A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: When you lie about things from your past to your psychotherapist.                    


I have gotten myself into a huge mess. About 10 years ago, I was seeing a psychotherapist for depression. When we both realized it was coming to the time for me to stop psychotherapy, I began to panic—I realized I was in love with him and began making up incredible stories of abuse from my past. I did some reading and found that psychotherapy for people with multiple personalities can last years, so I began making up personalities. I eventually stopped seeing this psychotherapist when I could no longer continue the incredible energy it took to maintain these false characters. I recently began seeing a psychotherapist again when one of my children started having some serious problems. I had every intention of being honest and seriously dealing with my real problems, but once again I have begun this crazy story-telling and am not at all facing the real pain in my life. I would appreciate some honest feedback—no matter how painful it might be. I realize I’m a jerk and am manipulating these psychotherapists.

Well, you do give me a good clue about the source of the problem. Your eagerness to accept painful feedback from me suggests that the lies you have told in psychotherapy are really (i.e., unconsciously) a desire to be found out and punished. It may sound odd, but this means that you tell the lies hoping that you will be caught in them. And woe to the psychotherapist who fails to be smarter than you.

So why should this all come about? I have no way to know for certain, but I can guess that you may have had parents who were somehow emotionally rejecting and cruel, perhaps even one of them abusive or alcoholic. Psychologically, this would lead to two reactions on your part.

First, in your inability to understand just why your parents were so mean, you came to believe that something must really be wrong with you and that you really did deserve such abuse. Thus you cultivated a secret shame—and guilt—yearning to be punished for being defective. Second, you became so terrified of your anger at your parents for their mistreatment of you that you secretly desired to be punished for your anger. Call it a sort of double masochistic whammy.

The only way this all conflict about love and punishment comes to light is when you get into psychotherapy with someone you “love” because he seems to be able to give the love you didn’t get from your parents.

I suspect also that if you look real close you can find several examples of times when that first psychotherapist missed the point about your deep pain and failed to notice some of the secrets you were keeping, thus provoking both disappointment and anger within you. In essence, this would be a psychological recreation of the disappointment and anger that you felt as a child because your parents failed to perceive your deep emotional pain. And so the lies started, as you “upped the ante,” as a sort of plea that your real pain would be discovered.

What, then, can you do about all this? The only recourse is to get into psychotherapy again. But this time, now that you have let the secret out of the bag with me, you will have to begin the treatment by admitting right up front that you tend to lie in psychotherapy for reasons unknown to you and that you want treatment to remedy your need to tell lies. If your psychotherapist is competent, and smarter than you, you might actually get some real help.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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San Francisco


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