What Do You Do When a Powerful Person is an Insecure Liar?

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“I am the most important person, not you, and I am always right” is the mantra of the compulsive liar.  Of course, he is not the most important person (lie number one) and he is not always right (lie number two).  Yet, you can be drawn to his seemingly self-confidence and power.  Then, as long as you agree with him (even if what you are agreeing with is a lie), you will be part of his inner-circle. 

But, how do you deal with a compulsive liar if you don’t agree with him?  And why does he impulsively and compulsively lie?

Psychologists have described one type of person who lies so as to boost his ego.  He needs constant admiration from others and will even lie to get it.  If he is confronted with the lie instead of being admired, his worst fear of being criticized and rejected will appear, causing him to attack or try to silence the messenger.  He can easily attack without fearing the consequences because he lacks empathy and compassion for others.  His view is the right view and all other views are false views.  After all, for him it is just a comparison of views, not facts.

The compulsive liar has a grandiose sense of self-worth which is shown by boasting and being contemptuous towards “lesser beings”. Others are seen as being able to be conned by lies that will lead to his personal profit.  Because he does not feel a human connection with most people, he has no compunction about crushing them in order to achieve his goals. His impulsivity is shown in his speech and sexual promiscuity.  Yes, this could get him into trouble but he then deflects and denies responsibility.  Because he is such a great showman, he can fool many people many times.

The brain of the individual who impulsively and compulsively tells lies may be different from others’ brains.  Psychologists Yaling Yang and Adrian Raine have found that pathological liars have a significant increase in white matter and a decrease in the grey/white ratio in the prefrontal cortex compared to normal controls.1 The relative reduction in grey matter is linked with disinhibition, resulting in impulsivity and compulsivity.  The increase in white matter provides the capacity to size up a social situation enough to construct a really good lie.

So, if there are actually neurobiological differences in the brains of pathological liars, how can you deal with them?  You can’t change them and you can’t confront them.  The best you can do is contain them.  Reduce their sphere of influence so that their lies affect as few people as possible.  If you work with a self-aggrandizing liar, divide up parts of a project so you can be totally responsible for one part.  If you live with this person, stop trying to please him/her.  Look to other people and to yourself to satisfy your needs instead of depending on him/her.  If this person is one of the most powerful in the world, join with others to create a group that is more powerful than he is.

  1. Yang, Y., Raine, A., Lencz, T., Bihrle, S., Lacasse, L & Colletti, P. (2005). Prefrontal white matter in pathological liars. British Journal of Psychiatry. 187,320-325.

Raine, A., Lencz, T. et. al. (2000). Reduced prefrontal gray matter volume and reduced autonomic activity in antisocial personality disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57,119-127.

What’s Wrong with Satisfying Each Other’s Needs?

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A recent relationship advice book focuses on his needs and her needs.  The author “discovered” these top needs from interviewing his patients and others.  Of course, this is not science—it is just the opinions of a group of people. 

Men stated their top needs as:

  1. Sexual Fulfillment 
    2. Recreational Companionship 
    3. An Attractive Spouse 
    4. Domestic Support 
    5. Admiration

Women stated their top needs as:

  1. Affection 
    2. Conversation 
    3. Honesty and Openness 
    4. Financial Commitment 
    5. Family Commitment

Yes, we have these needs and often look to our partner to satisfy them.   A relationship that satisfies these needs feels so comfortable.

But what happens when your partner stops satisfying your needs? Maybe your partner lost his/her job and is having trouble finding another one.  Maybe you both are so busy satisfying the domestic support and financial commitment needs that there is little time and energy to address some of the other needs.

Is the solution to make sure there is a change?  A change where your partner shapes up and satisfies most of your needs?  Or a change where you become so disillusioned that you withdraw into your own world (or maybe into a relationship with someone else)? 

Erich Fromm, in his theory of love, stated, “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.”1 Children are dependent on others for their needs to be fulfilled by others because they cannot fulfill many of those needs themselves.  So parental love helps a child grow through fulfilling many of the child’s needs. 

Erich Fromm went on to state that, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.’”2 Adult relationships that are built on fulfilling each other’s needs create dependencies.  You depend on your partner to fulfill your needs rather than developing into a person that can fulfill some of his/her own needs. 

When you fulfill some of your own needs you have a mature loving relationship that is interdependent, not dependent.  For example, you can have some recreational companionship with your partner but you can also have some of it with others and even some of your recreation by yourself.  You could also have conversations with others besides your partner so that your dependence on your partner to fulfill that need is not an everyday occurrence. 

Of course you are not going to ignore your partner’s needs nor is your partner going to ignore your needs.  You just will not feel resentful when your partner demands they be met or when your partner fails to meet your needs.  You will, instead, develop a relationship based on looking inside yourself and not always just outside yourself.

Needs also change throughout one’s life.  The attractive partner need becomes less as the relationship develops into a deeper connection of minds and hearts.  The family commitment need becomes less as the children leave home (unless, of course, an aging parent moves in). 

Yes, do connect through understanding and responding to each other’s needs but make sure you are not desperately dependent on each other for need fulfillment. Give the love you have within rather than waiting to get your needs fulfilled through love.

  1. Fromm, Erich (1962). The art of loving. New York: Harper & Row, p. 26.
  2. Ibid., p. 41.