One of those lies you just don’t forget

20 Apr 2022

One of those lies you just don’t forget

What was your parents’ relationship with the truth like? I ask because my trip to Venice – sadly now behind me – brought up a few memories about my own parents’- complicated – relationship with the truth.

Venice, mosquitos and me

My association with Venice goes back a very long way – right back to the time when I was 8 years old.  We stayed in a hotel, on the Lido that had seen better days. There were bats that flew around the place at night, and mosquito nets that didn’t seem to do much good. Certainly, they didn’t do me much good.

By the time we left, I could count over 40 bites on my arms alone. As far as I can remember, they all itched like crazy. That made me a very unhappy, uncomfortable, little girl.

On our most recent pre-Easter visit, I am happy to report that my lovely partner stayed elsewhere and encountered no bats. However, outrage of outrages, despite it being only April, the mosquitos attacked me again. Not, en masse. My bite numbers were confined to single figures. But they still itched.

That itching reminded me of how my mother dealt with my distress.

The plane magic that wasn’t

“Once we get on the plane to fly home” she said to me in that voice that brooked no dissent, “all those bites will stop itching and just disappear.”

I liked the sound of that. That sounded like my kind of magic.

I sat on that plane gazing at my little mottled arms, waiting to catch the precise moment when the itching would stop and all my bites would disappear.  The thrill of that happening would make up for the misery those pesky mosquitos had put me through.

Except that it didn’t happen, of course.

When we landed, I pointed that out to my mother.  She gave me some kind of non-committal answer like, “Well there you go.”

She had lied to me – knowingly – as the simplest way of dealing with my distress. She didn’t want to have to focus on her thoroughly miserable child.  Her prediction bought her a bit of space.  When it was shown to be false, she just shut me down again.

That little episode could have been an invaluable illustration of how Narcissists lie – except that I was way too young to make sense of it.

Why Narcissists lie

Narcissists tell you whatever lie they can come up with to shut you down, at a given moment. It doesn’t have to be a good one. It doesn’t matter that you will soon realise that they have lied. Having silenced your distress once, they can just keep doing it. They can keep providing you with one feeble lie after another.  They know they can grind you down that way.

Narcissists understand the power of lies.  They understand the power of disregarding another person’s reality. They understand, in other words, the power of barefaced gaslighting.

The butt ugly artefact

On another occasion in Venice (same trip) I witnessed my father haggling with an artisan over the price of a one-off piece. Papa kept saying to the artisan

“I can get the same thing at a shop around the corner for less.” (He couldn’t.  The piece was butt ugly and, thankfully, a one-off. My father stuck around and haggled abusively until he got a satisfactory reduction.)

Both my father and the artisan must have known that my father was lying. But my father’s sheer  persistence apparently paid off – inasmuch as he bought the horrible object at well below the artisan’s starting price.

Putting the artisan through a bruising negotiation gave my father considerable satisfaction. It wasn’t something he needed to do.  Even as a scrawny, little, mosquito-ravaged 8 year old, I experienced something degrading about the whole process. I could never quite forget that episode either – not least because Mother often flaunted the butt ugly trophy.

The big picture

Still, at the time, I couldn’t see the big picture.

Narcissists lie because the lies that they tell hold a lot of pay-offs for them.

They can lie so easily because they just don’t share your values.

As a child, I did not realise that my parents’ relationship with the truth was “complicated”, to say the least. They both stated publicly and often that they hated liars. My father further vowed that he “had never told a lie in his life”.

Unsurprisingly, as a literal, attentive child, I learned from them that truthfulness was a virtue to be prized above all others.

You can’t blame a kid for having only a patchy understanding of adult realities. My parents did set a lot of store by honesty in the people around them – especially their own children. They set so much store by it because honesty made reading and manipulating other people child’s play for them.

However, they did not feel in any way compelled to observe the rules that they expected of other people.

“I never said that”

As a very small child, I did once – publicly – challenge my mother on one of her more blatant lies.

At the time, I had no idea that she was lying. Rather, since I knew how much she valued the truth, I pointed out to her that she must have made an error in what she said.  I clearly remembered her stating the exact opposite, quite passionately. I was the kid who listened carefully to my mother’s script, after all.

Mother was not impressed.

She dismissed my words with a crisp “I never said that” and a look that all but incinerated me.

Unwittingly, I had committed a crime against her public image.

None of these experiences made sense to my young mind.

Still, the mosquito bite episode was the only one that provided me with incontrovertible proof that my parents had no qualms about telling absurd, pointless lies that would surely come out, in short order.

That just didn’t really matter to them.

All that did matter was imposing the “truth” that served their purpose at the time. Without any regard for the feelings of other people involved.

That was the mosquito bite lesson that lay in wait for me through so many years.  Narcissists don’t respect your feelings or intelligence. Often, they don’t even pretend to do so. Provided what they say and do smooths away the next inconvenience, that is good enough.  They can keep putting out one preposterous lie after another until you give up.

Ask yourself the right question

We empaths tend to ask ourselves why they do that – because we wouldn’t.

Narcissists lie with impunity because they can. They lie because idiotic lies at someone else’s expense make them feel smarter than everyone else. They lie because they have complete disregard for your feelings.

The real question that you need to ask yourself when someone offers you that kind of shameless lie is not “Do they really believe this?” or “why are they even saying this?” but “Is this someone that I can be bothered to give the time and trouble of listening to?”

If they don’t respect you and themselves enough to tell the truth, you cannot afford to engage emotionally with them.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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