As a fiction author, I know lying first-hand. Why? Because fiction is, after all, one big lie. I’m paid to tell stories.
I’m paid to LIE.
But this is only a simplified way of looking at lying, and it’s not a very damaging one. My stories, my fictional lies, are meant to entertain. Their sole goal is to take readers out of everyday life and throw them into a make-believe world that feels realistic, right down to its sights and smells and settings. Right down to its characters and their decisions and actions and reactions. Like I said. Simple. And benign.
However, when it comes to real life, lies can be far more damaging. They can kill trust, hurt relationships and, believe it or not, become easier to do upon repetition.
Scary, but intriguing.
As a writer, I’m also fascinated by the human psyche. Watching human behavior (ahem, being nosey!) and listening in on conversations (ahem, eavesdropping!) offers me insights into what makes people tick. Lying is a big part of it.
See, I have one character in particular, David Bellotti, who hates lying. He hates doing it and he hates having it done to him. Yet he still does it. Why? Because, such behavior is normal for a human being (even if in a fictional world). But David knows his limits with lying. He uses lies to manipulate and to get information, but he never intentionally sets out to hurt someone when he lies. His lies are always for a greater good. And he always knows how and where to draw the lying line. He knows when to stop because his lies are never self-serving.
But there are people in real life, much as in fiction, who don’t know when to stop. So, me being the avid researcher I am about human psychology, came upon a blog a while back about lying (This Is Your Brain on Lies). And the article cites a study showing that the more we lie, the easier it becomes to repeat the offense. Humans actually become desensitized to lying the more they engage in it.
It’s all very scientific, but it’s also easily explained because lying is akin to emotional arousal.
“‘Part of the emotional arousal we see when people lie is because of the conflict between how people see themselves and their actions.’ Lying triggers emotional arousal and activates the amygdala, but the level of arousal and conflict diminishes with every additional lie told, making it easier to lie. This comes down to a blunted emotional response to our decision to lie, and a desensitization of any bad feeling when we weigh up our ‘ideal self’ versus the act of lying.”
So, in a way, lying can feel good.
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