Compulsive liar and psychoanalysis: a real case
In this article, I will tell the story (1), the analysis and the results that the American psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz found with one of his patients. This patient was sent by his GP to be a compulsive pathological liar, to see if Grosz could offer him the therapy he needed to stop lying.
A Story of Lies: Compulsive Liar
The doctor sent Philip (2) to visit Dr S. Grosz after meeting his wife by chance and she, with tears in her eyes, asked him please if they could talk about the possible options. treat her husband’s lung cancer. As the doctor explained, in fact Philip was in perfect healthBut apparently he had made up this lie to tell his wife.
In addition to this fact, during the first session, Philip confessed other of his countless lies to Grosz herself:
- He had told his father-in-law, who was a sports journalist, that on one occasion he had been selected as a replacement for the English archery team.
- During a school fundraising evening, he told his daughter’s music teacher that he himself was the son of a famous composer, Who was also gay and single.
- He also explained that the first lie he remembered was the one he told a classmate, aged 11 or 12, telling him that he had been recruited by MI5 to be trained as an agent.
Too risky lies?
If there is one thing that the psychoanalyst quickly understood, it was his patient he didn’t seem to care that his “victims” knew he was lying. In fact, as Grosz aptly explains, when asked if he cared if he thought he was a liar:
And he added that people he lied to rarely challenged him. In fact, his wife simply accepted her husband’s miraculous recovery; or in the case of her stepfather, who simply kept silent.
On the other hand, when asked how his lies affect his work environment, he argued that in him, “Everybody lies“(He is a television producer).
Lying to the therapist
From the beginning, Grosz was well aware of the possibility that his patient was also lying to him, And this happened a month after starting treatment. He stopped paying.
It took five months to pay and by the time he paid the fees, he told lies of all kinds, Since he lost his checkbook, until he donated his money to the Freud House Museum.
The moment he finally paid, meant on the one hand, one relief and the other a restlessness. At that moment, he realized that he had been telling her more and more lies to avoid paying, but more importantly, he began to understand why he was lying.
Why are you lying pathologically?
Analyzing the situation he had experienced, he realized that Philip was lying to him more and more. he was shrinking, showing himself more and more reserved.
It was then that he fell into the possibility of Philip taking advantage of this social convention that we keep silent when someone is lying to us. But that wouldn’t explain why you need to have this control over the situation and cause such silences.
This point was the central focus of therapy over the next year.
The root of the problem
How could it be otherwise, they talked about his childhood and his family. Apparently, there was no remarkable data that seemed to explain the reason for his pathology. Until the day where, Philip recounted a seemingly insignificant event, which turned out to be transcendental.
From the age of three, he shared a room with his twin brothers. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night because of the scandal that had arisen when customers left a pub outside his house. When this happened, he sometimes wanted to urinate but stayed still in his bed. That’s why when I was little, I wet the bed, and so that no one notices, she wrapped her soaked pajamas in her sheets.
The next night, as he was about to sleep again, he found himself again with clean sheets and pajamas. Obviously he knew it was his mother, but she didn’t tell him what had happened to anyone, and in fact, she didn’t discuss it with Philip either.
As Philip rightly said during the session:
“I think my mom thought I was going to get over it. And I did, but when she died.
It should be added that given the family atmosphere, Philip never had the chance to talk to his mother since she was always busy with the twins (who were younger than Philip), so in the words of Grosz herself referring to her patient:
“I couldn’t remember ever talking to her alone; one of his siblings or his father was still there. Wetting her bed and her silence gradually turned into a sort of private conversation, something only they shared.
But that conversation disappeared when Philip’s mother passed away suddenly. Which led Philip to reproduce this kind of communication with other people. When Philip tells a lie to his listener, have confidence that he will not say anything and will become an accomplice in his secret world.
From all this it follows that Philip’s lies were not a personal attack on his interlocutors, but a way to maintain this closeness he had known with his mother, Which was also the only close communication he had with her.
In short, a compulsive liar is for experiential reasons.
1 This case is taken from the book “The woman who did not want to love and other stories on the unconscious” p. 57-6, ISBN: 978-84-9992-361-1; original title “La vie examined”.
Throughout his book, Stephen Grosz uses other names to refer to his patients, as well as other personal data to protect their confidentiality.