One of the most searched-upon subjects in this blog (and talked about in our ATSTP Google Group) is the subject of lying by someone with BPD. The nons are confused by untruthfulness on the part of someone with BPD and wonder how the person with BPD can have any credibility or trustworthiness when, clearly, they continue to tell bold-faced lies. In my response to a recent poster within the ATSTP group, I recently made a new revelation about truthfulness and lying by someone with BPD.
I have long said that someone will lie when telling to truth would cause more emotional suffering than lying would. However, that statement seems to indicate that there is a level of calculation when the lies arise. It infers that someone, when actually telling the lie, is deciding beforehand whether to tell the truth or not. For people with BPD, feelings = facts. It is not the events that matter to them, but how they feel about these events that truly matter.
So, two things have come to mind for me in this regard. One is that the experience of “reality” is filtered through those feelings and the person with BPD will reflect how they feel about them. If they have strong feelings about what has happened, they will actually experience things in a different manner than those of us who are rational in the face of the same events. It can hardly be called a lie in some ways because it is how they experienced reality.
I listened to an audio CD on Buddhism a while back and there was a statement made that went like this: An artist doesn’t paint a picture and then put his “style” into the painting. He paints the picture through the lens of his style. That is how he or she sees the world. The same seems to be true for people with BPD and their emotions (rather than style).
The second thing that came to mind is the actual telling of the lie to a particular person. If someone with BPD feels that, by telling the truth, his or her feelings will be invalidated and judged by the other person, they will lie either by admission or by omission. If they don’t feel safe sharing the “truth” (and to them the truth is their feelings, not the events/behaviors themselves), they will not trust the other person with their feelings.
In order to get a more truthful report from a person with BPD, one has to learn to listen to the feelings and not judge those feelings – which is extremely invalidating to the person with BPD and at the core of their “personhood” (since their feelings are immediate and strong and block out other more “objective” views of the situation). If you can listen to the feelings and validate those (for feelings are not right or wrong, they just ARE), I suspect you will get much more truth out of a person with BPD. But the truth you will receive is the truth for them, which is, of course, their feelings about an event. Still, once you start actually hearing and validating these, the level of trust accorded to you by the person with BPD will go up measurably.