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Liar, Liar?

Every once and awhile I get a parent or two in my therapy room who are concerned about their child who tells lies. Of course my first question is how old is your child? Telling lies or stories can be a part of child development. *

But did you know that it doesn’t stop there?

Have you considered that we all tell stories or lies? Usually to ourselves.

Put-downs like “ I am lazy, stupid, clumsy” or rationalizations of why and how things happened. “ He did that because………..” and before we know it we have the whole story, rationale and conclusion. Who needs input when we have the whole scenario sketched out? If you ladies ever wonder why he doesn’t want “to talk” it could be there is no room for his story in your mind.

The truth is those are stories we tell ourselves. One of the burning questions of therapy is “ what are you telling yourself about that?”

On occasion I have a client who has no idea what I mean by that. They aren’t aware that they have concocted a narrative that makes whatever happened easier to live with.

“She dumped me because all she wants is money” instead of “ I am not sure what happened but I really liked her.” The first one is a fabrication but easier to live with than the wonderings. Being able to challenge the fact or fiction will bring insight and ideally new stories, better stories, truer stories.

If you aren’t familiar with Brené Brown,**get thee on the internet and google her. She is wise and funny and a model of acceptance.

She suggests that when we have a disagreement with our partner, child, friend, we approach it in the following way:

“This is the story I am telling myself about what you said.” It suggests openness, a story that can be clarified, and one that welcomes dialogue. There is no sureness in her statement since WE DON’T KNOW ANYWAY. It is also more likely to create understanding than the million questions that feel like an inquisition.

As a wise person once told me when I did not use this approach but instead peppered questions as if he were on the witness stand,” he inquired, “ Where are you leading me? “

OUCH - all my questions were not looking for answers; they were an attempt at drawing the conclusion I HAD ALREADY COME TO. This is not a dialogue but it is a great way to break communication, create distance and remain in your own pre conceived notions of what is. If the goal is solitude and self-satisfaction, it’s a sure fire way to get it.

So, the take away is:

We all tell stories.

Our memory of the event is just ours.

We can be wrong; be ready to admit it.

We can learn about ourselves by examining our stories.

* age-by-age guide to lying

** Brene Brown Netflix special “ The Call to Courage”