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When You Lie, Your Brain Is Actually Suffering

When You Lie, Your Brain Is Actually Suffering

Ever hear this: “Don’t lie, your nose will grow!” or “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”? One of the basic lessons of our childhood was to never tell a lie. We all know we shouldn’t lie, yet we seem to do it anyway. In fact, you’ve probably already lied today. Shaking your head “no”? Could be another lie. Research shows that most people tell 1 to 2 lies a day![1]

We always make excuses for our lies, too. “It’s not pathological lying, it’s a simple white lie.” “I said it so I wouldn’t hurt their feelings.” “I didn’t want to get in trouble.” So, what’s the big deal if everybody else is doing it? Well, as it turns out, lying could be affecting your brain and body.

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When you lie, your brain is overwhelmed

Lots of research has been conducted about the health effects of pathological lying and guess what? It could be detrimental to your health.

According to Arthur Markman, Ph.D., the very second that lie leaves your lips, your body releases cortisol into your brain. Just a few minutes later and your memory goes into overdrive trying to remember both the lie and the truth. Decision making becomes more difficult and you could even project your discomfort as anger. This is all in the first 10 minutes![2]

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When you lie, your stress increases

After these initial reactions, you may start to feel worried about your lie – or about being caught lying. To deal with this feeling, you might try to make up for the lie by treating the other person more kindly than normal. Or, the reverse could happen and you convince yourself it was their fault that you had to lie.

The day after the lie, one of two things might happen. If you are used to pathological lying, you may begin to believe the lie. If you are not used to pathological lying, you may still feel bad and try to avoid seeing the person you lied to. Continuing to feel guilty over your lie could lead to disrupted sleep patterns over a few days.[3]

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All of this additional stress has negative consequences on your health as well. It can increase your blood pressure, cause headaches and lower back pain, and reduce your white blood cell count (you need these to fight illness).[4] A lot of mental energy goes into telling and keeping up a lie, giving you anxiety and in some cases, depression. It doesn’t stop there. These feelings go on to affect your digestion, resulting in diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, and cramps.

A Notre Dame research project looked into the effects of pathological lying. The study involved 110 volunteers, half of whom agreed to stop lying and the other half who received no instructions. At the end of 10 weeks, the group that lied less often had 54% fewer mental complaints (like stress or anxiety) and 56% fewer physical health issues (like headaches or digestive issues).[5]

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Stop Your Pathological Lying!

If lying is part of your daily routine (and let’s be honest, it probably is), then it’s going to be hard to simply stop. You can tell yourself you just won’t lie today, but you’ll probably end up doing it anyway. Just think about your best friend asking you if they have a good singing voice. Can you tell them the truth? I didn’t think so.

Stopping pathological lying takes time. Tell yourself you want to be more honest and make a conscious effort to cut down on your lying. Think twice before responding to a question. Can you avoid answering it? Is there a way to answer it and omit the truth?

Another great way to control pathological lying is to spend time with people who value the truth. Having friends who prefer to hear the truth and who encourage you to tell the truth can be really motivating. And if all else fails… think of your health!

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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