Answered Jan 16, 2019
I’ve known some severe liars. People who were so bad that literally nothing that they said, about any subject, could be trusted.
- They want something from you (money, sex, drug-enabling, etc), and think that lying will manipulate you into complying. It may sound logical, but they often use obvious lies, without rational anticipation of the lie’s chances of working.
- They want to avoid consequences for their bad behaviour, which was also pathological. Again, some of these lies are obvious.
- Lying as a shortcut to social status. This can include the common boasting about money, accomplishments, etc. It can also include boasting about the cool things that they are “going to” do in the near future. They want that status and admiration immediately, without having to take the time and energy to do the work involved. I once had a neighbour who loudly boasted about how she was “going to” quit smoking and start up a healthy lifestyle, expecting immediate admiration. She almost forgot that she had a cigarette in her hand at the time. And no, she never quit or, exercised, or ate healthily.
- A related point is trying to seem like a more interesting person. Out of fear that honesty will result in being perceived as a boring loser.
- A related status issue is lying to a social clique or other group to push someone else down the hierarchy, as a way of reducing competition.
- Constant fantasising. And saying things (sometimes quite casually) as if the fantasy were reality. Including things that are physically impossible.
- Fear of the truth, with desperate attempts to avoid facing it. They lie partly in order to convince and comfort themselves.
- Lying out of embarrassment over revealing what they really think. Such as holding bigoted attitudes, but refusing to admit it. Or having competition-based envy and hostility, but claiming that the hostility is due to the target being dysfunctional or bad.
- Making up “rules” for how everyone else “has to” behave. Including in friendships, sexual relationships, workplaces, etc, etc. They don’t claim that it is their personal rules. They claim that, there are simply universal “rules” of all human interactions, which are coincidentally whatever they think serves them, practically or emotionally.
- Minimisation. Claiming that their bad behaviour wasn’t really so bad, so you don’t have a position to object, or to impose consequences. Also, minimisation of the importance of other lies. Such as, “That was a white lie, so you don’t have any right to stop trusting me over it”.
- Repetition. If they keep repeating it over and over, you will get tired of the conflict that you allegedly cause by refusing to believe them. And will be worn down into actually believing them.
- Failure to anticipate any limits to your willingness to trust them and to continue interacting with them. No matter how many times you have caught them lying, they assume that you will stick around, and will desperately try to see them as trustworthy. They think that your desire to trust them is just as infinite as their inclination to lie. Including when they tell the same lie, yet again.
- A related point is, “This time it’s different”. I once had someone repeat a previous lie, admitting that it had been a lie before, while insisting, “That was then, and this is a different time. So you have to trust that I am telling the truth this time, and don’t have the right to judge me for the previous time”.
- A related mechanism is trying new angles. They will tell a lie, and you refuse to believe them. Then, they will immediately tell a different lie, which contradicts the first lie. They think that they can can just try a series of different lies, until they find the one that you are willing to believe.
- Another related point is using your empathy or your desire to “help”them with their bad life situations (which are the result of their own bad behaviour). They assume that your empathy is endless, no matter how much they abuse it (and you). They try to use your empathy to keep you involved, while convincing you to buy into their definition of “help”, which is really enabling of their bad behaviour.
- They are confident that you cannot prove that they are lying. Including when they lie about the content of previous conversations between the two of you. Or even things they said earlier in the same conversation.
- They want to lash out. They will come up with anything to say that they expect will hurt you emotionally/psychologically. They may even admit this, to try to avoid consequences (e.g. you abandoning them).
- Stimulant drugs. People using cocaine or amphetamine are notorious for compulsive lying. If they have been using for some time, they will compulsively lie even when they aren’t under the influence at the moment. Even other addicts (e.g. to sedating drugs) view these people as bad news.
- Dominance games. If they lie, and you believe them, they have dominated you.
- Desperation to pull you down into their loser mentality. I once had an acquaintance who insisted that, no employer will ever pay any employee more than minimum wage, so it is stupid to put forth any extra effort or skills. They claim they are trying to “help” you to avoid wasting effort, when they are really motivated by frightened envy/competition.
- A related point is trying to minimise anything good in your life. They will lie to avoid the feeling that you may be winning some kind of competition. Including when you have zero interest in competing.
- Covering up their ignorance. They don’t want to admit that they don’t know something, so they invent some convenient-sounding pseudo-information about it. This includes insisting that they know better than you (even if you have substantial relevant knowledge and experience).
- Just world hypothesis. They are afraid of vulnerability, so they insist that, bad things only happen to those who deserve it. And look for ways to apply that to a given situation where someone else experiences adversity or victimisation.
What all of this comes down to is desperation for control. And desperate people do dysfunctional and often blatantly unworkable things.
Facing how things really are is like surrendering. Lying that things are some other way, is an attempt to control the situation.
Facing the fact that you won’t/don’t believe them is like surrendering to you. Lying with you believing them, means controlling you, even if there is nothing practical to be gained.