I can’t be something that I’m not; because, what I am is so much more.
It is during the teen years that personhood is developed, defined and refined so that by adulthood, necessary coping mechanisms, traits and talents are working their charm on the world. Navigating life is done by taking the path of least resistance and optimal security.
That’s logical. I’ve observed that premise in action in every person I’ve met. But, where there are problems or difficulties is where I’ve found a division of sorts. The available energy is split, motivation is dual-natured, and at the root of it all is a lacking in the truth department. There can be no honesty in a ‘two-faced’ person because honesty is pretty black and white. You is, or you ain’t an honest person. If you’re not honest to yourself, you can’t be honest to others; and nothing illustrates this more than someone you find to be two-faced.
Trust: Difficult to build, destroyed in an instant.
Imagine a young child watching her mother behave very differently toward her, depending on where they are. While visiting relatives, running into an acquaintance in the grocery store or talking with teachers at a school assembly, the mother is doting, prideful, gloating and attentive to her daughter. At home, the mother becomes angry, hateful, spiteful and unapproachable so the little girl makes herself scarce in the hope that her invisibility won’t draw the wrath of the ugly mother. The girl learned early on that there is no escape from a terrible tirade should she try to take advantage of her mother’s persona exhibited to the outside world, so she remained quiet and withdrawn, always fearful. From that distant, detached vantage point, the girl observed others and found that no one else – other mothers, teachers, strangers – seemed to be so dual-natured.
It’s all a matter of degree – and perspective. It could be that this woman wasn’t always so Jekyll and Hyde as the little girl perceived. It could be a matter of chance in that every time the girl peeked around the corner, she caught her mother on a Bad Day. It could be that the girl was deeply sensitive by nature that wilted with the lack of genuine nurture. Perhaps it all would roll off the back of a stronger natured child that required less consideration.
It is in the same way that Psychology becomes an art more than it is a science. Someone as dual as this little girl perceived her mother to be would be classified as psychopath, while the perception of a stronger child would result in only neurotic tendencies or a depressive personality.
An honest face?
Still, whether psychopathic or a general moodiness, energies are divided. It takes a lot more energy to lie than it takes to be honest. Lies have to maintained and remembered, and the more lies there are, the more complicated it is to remember and maintain.
Perhaps a person decides early on that every situation requires yet another face, another personality or persona to effectively deal. The glaring clue in this person is that she is running in the extreme negative when it comes to energy to devote to genuine, congruent honesty. There is no time or energy left to examine reactions, feelings, thoughts or incorporate anything leading to growth. Put this person in a position of power, perceived or real, and you have one superficial, stagnant, exhausted person by the end of the day. The more exhausted, the more shaky all the masks become, with a litany of unpredictable behaviors. Anger pops up more and more, with accompanying behaviors that fly with indignation at the lack of respect she perceives. So, she directs that anger outward, toward others; and anger that multiplies as her respect from others dwindles.
Lie detection isn’t an exact thing.
In any police department, there might be one or two officers that are particularly effective interrogators. The rest, though they have all the training and skills under their belt, defer to these living lie detectors often. The elite of the bunch, if what we see on TV is any indication, elevate to behavioral units tasked with the investigation of the most heinous of crimes;profilers of the worst criminals.
So, what makes it possible to spot your every-day liar? It’s all in the patterns. As much as it would be easier to say that a liar won’t look you in the eye while telling a lie (the eye is the window to the soul, right?), will fidget and act nervous (aren’t you nervous in a job interview?), these particular bits of body language as indicators of a fabrication only apply to those people who aren’t liars, but are lying in a pinch. Only those not good at lying obviously do so.
The patterns are only detectible with time, a lot of time. It takes getting to know someone to decipher if they focus their energy on internal growth or, instead, superficial presentation. At the same time, lies themselves aren’t always as obvious as “the sky is purple.” If you only interact with a person for short snippets of time every now and then, you really don’t have enough information to go on to label a person a liar.
What can you do?
If after dealing with a person you walk away feeling confused or tired, that’s a clue that you might consider a safe distance. That’s about as exact as it gets. The only thing you can be sure of, as any good profiler with tell you, is what you feel when you’ve encountered someone suspect.
Sit back and watch for patterns. Does the person behave differently when talking with you alone than when other people are around? Does this person behave differently toward others than toward you?
The best advice I can offer is to emotionally step back and give yourself time to identify your feelings. Your own internal compass is your best guide as it will help you navigate the drama a dual-faced person creates.
When you decide that a person is less than honest and prioritizes personas over congruency, you will find that, under all circumstances, whatever face that person puts on at the time is far from attractive. Your best defense is distance.
If you’d like to delve into it more, consider reading the study, “Pitfalls and Opportunities in Nonverbal and Verbal Lie Detection,” by Aldert Vrij, Par Anders Granhag and Stephen Porter, found at http://psi.sagepub.com.