compulsive liars tell their extensive lies for personal gain, or for a reason. For example they might like a week off during the busy period so they pretend that they have a sick relative interstate so they get time off that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. Sometimes, they tell lies for the sake of telling lies – they seem to get some pleasure from telling an elaborate story. Like the man who makes up a story about a new girlfriend that does not exist. They will tell story after story – what they did that weekend, what her pretend friends are like, how the pretend relationship is going and what their pretend plans for the future are. There is no personal gain for lies like this, except for the pleasure gained in the lie. Most likely it is for attention seeking. They rarely lie to under-exaggerate something – so if something amazing has happened, they won’t lie to say it didn’t happen. They would do the opposite to make something appear more impressive that it really is. Whether it be positive (I won half a million dollars) or negative (I have to get a cancer burned off my leg). Either way they are getting attention – shock, sympathy, amazement, jealousy.

How to stop lying

Sometimes you might be so invested in a lie, that you feel that it is impossible to get out of it. Admitting the lie would have grave consequences – no one would respect you or believe you ever again, and you would be obligated to return all the wedding presents for your fake wedding that you received. But if you have decided that you are sick of lying and just want to be honest, then there are some steps that you will need to do. Telling the truth after years of lying might seem unattractive and unfulfilling, but in the long run you will be all the more happy for it. 

It is easier to tell the truth.

The first thing that you need to do is fully realize that it is easier to tell the truth. The reason is simple – it is the truth so nothing needs to be made up. You do not need to make sure that stories align or go to extreme efforts to fake proof to clarify a giant lie story – rather just tell the truth. Once you realize just how much easier and stress-free it is to tell the truth, even if it is less impressive, you will start seeing a real advantage in truth telling and will be less inclined to automatically lie when asked a question.

No-one wants to hear a lie.

As a compulsive liar you may actually find it almost painful to tell the truth – after all how boring is it to say that you only caught 3 fish on the weekend. Your friends would much rather believe that you caught 15 and got pulled into the river from a particularly large catch. But in reality your friends don’t care about how elaborate a story is. They just want to know the truth – which is why they asked. If they wanted to see or hear fiction, then they would watch a Hollywood movie. You also need to understand that they are not impressed by you … they are impressed by your story. And when they find out about the lie (and chances are they will), then they will never ask you anything again, or believe anything you say (even if it is the truth).

Find an emotional alternative to lying

If you are a compulsive liar, then there is a reason for your lying. Most compulsive liars are often overcompensating for something they feel they lack. You don’t lie for the sake of it, because as already established lying takes more effort than telling the truth. So have a good think about why you lie, and the feelings that you get when you lie. Is it for attention? To feel important? Do you feel it boost your self worth? Or to get sympathy? Do you lie to everyone, or only your immediate family or work colleagues? Once you work out why you lie, then you can start developing an alternative. The lie would create some sort of emotional relief that you need to get elsewhere – find activities to do that are worth telling the truth about.

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Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.

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