How We Learn to Lie:
Children live under the thumb of their parents. We watch to make sure they get fed, are warm at night and avoid injuries. Parents can’t help but be overprotective. There is often no margin for error.
But, as the great developmental researcher, Margaret Mahler taught us, children need to individuate as well. Kids have egos too…and need to assert themselves, even with parents staring over their shoulders. So, how do you break free when you are little and a parent supervises without stop? Two strategies work, and often continue onto adulthood.
The good news is that most children naturally grow out of the need to lie. Most kids hit grade school with the understanding that truth and justice counts. (Not just to Superman.) They leave lying behind.
Yet, for some, compulsive lying extends into adult life. Like in childhood, a good lie is a powerful tool. You can deny wrongdoings or claim to be what you are not. The real problem comes when your lies lead you to live a secret life.
Secrets & the Double Life:
Deceit and human beings go together.
Some people lie to themselves, others to loved ones, and yet others to both. Secret lives are common. The secret can be relatively harmless. You tell people you're on a diet, when you're still delving into the chocolate ice cream tub in the freezer. You spend money on the dress you swore to your husband you weren't buying.
These are small secrets.
Some people feel unhappy or trapped in their lives. They need to break free somehow to make life interesting again. You act one way around people you love, and activate a different part of yourself secretly. What can be a sweet way to establish a sense of autonomy in childhood; can become a dangerous solution to unhappiness in adulthood.
There are so many secret lives; some healthier than others. A secret addiction to overeating hurts, but it is a benign secret compared to the many addictions that are lived out behind the scene. Some men who are unhappy in their marriage have affairs or frequent prostitutes. Some women who are unhappy with their weight live private bulimic lives. Many develop addictions—alcohol, drugs, gambling, and online shopping. Still others live secret lives on the Internet by stalking former lovers.
Bill Clinton was a popular president but he wanted to have sex with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. The secret life called. Bernie Madoff was everyone’s best friend, but lived the secret of a criminal life.
Does Your Partner Have a Secret?
People don’t want to admit their secret lives because it is too shameful. And if you challenge or push them, this will only hurt and scare them off because they’re ashamed of admitting this second life.
Here are some of the characteristics of someone living a double life.
How to Deal With a Secret:
Secrets can go on for years. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon his or her double life. Perhaps by finding money missing in a bank account, crazy credit card bills, discovering texts to a secret lover, a second cell phone or even bottles of booze locked away.
Treating the Secret Life:
The Antidote to a Secret Life: Truth:
This piece may be alarming because it shows secret lives exist and many people appear normal because they put up powerful walls that maintain their secrets. But if you want to keep a marriage or relationship after your secret is discovered, you have to be in therapy, usually augmented by a 12-step program that will breakdown the double life, and keep the behavior under control.
Over the years I have seen countless secret lives. It is a deep part of the human condition. When they are handled well, some of these people become incredibly wise and important members of our society. It takes work. And, I've been witness to the good that can be done.
Secrets have power. But, people do as well.
It’s never too late to seek help.
For more from Dr. Banschick:
The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Your Children (Kindle)
The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Your Children (Amazon)
The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Yourself (Kindle)
The Intelligent Divorce- Taking Care of Yourself (Amazon)
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