Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The place of “Cognitive Dissonance” in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

by Christine Louis de Canonville
(Miss de Canonville's great website has been linked at the bottom for a long time)

Understanding Cognitive Dissonance in relation to narcissistic abuse:

Stockholm syndrome involves the victim paradoxically forming a positive relationship with their oppressor; this is called “Trauma Bonding”. When victims of narcissistic are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, they are often seen by outsiders as somehow having participated in some bizarre way that seems to support their abuse. However, to understand how the trauma bonding occurs, it is especially relevant to understand what is involved in the decision-making and problem-solving process of the victim. This theory is known as Cognitive Dissonance.

If therapists are to understand the behaviour of clients who have been victims of narcissistic abuse, then it is crucial for them to appreciate why the victim combines the two unhealthy conditions of Stockholm Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance as part of their survival strategy. When these two strategies are in place, the victim firmly believes that their relationship is not only acceptable, but also vital for their survival. They become so enmeshed in the relationship with the abuser, that they feel that their world (mental and emotional) would fall apart if the relationship ended. This explains why they fear those people who attempt to rescue them from their abuser, and how this creates the victim to develop cognitive dissonance and become protective of their abuser.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that results from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs (Rational Wiki). Cognitive Dissonance is a communication theory that was published by Leon Festinger 1957, a theory that changed the way in which social psychology was to look at human decision-making and behaviour. The concept of cognitive dissonance is almost self explanatory by its title: ‘Cognitive’ is to do with thinking (or the mind); while ‘dissonance’ is concerned with inconsistencies or conflicts. Simply speaking, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort a person experiences whenever they are holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously (i.e. Shall I wear the red or the blue dress?). Naturally, people do not like the discomfort of conflicting thoughts; this theory proposes that when this happens, people have a motivational drive within them that allows them to rationalize and change their attitudes, beliefs, values and actions, anything that allows them to reduce or dissolve the dissonance they are experiencing (i.e Which makes my bum look smallest?) . When it comes to victims of abuse, there are several behaviours that a victim may use for reducing their cognitive dissonance. For a start they may try to ignore or eliminate it, or they may try to alter its importance, they may even create new cognitions, but most importantly they will try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

What part does Cognitive Dissonance play with victims of narcissistic abuse?

Victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos. The narcissist creates a perverse form of relationship wherein the victim has no idea of what will happen next (alternating between acts of kindness or aggressive raging). This prolonged torturous situation is likely to trigger old negative scripts of the victim’s childhood internal object relations (attachment, separation and individuation). To survive the internal conflict, the victim will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their most primitive anxieties of persecution and annihilation. In order to survive, the victim has to find ways of reducing their cognitive dissonance, the strategies they employ may include; justifying things by lying to themselves if need be, regress into infantile patterns, and bond with their narcissistic captor. Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious, so the victim is unaware of using them in the moment; all they are intent on is surviving the madness they find themselves in.

As you can imagine, these states of mind throw the victim into any number of inner conflicts where defense mechanisms are called for, cognitive dissonance being one. 

For example, a woman who is abused by her narcissistic spouse will hate the conditions she is living in. However with the real fear of a violent reprisal from her captor if she tried to leave, she will more likely choose to stay put. The cognitive dissonance shows itself through rationalization: On the one hand: she abhors her unhealthy relationship and all the abuse that goes with it; while on the other hand, she tells herself that he only fights with her because he loves and cares for her. This inner dialogue reduced her anxiety, allowing her to bond (Stockholm Syndrome) with her abuser, to the point that she will even protect him from the outside world if people attempt to rescue her or encourage her to leave. The result is that a massive draining conflict ensues between the person’s emotional self and their rational reasoning self. Their “cognitive dissonance” is a sign of the disharmony the victim is experiencing as a result of two conflicting ideas going on at the same time; i.e. the victim knows that they should get out of the abusive situation, but they also know that to do so will put them (and possibly their children) in great danger. While experiencing cognitive dissonance they may adopt a pattern of denial, diversion and defensiveness to control their discomfort. In the cognitive dissonance theory, the decision that decides which path the victim will take will be likely to be the path that causes the least emotional stress. In order to reduce the dissonance, the victim will choose the path of least resistance, and their motivational drive will support their beliefs and justify any decision that helps them stay safe. As you can imagine, the cognitive dissonance can lead to irrational decision making as the person struggles to reconcile these two conflicting beliefs. Researchers suggest that it is actually the cognitive dissonance that causes the victims to choose to stay put with their abuser. Furthermore, in order to support their seemingly irrational decisions to stay put in the abusive relationship, the victim makes heavy investments that almost cements them into the bad relationship forever.

There are six types of investment the victim may get embroiled in that helps to reduce their cognitive dissonance:-

Emotional Investment: Unable to get out of the relationship due to the fear of what will happen to them, the victim decides that they should stay, and see it through to the bitter end. The victim convinces themselves that “things are not that bad”, especially when the narcissistic abuser shows them acts of kindness. Their trauma bonding is interpreted as love. They use that love to feel compassion for their narcissistic abuser; they may even make excuses that their abuser suffered so much hurt and pain in their own childhood, that they cannot help the way they are. They convince themselves that by loving their abuser as much as possible they will heal their wounds, and then everything will be alright. They continue in this way, investing so much emotion in the relationship, (i.e. They shed so many tears, blaming themselves for upsetting their abuser, becoming responsible for their abusers feelings and behaviour. They worry for their abuser in case they harm someone and end up in jai. They even end up blaming themselves when there is another eruption (“I caused the upset, I should have known better”). They even go so far as to convince themselves that their abuser is the victim of society, and therefore must be protected from everybody.

Social Investment: The biggest social investment the victim makes is to the person nearest to them, their narcissistic abuser. The narcissist’s superiority will demand that they are the most important one in the relationship, and the victim (in time) will comply with that arrangement. It does not help that society in general has a matter-of fact attitude toward victims, they do not understand why a victim would stay in such an abusive relationship, let alone protect the abuser. This response can create a further helplessness within the victim, which leaves them feeling isolated and alienated. With a sense of damage to their pride, and deep feelings of shame, the victim begins to avoid further social embarrassment and uncomfortable situations, alienating themselves further with their abuser. Isolated, dependent and dis-spirited, the way is paved for more acceptance of the abuser, and the victim stays in the relationship. They become caught in a cycle with their abuser that involves a sequence of violent episodes, followed by an absence of battering, once again tension building, and finally tension escalating into another violent episode where they get hurt. Around and around it goes, and helplessly the victim looses all hope, so they settle for investing their loyalty there.

Family Investments: For a start, a narcissist is preoccupied in self investment, therefore they expect everybody to pamper to their false self (sadly their true self is in a state of atrophy). If the narcissist is a spouse, then the partner is going to have to invest heavily in their abuser until they are emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. The narcissist requires perfect mirroring and stroking continuously, when they don’t get it, they withdraw (this withdrawal is likely to lead to danger for the victim). Step by step the supposed closeness is disappearing, and the victim experiences this as a great loss (and fear), seeing this, the narcissist feels a sense of power and control. In their withdrawal state, the narcissist is going to loose their sense of specialness, power and omnipotence, this makes them very susceptible to narcissistic injury. When there is narcissistic injury, the terror monster is released, and all of the family is likely to encounter their rage. All of this is going to evoke anxiety on the victimized partner, not just around their own safety, but also for the safety of the children. The narcissist suffers from a chronic evasive pattern that does not change. Just as the narcissist is demanding of its spouse, as a parent they are also very demanding of their children, (remember that everything is about them). They see the children as extensions of themselves, representing them in every aspect. For that reason they expect their children to be high achievers, the very best in every thing that they do. However, the child is faced with a dilemma; If the child comes second best in any task, they will be perceived as being “the first looser” by their narcissistic parent. Silver medals are not seen as a reason to celebrate, they are are more likely to be perceived as a disgrace (looser). If they came first, they risk triggering the narcissist’s jealousy and envy; for the narcissist, envy always involves a comparison – they envy that which they lack. When the child shines, its success is always somehow due to the narcissist itself, but when the child fails, the narcissist takes the failure personally (narcissistic wound), and they will punish the child, whether it be by word or deed. Living with a narcissistic parent, so often the child finds it hard to get their own needs meet, which can lead to serious emotional problems for them. Because the narcissist parent is like a child their own self, there will be power struggles for attention between the child and the parent. All these dynamics are going to put strain on the partner of the narcissist, and they are likely to be the butt of all the narcissist frustration and anger, which will manifest itself as rage. Investing everything they have in their narcissistic partner is the only way the victim finds to keep the family going.

Financial Investment: Narcissist typically seeks to control the family finances, money is a love substitute for them. No matter who earn the money in their family, it is they who are entitled to control how the monies get spent. Often the victim finds themselves being put on an allowance to run the house, and the abuser closely monitors how it is spent. If there is a shortage of money, the narcissist will be stingy when it comes to members of their family spending, yet they will spend what it takes to get what they want. Where possible, the narcissist creates a complex financial situation where everybody is dependent on them, this keeps them in control. Without financial means and usually alienated, many victims are unaware of support resources they may be entitled to, they are trapped by the situation, finding themselves waiting and hoping for a better financial situation to develop so that they can make their exit and detachment easier. In the meantime they do what they can to keep their abuser happy.

Lifestyle Investment: When the narcissist is successful, they will use a lifestyle as an investment. Because they need to display their “specialness” to the world, they will want to display all of their wealth trophies (Narcissistic Supply): the big house, car, private school, business etc. All these things contribute to getting them the praise and adulation they feel they deserve. For the victim, sharing in this financial security, they may fear loosing their current lifestyle for themselves or their children. So they stay because of their fear of the poverty trap that awaits them if they manage to leave.

Intimacy Investment: Narcissism is a personality trait associated with an inflated, grandiose self-concept and a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships. The narcissist perceives themselves as being unique and uncommon. Being intimate requires that two people operate commonly with openness and truth (True Self) so that they relate as “equals”. The narcissist operates from a False Self, and becoming equal with anybody would only negate their notion of uniqueness, so they avoid that entirely. Unknown to them, narcissists are still held ransom to their unresolved conflicts with their primary objects (parents). Like the child, they are still harboring the deep wounds of abandonment they experienced back then. Afraid of their own negative emotions, unconsciously, they promise themselves that they will never put themselves in that position again, and they avoid further narcissistic injury by holding everybody at bay, this includes their partner and children. Unfortunately, they too, like the rest of us, are susceptible to loneliness, which is why they are always on the look out for “narcissistic supply” for attention. When they have a partner, they separate the sexual from the emotional and treat their partner as a sex object, and the typical cycle of frustration-aggression is set in motion. Unfortunately, in love with their own reflection, they are incapable of loving anybody else. Where the partner thought she had married the nice Dr. Jekyll, she now finds herself facing the raging maniac that is Mr. Hyde. In such an unhealthy relationship, she will experience the destruction of her emotional and sexual self-esteem. He is not a good father, rather than love his children he abhors them (they take the mother’s attention away from him), so they are confined to the role of being another narcissistic supply source. Furthermore, they use a type blackmail of intimacy against their partner (threatening to tell intimate detains about them that would humiliate and destroy their character). The partner finds themselves in a hopeless situation, broken, the only way out is for them to stay. This serves to send the message to the narcissist that they are truly unique and superior.

One would wonder how the victim tolerates living with an abuser who is so intolerant and hostile? For healthy relationships, tolerating intolerance is neither acceptable nor possible, but for the victim of narcissistic abuse it is vital for survival. Finding themselves in such an intolerable situation, the victim must calm the cognitive dissonance that rocks their self-esteem and self worth. The Dissonance Theory allows the victim to make their choice (even if it means lying to themselves), and gives them a way to justify that they can be happy about not making the opposite choice that would surely put them in danger. Once the choice is made and the cognitive dissonance calmed, the victim has all sorts of tools (unconscious defense mechanism) at their disposal to bolster their decision to stay in the relationship (i.e. Stockholm Syndrome, Infantilism, Trauma Bonding).


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Monday, October 30, 2017

Abusive Relationships & Toxic Guilt

by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W

I believe that most of us, especially those of us who have mental health disorders, feel guilt in situations where we have no business whatsoever feeling guilt.

It is easy to just look at our behavior, the situation and ourselves and say "I'm guilty! I am ashamed." Now let's back up a bit here.

When I say look at ourselves, it might benefit most of us to look a little deeper. We are complex, complicated creatures and our motivation for doing or not doing something is not just based on our personality, our will, etc.

What do I mean? Let me give you an example of something that may help you see this picture more clearly.

I have been seeing a man who is extremely emotionally and verbally abusive. Now of course I was not aware of his abuse issues at first but I will admit that I saw red flags right from the start.

Mind you, I have trained staff in domestic violence, etc.

The situation I recently faced was a history of ten months seeing this guy, addicted to him, and no matter how much I complained to him about his behavior, I kept going back. I would continue to go back into a little denial that really he is not abusive and that one day we will have a wonderful relationship. I had a very difficult time facing reality because like any addiction, I would occasionally get what I call "adrenalin shots." These "shots" kept me hooked in a situation that I could not get out of. I could not get out of this relationship.

I did notice as I worked harder to get out, he trumped up his abuse. Finally the emotional abuse became so bad that I just could no longer take the abuse he threw at me.

Again I wrote him an email kindly asking him to end this thing between us as it was killing me and that I was having a difficult time getting out. Now imagine an abuser and their personality and their agenda. Would he kindly assist me in this? Of course not.

Of course I knew it was my responsibility to get out I noticed that every time I tried to get out I felt sick. I prayed and prayed to God and asked Him to assist me, started journaling, which did help by the way, but I couldn't get out and if I got close to getting out he knew just how to suck me back in. Wonderful words he would say - tell me just what I needed to hear.

Abuse of any kind decreases your self-esteem and for me I felt like my mind was literally being twisted. His behavior did NOT make sense and the more he did strange stuff, the more twisted I felt.

During this time I felt TREMENDOUS guilt that I could not leave the relationship. It was humiliating to keep enduring his abuse. Every one told me he was playing head games with me, playing with me, etc. This knowledge was very difficult to assimilate and I so needed to believe that he truly loved and cared about me and that I was special to him. I felt I couldn't face any other reality, as it was too painful.

One day I was eating lunch and watching a movie on television in the midst of all the craziness. In the movie the husband was verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his wife. Two times in the movie he said to her, "I own you." The first time it went over my head but the second time he said that to her my jaw dropped and I probably looked shocked, like I had seen a ghost.

My father repeatedly told me he owned me when I was growing up. I never understood that. Once in high school I remember him telling me how he wanted my hair cut. I kindly said I wanted it cut differently and he in no uncertain terms told me I belonged to him, I was his property and he will do with me what he likes.

I had many times questioned whether my dad was verbally and emotionally abusive to me for many years but I never got to the point where I completely came out of denial until now.

I think we are more inclined to unconsciously look for the environment we were raised in, even if it was abusive. We are familiar with that environment and a non-abusive environment is strange.

People that have been abused don't see a lot of the red flags that others see because that way of life for them I normal. Many of us feel that love is pain.

It is vital to remember when you look back on your life or you are currently facing a situation where you are unhappy with your behavior, that you are struggling so much due to your history of abuse. You may appear "weak" and unable to get out of that situation without outside help. It says nothing about your character but everything about your past.

So it is that in my opinion we go to therapy and learn what "normal" is so that we can behave more and more that way and be attracted to healthy people.

Experiencing guilt is not looking at the entire picture and is inappropriate in many cases.

There is "good" guilt that motivates us to do the right thing but in these situations we are experiencing toxic shame. Many of us feel we are bad all the way to the core.

Should we crucify our parents for our issues now? No. They may have done the best they can. Take a look at their family of origin.

We are always responsible for our behavior however and we are responsible to get help if we feel like we are drowning.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

No, You're Not Crazy!

Effects of Emotional Abuse

In Canada in 1993, a Violence Against Women Survey was taken among women aged 18 to 65, and found that 35% of all women surveyed reported that their spouse was emotionally abusive. In another Canadian study on abuse in university and college dating relationships, 81% of male respondents reported that they had psychologically abused a female partner. Unlike physical abuse, which is obvious to detect, emotional abuse can slowly build over time. Both leave devastating long-lasting effects on the victim.

One victim involved in an abusive relationship recounted, “I was in a twenty year marriage, and like most women was very sensitive about my weight. My husband knew this, as he knew most of my insecurities as only someone who lives with you that many years can. One day we went to a local steakhouse, and went through the buffet line. People were lined up behind us, and there was quite a crowd. I reached for the trays, and decided to also get one out for him. I sat both on the counter. He turned and said in a loud voice, “God, Woman! How much you planning to eat to need TWO trays!” He laughed hysterically and people around us gave us pitiful looks. I tried to not think about it, but some months later, I mentioned it to a friend, who quickly replied, “That’s emotional abuse.” I didn’t know if I believed that. He was my husband, after all.”

Most often, abused people are the ones that are limited in power and resources, usually women and children. Emotional abuse is about power and control, using whatever means necessary to make another feel inferior or dependent, using fear to intimidate, slowly taking away another’s ability to choose, or using a threatening manner or tone of voice.

Another woman reports, “My boyfriend was very jealous. At first I was flattered. I thought it meant he loved me. Then gradually he became so possessive that he didn’t want me to talk to my friends. He accused me of things I didn’t do. I found myself making excuses or lying to keep him from getting angry. He would apologize afterward and say it was because he loved me and worried about me. He told me if I would only do what he asked, we wouldn’t fight so much. I began to feel like it was all my fault.”

Emotional abuse usually follows a pattern. His anger slowly builds. Then come the accusations or belittling. Usually there is a blowup or argument with name calling or passing blame. This is followed by a cooling down period, sorrow for what has happened, and then a period of peace. But slowly the anger builds again.

Mary said, “I kept thinking if it happened again, I’d just break up with him. When it happened, I’d make up my mind to really get out this time. But by the next morning, he’d cry and be so sorry, and I’d believe him. After all, he seemed to care so much. Then things would get better, and I’d think I was too hasty in thinking about leaving him. But it always happened again. And again.”

Emotional abuse is a crime when it happens to children. But women are not protected, unless they are strong enough to protect themselves. How does emotional abuse impact the millions of women who are victims of it each year? There are both physical and psychological consequences, including anxiety, back and limb problems, stomach problems, depression and persistent headaches. Women who are emotionally abused but not physically abused are five times more likely to misuse alcohol than women who have not experienced abuse.

In addition, victims of emotional abuse may experience withdrawal, sleep disturbances, low self-esteem, physical symptoms without medical basis. They may become passive underachievers, become overly dependent, have frequent crying and feelings of shame and guilt, and put themselves down.

What can you do if you are abused? First, know it is not your fault. No one deserves to be abused for any reason. You are not alone, and help is available. If there is a 24 hour crisis hotline, call and ask for help. Contact your local social service agency or Legal Aid. Go to a community counseling center such as your local Mental Health Center or to your physician or clergy. Tell someone and keep telling until you receive the support you need. Reaching out is the most difficult part. Remember that things will only get harder the longer you stay in an abusive relationship. Abusive partners don’t get better; the abuse only continues to escalate over time. If you don’t get help now, you will become even more beaten down and devastated by the effects.

You deserve to be loved, honored, and treated as a valuable human being. Your feelings are valid. You are not to blame. You have the right to your own opinions and beliefs, to have your own friends, to not have to make excuses to anyone else. You deserve to be valued and cherished. If you are not getting that in your relationship, then give it to yourself and reach out today for help.

More resources

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Friday, October 27, 2017

How Con Artists Choose Their Victims

From the Powerful to the Powerless: No one is immune from a good scammer.

How you are chosen and manipulated
Those whose job it is to fight fraud every day know that no one is immune to fraud, and that there are only 3 kinds of people in the world: those who have been scammed and know it; those who have been scammed and don't know; and those who haven't been scammed yet. In fact, what is an obvious scam to one person looks like a great opportunity to another; and vice versa.

From the National White Collar Crime Center: Only 7% of scam victims contact an enforcement agency

Why don't more victims report fraud crimes? Because con artists are masters at instilling a sense of fear, shame, and guilt in their victims.

They are masters of domination and intimidation, artfully weaving them into their script. And... they are masters at qualifying their prey.

The chosen
Con artists choose you very carefully. They are only interested in those people who can be turned around to believe in them without question, who can be manipulated to believe in their illusions. They don't merely seek out the greedy or the weak or the stupid. Not at all. They seek out the needy. They sniff and snuffle around until they find someone who has an unfulfilled desire that even you yourself may be unaware of until the carrot is dangled in front of your face.

Con artists will stalk anyone whose weaknesses or strengths can be used to advantage. Scan through the character traits below, and you will see the con artist's menu. As far as he is concerned any character trait can be exploited and manipulated once your needs have been established. No one is immune.

Character Traits of Victims:

Who can be Scam victims:

Right from the start
From the very moment a con artist targets you, his entire arsenal of psychological manipulation is brought into play. You are moved from a position of control to one of no control over anything at all. The con artist moves into the position of supreme power, regardless of how powerful you may be in real life.

How can this be? Because you are the only character in the play who hasn't a clue as to what is really happening. No one has given you a script to follow. The only choice given you is to react to what the other players are saying and doing.

Reality is gone, you just doesn't know it - your real world has been completely and effectively replaced with that of the con artist and his cronies. Smoke and mirrors.

You know the game is over when he starts using fear tactics to keep you off balance.

Shame, guilt, and fear
Once a con artist has completed his scam, he will yank the rug out from under you. Suddenly, without warning, you have to come to terms with the fact that you have been taken to the cleaners.

—The effect is devastating - it was planned to be

From the very start of a scam you are kept just slightly off balance so that you feel you must cling to the con artist for support. During the entire manipulation, you are being emotionally positioned so that when the con artist disappears, you will feel as if you have pushed off a merry-go-round. In effect, you were.

You are suddenly left without the rudder in whom you believed with all your heart. To admit you were wrong can be emotionally shattering. You are left reeling and alone with that voice inside your head yelling, "What have I done?!"

Dignity and self-esteem are gone, replaced with shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anger (usually self-directed). You think I'm going overboard with this description? Not really. Not only have I been there, but I get letters from victims every day and that's exactly how they all feel.

Why victims don't report fraud
  1. Many don't know where to turn, so they don't file a report anywhere.
  2. Many are so distraught that they contact every agency they can think of, which has no effect at all.
  3. Many are extremely upset when they try to talk to law enforcement, end up merely sounding hysterical, no clear story emerges, and they give up without having given the police anything to go on.
  4. Many have been threatened in one way or another by the scammer and are afraid of retribution from either the con artist himself or law enforcement.
  5. Many have gone to law enforcement only to not be believed or told it was THEIR FAULT.
  6. And finally, the majority feel themselves to be damn fools and are not about to make it worse by going public. They just can't bring themselves to admit they've made a mistake. They cannot bring themselves to admit that they have been set up by a scammer.

The 10 STEPS all con artists use to set up their victims:

Although script variations are infinite, the basic plot never changes. The best description is found in The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David W. Maurer (page 4).

Edited for Romance/ Psychological Scams:

1. Locating and investigating you, the potential victim, called a 'mark' or a 'target'.
2. Gaining your confidence
3. Steering you (luring, brainwashing, manipulation)
4. Saying 'you're the one/ their soulmate'; they want to 'marry you' (some actually do marry their marks and never stay faithful); offering to 'take care of you.'
5. Determining exactly how much you will give to the relationship (money, sex, emotional investment, etc)
6. Playing games to make SURE you are 'willing'
7. Playing you ("I'm so confused" or "I'm not sure" or "I think you deserve better than me")
8. Making great shows of affection - often publicly (buying you a ring (often a worthless ring), public proposals, flowers to your office, etc.
9. Cheating on you or disappearing while they set up the next mark
10. Forestalling action by law enforcement [by making you promises and by threatening you - reporting you as a 'stalker' or 'harasser' or calling Child Services or Animal Control on you, etc.]

with thanks to

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017



(from Games Abusers Play at Cosmicwalk)

This term comes from a 40's movie called "Gaslight" about a man who plays mind games with his wife to convince her that she is losing her mind. It's a really simple game but an extremely effective way to gain mental control over someone because it causes them to question their own judgment and sense of reality.

Perhaps you suddenly start misplacing and losing things far more frequently than you ever have before. You are absolutely certain that you put the keys on the cupboard, but they're not there. It throws you off balance because you always put them on the cupboard and can't understand why you would have put them somewhere else. After much anxious searching, you finally find them in the most unlikely place. - Even now you have no recall of putting them there, perhaps you don't even remember entering this room after coming home.

This can happen to us sometimes, but gaslighting is when we did not misplace the keys in the first place. They were moved and we were made to believe that we had misplaced them.

Another example is that you start getting things wrong. You're supposed to meet darling bully at your favourite restaurant for dinner. You plan it well to make sure that you arrive exactly at 7pm as agreed. Now this can go a number of ways:
He is standing waiting and in a foul mood because you are so late, insisting that he told you to be there at 6:30. You are absolutely convinced that he said 7.

He is not there and you wait and wait. He finally arrives at 7:30, insisting that this is the time he told you to meet him. As with the prior situation, you are convinced he said 7.

He is not there and you wait and wait. Finally you get a call asking you where you are. He insists that he had told you to meet him at the other restaurant. You are convinced he said this one.
There are many variations on the theme and they can sometimes get quite elaborate, with various details built in to make it more certain that you were the one who misunderstood. The added detail adds plausibility to his version and makes it seem more likely that you are the one who got it wrong.

Gaslighting is a game that can be played in a number of different ways and the key factor is that you begin to question yourself and feel as if you are losing your mind.

The initiator can do this to you for one of two reasons: because they find it entertaining to watch somebody getting distressed or because they are deliberately trying to make you and other people doubt yourself - and ultimately your sanity - as a strategic move.

The desired end result could be anything from simply having power over you to a deliberate preparation for a child custody battle.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Victim's Bill of Rights


You have the right to be you

You have the right to put yourself first

You have the right to be safe

You have the right to love and be loved

You have the right to be treated with respect

You have the right to be human - not perfect

You have the right to be angry and protest if you are treated unfairly and abusively by anyone

You have the right to your own privacy

You have the right to your own opinions, to express them, and be taken seriously

You have the right to earn and control your own money

You have the right to ask questions about anything that affects your life

You have the right to make decisions that affect you

You have the right to grow and change, this includes changing your mind

You have the right to say no

You have the right to make mistakes

You have the right to not be responsible for other adult's problems

You have the right to not be liked by everyone

You have the right to control your own life and to change it if you are not happy with it as it is


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Monday, October 23, 2017

Boundary Violations

An Approach to Understanding Dangerousness

by: David Mandel

When it comes to domestic violence perpetrators everyone wants to know: how dangerous is he? Or more specifically, what kind of violence is he likely to do in the future? Domestic violence survivors and their children can think and worry about this on a daily basis as they attempt to avoid or minimize the impact of the abusers’ next attack. In the judicial system, agencies such as adult probation look for information which will help them allocate supervision resources towards the most serious and dangerous offenders. Child protection service agencies want to understand whether a domestic violence abuser can be successfully prevented from harming a victim and her children through restraining and protective orders.

While researchers strive to isolate profile factors of abusers who will kill or do serious damage, anecdotal information from survivors of domestic violence continues to be the best common sense source of information about dangerousness. For instance, men who threaten to kill their partners, who have physically assaulted them when they were pregnant or have forced their partners to engage in unwanted sexual behavior are perceived as some of the most dangerous. Men who stalk their victims, willfully violate court orders and assault them in front of others also fall into this category.

What do these men have in common? Is there an aspect or pattern in their behavior that would be useful in assessing the behavior and dangerousness of all abusers? All these behaviors share a distinct quality which can be described as a "boundary violation." A "boundary violation" is an action which by its very nature penetrates the physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries of another person. All types of violence share this characteristic to some degree. By examining the extent, severity and the frequency of the "boundary violations" in the behavior of an abuser, we can begin to see a pattern emerge that may be useful in assessing for future dangerousness as well as the path towards successful intervention approaches with an abuser.

First of all, evaluating an abusive man based on his history of violating his victims boundaries orients the assessment process towards an essential dynamic in domestic violence cases. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary uses the words, "break", "disregard", "interrupt" "disturb", "desecrate" and "rape" in association with the words violation or violate. All these words accurately describe the range of experience of battered women and their children at the hands of their abuser. By engaging in a pattern of abuse, a batterer "breaks, interrupts and disturbs" his victim's control over her own time, energy, physical space and even her thoughts. When we understand domestic violence as a boundary violation, we refocus the community dialogue on the serious impact of the behavior on the victim and her children. Our understanding of the abuser changes from seeing him as someone with a "temper problem" or someone who "lost control" to someone who is breaking the trust of his loved ones. And we are implicitly acknowledging the right and need for women and their children to have their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual boundaries.

Second, by knowing how far a particular abuser has gone in his "boundary violations" we can begin to see his dangerousness more clearly. Was he physically violent to his partner when she was pregnant? If he was, he has demonstrated his willingness and ability to strike out against a very vulnerable form of life. Has he stalked his partner against her wishes and in disregard for court orders against him? If he has, he has demonstrated his unwillingness to respond to either his victim’s request for physical space or legal and social injunctions against his invasion of her space. Has he been violent to his partner in front of others including children, friends, family or in public? If the answer is yes, then he has displayed a willingness to humiliate and shame his partner in addition to assaulting her. Has he been sexually assaulting toward his partner? If the answer is yes, then has demonstrated his willingness to override and ignore her most basic and fundamental right: to control her own body. The questions can continue: Has he broken into her house? Has he spied on her? and so on.

Three useful perspectives emerge from examining the extent, severity and frequency of the boundary violations.

First, a profile develops of the offender centered on the most crucial aspects of his behavior. What social, ethical and moral norms is the abuser willing to violate in order to get his own way? What requests from the victim, her children and legal and social authorities is he willing to disregard in order to get what he wants? The more an abuser indicates his willingness to "break, interrupt, desecrate, and disturb" the normal human needs of his victim and accepted legal and social boundaries, the more dangerous he is.

Second, a picture forms of the abuser's level of disconnection from himself and others. To become abusive, a man must forget about everything except his goal of control. Focusing on revenge or proving oneself right takes all precedent over the impact of his behavior on his children or his partner's feelings for him. He disconnects from his other values, and he disconnects from the real long-term impact of his behavior. The more time a man spends disconnected from himself and others, the more dangerous he is. The greater the degree of disconnection the more dangerous he is.

Third, if you analyze the boundaries an abuser is willing to cross, you may also begin to see which boundaries he respects and won't cross. We know that many abusers, when they become aware of the impact of their behavior on their children, begin to make an effort to change. For instance, a study showed that a number of men who had been physically violent before their partner became pregnant stopped their physical violence during the pregnancy. This kind of information can help the court, social service workers and community agencies begin to develop individual and community strategies designed to leverage these pre-existing patterns.

A battered women intuitively understand many of these things. Her fear level can quickly rise when her partner becomes quiet. His disconnection from her and the family may be a precursor of a violent incident. The same may be true for a sarcastic or critical comment. A outside observer may fail to understand how a small, cutting comment telegraphs so much about his willingness to violate her emotional space. Battered women are constantly trying to discover the boundary the abuser will not cross to hurt her or her children. For instance, a victim might strategize "Let me invite our friends over. He's never violent when other people are around," or "I need to call the police because he always leaves me alone for a few months after the police get involved."

Professionals working with domestic violence may benefit from examining the patterns of abusers from the "boundary violations" perspective. This method of organizing our thinking about abusers can enhance our efforts to develop the most effective assessment and intervention strategies in our work to diminish and ultimately stop domestic violence in our society.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Confusion Technique

Confusion Technique

The birth of Milton H. Erickson’s Confusion Technique:
Milton Erickson’s Collected Papers-Volume I-pg. 259

"One windy day as I was on my way to attend that first formal seminar on hypnosis conducted by Clark Hull in 1923 , a man came rushing around the corner of a building and bumped hard against me as I stood bracing myself against the wind. Before he could recover his poise to speak to me, I glanced elaborately at my watch and courteously, as if he had inquired the time of day, I stated “It’s exactly 10 minutes of two,” although it was actually closer to 4:00pm, and I walked on. About a half a block away I turned and saw him still looking at me, undoubtedly still puzzled and bewildered by my remark."
"I continued on my way to the laboratory and began to puzzle over the total situation and to recall various times I had made similar remarks to my classmates, and acquaintances and the resulting confusion, bewilderment, and feeling of mental eagerness on their part for some comprehensible understanding. Particularly did I recall the occasion on which my physics laboratory mate had told his friends that he intended to do the second (and interesting) part of a coming experiment. I learned of this, and when we collected our experimental material and apparatus and were dividing it up into two separate piles, I told him at the crucial moment quietly but with great intensity, “THAT SPARROW REALLY FLEW TO THE RIGHT, THEN SUDDENLY FLEW LEFT, AND THEN UP, AND I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT.” While he stared blankly at me, I took the equipment for the second part of the experiment and set busily to work with the equipment for the first part of the experiment. Not until the experiment was nearly completed did he break the customary silence that characterized our working together. He asked, “How come I’m doing this part? I wanted to do that part.” To this I replied simply, “It just seemed to work out naturally this way.”
Confusion techniques are techniques that disrupt the regular pattern of a person’s conscious processing strategy, thereby enabling the development of hypnotic processes. In the therapeutic context, confusion techniques utilize whatever the client is doing to inhibit hypnosis or other therapeutic developments as the basis for inducing those developments. More precisely put, is that such hypnotic techniques are naturalistic communications which disrupt rigid mentally set patterns.

Confusion techniques are based on the following assumptions:
1. There are many automatic and predictable patterns in a person’s behavioral processes, such as the handshake;

2. Disruption of any of these patterns creates a state of uncertainty dominated by undifferentiated arousal (e.g. confusion);

3. Most people strongly dislike the state of uncertainty, and are hence extremely motivated to avoid them;

4. The arousal will increase unless the person can attribute it to something (“this happened because …”);

5. As uncertainty increases, so does the motivation to reduce it;

6. The person who is highly uncertain will typically accept the first viable way by which the uncertainty can be reduced (e.g. suggestions to drop into hypnosis).

In accord with the utilization of these assumptions, most confusional techniques follow the basic steps listed below:

a) Identify pattern(s) of expression - identify a regular pattern such as a handshake, or a particular idiosyncratic pattern of the individuals, such as fiddling with the hair when nervous.

b) Align with the pattern - this involves pacing the client until the appropriate context arises. The application of rapport and respect is critical in this step to prevent the client from pulling away from the hypnotherapist.

c) Introduce confusion via interrupting or overloading the pattern - interruptions should be short and quick, usually entailing a few interruption patterns, e.g. the handshake induction involves, initial fluctuation of sensations upon the hand, followed by the lifting of the wrist with the opposite hand, a ghostly wondering look in the eyes followed with an imperceptible release of the hand being shook. This, in turn, should provide a bewilderment and uncertainty to be further utilized.

d) Amplify the confusion - once uncertainty is produced in the subject, the hypnotherapist continues to act in a completely congruent and meaningful way, which amplifies the client's confusion.

e) Utilize the confusion - at this point the client is willing to accept any simple suggestion to reduce or eliminate the confusion, at which time the hypnotherapist can simply state "That's right … go deeply into trance … now … John."

Clinical Applications of Confusion Techniques:
An Ericksonian hypnotherapist uses confusion to support the person by creating an opportunity to disengage from the rigid limits of normal ways of being and experience the "Self", in more nurturing ways. Confusion techniques can liberate a person from a false and limiting identity.

The hypnotherapist must develop, maintain, and communicate a belief that the client is an intelligent, capable, and unique individual deserving the utmost respect, and that the intent of hypnotic communication is to support the person.

Confusion should usually be introduced gradually, after rapport has been established with the client, perhaps after the 2nd or 3rd sessions. The hypnotherapist should establish that his intent is to fully respect and protect the client’s needs and values while stimulating his ability and desire to develop the desired changes. The hypnotherapist should also make clear that fulfilling these intentions will require that he communicates in a variety of ways, one of them being confusion.

In some circumstances, confusion techniques should not be used. This particularly applies to those already deeply confused, such as suicidal individuals, and people in grieving. With these people, confusion is already present – the hypnotherapist only needs to utilize it.

The client’s processes should be the basis for selecting or developing confusion techniques. The general utilization principle that "whatever a person is doing is exactly that which will allow trance to develop", can help the hypnotherapist realize what type of confusion technique might work, and how and when it should be applied.

Key elements & workings of Confusion Techniques:
The various forms of confusion techniques developed are based on the assumption that, as humans, we require understanding, and somewhat of a comprehension to what we experience, otherwise we tend to shut down and go inside, in order to possibly make sense of the confusing occurrence.

There are various techniques employed to do this, such as the handshake induction, pantomime, shock, and various forms of verbal techniques.

The handshake induction employs the method of confusion via a pattern interrupt. Any specific pattern, which has been learned and requires a sequence of steps from beginning to end, if interrupted causes a momentary point of confusion. The key to its use is via the operator catching the moment, and offering a simple suggestion such as, “Now, Alice…just drop … deeply into trance”. Given such an understandable, easy point of direction, the confused individual accepts the suggestion and follows it.

When employing the confusion technique verbally, steps are taken via verbal wording to overload the subject’s mental abilities. This can be done using a play on words such as “knows, nose, nos”. Furthermore, irrelevancies and nonsequiturs can also be employed to achieve the desired results.

Considerations when providing suggestions for confusion to set in are that the operator speaks in a casual, but earnest manner conveying an intent, and expectation of understanding. A steady flow of language with only enough pauses for the subject to almost begin a reply, yet constantly interrupted with new trains of thought.

Eventually the play with words becomes confusing, distracting, and inhibiting, which causes the subject to develop a need for some form of communication which can be readily comprehended, and easily responded to.

Thus, “the Confusion Technique is a play on words or communication of some sort that introduces progressively an element of confusion into the question of what is meant, thereby leading to an inhibition of response called for but not allowed to be manifested and hence to an accumulating need to respond”. “The culmination occurs in a final suggestion permitting a ready and easy response satisfying to the subject, and validated by each subject’s own, though perhaps unrecognized on a conscious level, of experiential learnings”.

Milton’s Confusion Technique as printed in “The Collected Papers”,
Volume I pgs. 258, 259"

"It is primarily a verbal technique, although pantomime can be used for confusional purposes as well as for communication. As a verbal technique, the Confusion Technique is based upon plays upon words, an involved example of which can be readily understood by the reader but not by the listener, such as “Write right right, not wright or write.” Spoken to attentive listeners with complete earnestness, a burden of constructing a meaning is placed upon them, and before they can reject it, another statement can be made to hold their attention. This play on words can be illustrated in another fashion by the statement that a man lost his left hand in an accident and thus his right (hand) is his left. Thus two words with opposite meanings are used correctly to describe a single object, in this instance the remaining hand. Then too, use is made of tenses to keep the subject in a state of constant endeavor to sort out the intended meaning. For example one may declare so easily that "the PRESENT and the PAST can be so readily summarized by the simple statement, “That which now IS WILL soon be WAS yesterday’s FUTURE even as it WILL BE tomorrow’s WAS.” Thus are the past, the present, and the future all used in reference to the reality of “today”.
The next item in the Confusion Technique is the employment of irrelevancies and non sequiturs, EACH OF WHICH TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT appears to be a sound and sensible communication (i.e. - schizophasia or "word salad"). Taken IN CONTEXT they are confusing, distracting, and inhibiting and lead progressively to the subjects’ earnest desire for an actual need to receive some communication which, in their increasing state of frustration, they can readily comprehend and to which they can easily make a response. It is in many ways an adaptation of common everyday behavior, particularly seen in the field of humor, a form of humor this author has employed since childhood.

A primary consideration in the use of a Confusion Technique is the consistent maintenance of a general casual but definitely interested attitude and speaking in a gravely earnest, intent manner expressive of a certain, utterly complete expectation of their understanding of what is being said or done together with an extremely careful shifting of tenses employed. Also of great importance is a ready flow of language, rapid for the fast thinker, slower for the slower minded, but always being careful to give a little time for a response but never quite sufficient. Thus the subjects are led almost to begin a response, are frustrated in this by then being presented with the next idea, and the whole process is repeated with a continued development of a state of inhibition, leading to confusion and a growing need to receive a clear-cut, comprehensible communication to which they CAN MAKE a ready and full response."

Values of Confusion Techniques:
The values of the confusion technique are twofold. In experimental work it serves excellently to teach experimenter's a facility in the use of words, a mental agility in shifting their habitual patterns of thought, and allows them to make adequate allowances for the problems involved in keeping the subjects attentive and responsive. Also it allows experimenters to learn to recognize and to understand the minimal cues of behavioral changes within the subject. A final value is that long and frequent use of the confusion technique has many times effected exceedingly rapid hypnotic inductions under unfavorable conditions such as acute pain of terminal malignant disease and in persons interested but hostile, aggressive, and resistant.

The following was used by Milton Erickson on two separate accounts with different patients. Italicized words indicate tonal markings. “The Collected Papers”, Volume I pgs. 285, 286"
"You know and I know and the doctors you know know that there is one answer that you know that you don't want to know and that I know but don't want to know, that your family knows but doesn't want to know, no matter how much you want to say no, you know that the no is really a yes, and you wish it could be a good yes and so do you know that what you and your family know is yes, yet they still wish it were no. And just as you wish there were no pain, you know that there is but what you don't know is no pain is something you can know . And no matter what you knew no pain would be better than what you know and of course what you want to know is no pain and that is what you are going to know, no pain. [All of this is said slowly but with utter intensity and with seemingly total disregard of any interruption of cries of pain or admonitions of "Shut up".] Esther [John, Dick, Harry, or Evangeline, some family member or friend] knows pain and knows no pain and so do you wish to know no pain but comfort and you do know comfort and no pain and as comfort increases you know that you cannot say no to ease and comfort but you can say no pain and know no pain but you can say no pain and know no pain but know comfort and ease and it is so good to know comfort and ease and relaxation and to know it now and later and still longer and longer as more and more relaxation occurs and to know it now and later and still longer and longer as more and more and more relaxation and wonderment and surprise come to your mind as you begin to know a freedom and a comfort you have so greatly desired and as you feel it grow and grow you know, really know, that today, to-night, tomorrow, all next week and all next month, and at Esther's [John's] 16th birthday, and what a time that was, and those wonderful feelings that you had then seem almost as clear as if they were today and the memory of every good thing is a glorious thing "… (IF YOU THINK THAT WAS TOUGH, YOU SHOULD TRY RE-TYPING IT WITH ONE FINGER)
One can improvise indefinitely, but the slow, impressing, utterly intense, and quietly, softly emphatic way in which these plays on words and the unobtrusive introduction of new ideas, old happy memories, feelings of comfort, ease, and relaxation as presented usually results in an arrest of the patient's attention, rigid fixation of the eyes, the development of physical immobility, even catalepsy and of an intense desire to understand what the author so gravely and so earnestly is saying to them that their attention is sooner or later captured completely. Then with equal care the operator demonstrates a complete loss of fear, concern, of worry about negative words by introducing them as if to explain but actually to make further helpful suggestions.
"And now you have forgotten something, just as we all forget many things, good and bad, especially the bad because the good are good to remember and you can remember comfort and ease and relaxation and restful sleep and now you know that you need no pain and it is good to know no pain and good to remember, always to remember, that in many places, here, there, everywhere you have been at ease and comfortable and now that you know this, you know that no pain is needed but that you do need to know all there is to know about ease and comfort and relaxation and numbness and dissociation and the redirection of thought and mental energies and to know and know fully all that will give you freedom to know your family and all that they are doing and to enjoy unimpeded the pleasures of being with them with all the comfort and pleasure that is possible for as long as possible and this is what you are going to do."
"Usually the patients' attention can be captured in about five minutes, but one may have to continue for an hour or even longer. Also, and very important, one uses words that the patients understands. Both of the above patients were college graduates.

When such cases are referred to me, I make a practice of getting preliminary information of personality type, history, interests, education, and attitude, and then in longhand I write out a general outline of the order and frequency with which these special items of fact are worked into the endless flow of words delivered with such earnestness of manner.

Once the patients begin to develop a light trance, I speed the process more rapidly by jumping steps, yet retaining my right to mention pain so that patients know that I do not fear to name it and that I am utterly confident that they will lose it because of my ease and freedom in naming it, usually in a context negating pain in favor of absence of diminution or transformation of pain.

Then one should bear in mind that these patients are highly motivated, that their disinterest, antagonism, belligerence, and disbelief are actually allies in bringing about the eventful results, nor does this author ever hesitate to utilize what is offered. The angry, belligerent man can strike a blow that hurts his head and not notice it, the disbeliever closes his mind to exclude a boring dissertation, but that excludes the pain to, and from this there develops unwittingly in the patients a different state of inner orientation, highly conducive to hypnosis and receptive to any hypnotic suggestion that meets their needs; sensibly one always inserts the hypnotic suggestion that if ever the pain should come back enough to need medication, the relief from one or two tablets of aspirin will be sufficient. "And if any real emergency ever develops, a hypo will work far greater success than ever." Sometimes sterile water will suffice."

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Liar, Liar?

How to tell when you're not exactly
being told the straight story

By Cynthia Hubert

You think you can tell when he's lying. His eyes dart back and forth. He can't keep his hands still. He stutters and stumbles over his words.

Deception is written all over him, right? Not necessarily.

Nailing a fibber is not nearly as easy or instinctive as most people think, say scientists, authors and other keen observers of the art of deception.

"There is no simple checklist," says Gregory Hartley, a former military interrogator who applies the techniques he used on enemy combatants in a new book for civilians, "How To Spot a Liar."

But with a little practice, Hartley insists, you, too, can become a human lie detector.

It is a skill that has challenged us through the ages, says Dallas Denery, a professor of medieval history at Bowdoin College in Maine who is working on a book about the history of lying. "The problem of lies and liars has been with us forever," he says. "In the Judeo-Christian tradition, history really begins with a lie, with Adam and Eve and the serpent."

Fast forward to modern times and a 2002 study suggesting that most people lie in everyday conversation. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts observed people talking for 10 minutes and found that 60 percent of them lied at least once, telling an average of two to three fibs. Some of the lies were benign, but others were extreme, including one person who falsely claimed to be a rock star.

"We didn't expect lying to be such a common part of daily life," one of the researchers, Robert Feldman, observed after the study was published.

Over the years, CIA agents, police detectives, psychologists, lawyers and others have tried a variety of methods to identify liars, from polygraph machines to "voice stress analysis" to analysis of barely perceptible facial movements that can give away hidden feelings. None of the techniques has been foolproof.

And the search for the truth continues. The science of liars and lying remains a hot topic in research circles, and book after book offers the latest theory about how to tell when a spouse is cheating, a witness is lying in court or a car salesman is overstating the value of a vehicle.

Check out just a few of the titles on the subject at "Lies and Liars: Pinocchio's Nose and Less Obvious Clues," "Liar! A Critique of Lies and the Act of Lying," "When Your Lover Is a Liar," and "The Concise Book of Lying." It's enough to shatter your trust in humanity.

John Mayoue, an Atlanta divorce lawyer who has represented famous clients - including Jane Fonda in her breakup with Ted Turner - says lying is rampant in his business.

"In the courtroom, there is no end to the lying, particularly if money is at stake," Mayoue says. "The more money, the bigger the lies."
The greatest lie in relationships, he says, is "Honey, I love you but I'm no longer in love with you. That's someone's way of saying they're cheating on you."
The Internet culture has made lying practically a sport, Mayoue observes. "You just have to assume that you're in the midst of a liar's ball when you're online," he says. "It's a fantasy realm. I can't see you. I can't look at signals. I can't test you. There is no verification."
In court and in daily life, Mayoue believes, a person's eyes tell the truest story.

"Looking at someone in an unwavering manner and answering the question is very telling," he says. "When I see eyes shift side to side and up and down, it just causes suspicion."

Hartley, the former interrogator, agrees that body language can hint at deception. But not always, he says. "Your eyes drift naturally when you're searching for information," he says. "I've never met anyone who doesn't move their eyes when looking for details."

The key to uncovering a lie, he says, is knowing how the liar behaves normally, when he or she is relaxed, and picking up on changes in voice patterns, eye movement and other body language.

"You've got to ask the right questions, then observe how that person responds," Hartley says.

Signs of stress, which may signal that someone is lying, include flared nostrils and audible breathing, shaky hands and elbows moving closer to the ribs, according to Hartley.
"Stress does horrible things to our brains," he says. "Stress hormones can virtually turn off your brain and make you become reactive."
For the most notorious liars, the tendency to fib may be biological, suggests a study by researchers at the University of Southern California.
Pathological liars, the scientists found, have structural differences in their brains that could affect their abilities to feel remorse and learn moral behavior and might give them an advantage in planning deceitful strategies, the researchers discovered.
Other scientists have suggested that pathological liars owe their behavior to the psychiatric diagnosis known as narcissism, and may truly believe their own falsehoods.

But the average, everyday fibber lies to achieve a goal, says communication expert Laurie Puhn, author of the best-selling book "Instant Persuasion, How To Change Your Words To Change Your Life." Most people lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings, to avoid a commitment or a task, to cover up bad behavior or to elevate themselves professionally or personally, she says.

Puhn advises people who suspect someone is lying to ask unexpected questions, look for contradictions in their statements and ask a follow-up question a couple of days later about the suspected lie.
"If someone says they had to work late to deal with a new client and you are suspicious, ask them about it a week later," she says. "They're likely to answer, 'What new client?' It's hard for liars to keep their lies straight."
Bettyanne Bruin, who parlayed her experiences with a former partner into a book and a support group for people who have been deceived, says the first step toward detecting a liar is overcoming denial.
"People tend to ignore the red flags," says Bruin, author of "Shattered: Six Steps From Betrayal to Recovery." "Their gut tells them what is going on, but they really do want to believe the best about the person they love."

The most critical sign that a partner is lying, she says, is defensiveness.
"Liars are very defensive when you question them," says Bruin. "They will become very resistant and angrier and angrier upon each attempt to probe." Often, she says, they make their partners feel guilty about questioning them. "They'll say, 'You're being unreasonable,' or 'Why are you treating me this way?'"
Types of lies
Joseph Tecce, an associate professor of psychology at Boston College who has studied liars and lying, identifies six types of untruths, some more egregious than others.

He classifies them as:

The 'protective' lie, which can shield the liar from danger.

The 'heroic' lie, created to protect someone else from danger or punishment.

The 'playful' lie, such as an angler's fib about the size of his fish.

The 'ego' lie, designed to shield someone from embarrassment.

The 'gainful' lie, which somehow enriches the fibber.

And the 'malicious' lie, told to deliberately hurt someone else.

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