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Liar, Liar Pants on Fire
Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Monday, January 2, 2023


By Elayne Savage, PhD

#196 graphic Pants on fire

I really hate being lied to and I’m having a huge reaction to the blatant lying that’s going on politically.

I feel my stomach knotting up as I recall my childhood confusion in trying so hard to distinguish what is truth and what is made up. 

Congressman-elect George Santos’ recently exposed lies and misstatements and exaggerations and distortions and hypocrisy brings on a full-fledged case of PTSD for me.  

I'm sure it's because I grew up in a confusing and chaotic world of Alternative Facts. Falsehoods. Deceptions. Deflections. Concealment. Evasion. Misrepresentation. And Secrecy.


As much as I try to wear my Big Girl pants, any flavor of lie can cause a gut reaction. And this includes lies by omission – deliberately withholding important facts. 


I hear similar stories from workplace and therapy clients about the times they have felt betrayed by a person or a group that they trusted. 


Even small lies can seem big to a little kid – like when you asked a question and were given whatever information was handy at the time because the grownups probably didn’t know the real answer. And some of us who are overly-sensitive to these kinds of things, seeing the dismissal as a rejection and taking it personally.


And all too often all these years later the feelings of the young child become superimposed on the functioning of the adult.


And I hated it when I told “Don’t tattle” they'd say when I tried to report a behavior that made me uncomfortable. “Your Uncle would never say something like that. You’re just imagining it!” It's like I get blamed and accused of lying! 


How rejecting it is to have perceptions and feelings discounted and invalidated! 


I began to doubt my own perceptions and question what I thought I saw or heard or did.


I remember how badly I wanted a poodle skirt in Junior High School. My dad said we couldn’t afford one so I went to several stores to get ideas. Then I bought an inexpensive, plain felt skirt (pink, of course) and made a wonderful fluffy gray poodle to stitch onto it. I made little individual loops of gray yarn for the ears, chest, and tail. Then I made a rhinestone collar and gold leash. I was really proud of that skirt — to me it looked as good as store-bought. 


I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. My aunt asked me where I bought the skirt so she could buy one for my cousin. When I told her I made the poodle, she said, “You’re lying. You couldn’t possibly have made this skirt.” 


I was stupefied. And then I actually began to doubt if I did indeed make the poodle. After all, she spoke with so much authority when she told me I was lying that I believed her. 

If our impressions are invalidated and discounted, we learn to discount ourselves as well. And we begin to reject ourselves. 

It’s Like Traveling Through the Looking Glass and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole 

Do you remember when you were little, thinking your mom or dad looked upset, and asking, “Are you sad?” And did they ever quickly say, “No, you’re imagining it.”

I was always getting confused about things like that. I began to regard my own observations and senses as unreliable guides. I didn’t know what was real and hardly dared to ask. If I risked saying how I felt, they’d respond, “You must be kidding.” I perceived the underlying message to be, “Are you crazy?”

When I was able to put words to it, I realized our conversations were often a combination of vague generalities, distorted reasoning and constantly changing the subject. Drama and chaos served to distract from goings-on that really needed attention. 

There seemed to be an unspoken family rule against asking questions to clarify and define. 

It felt like walking through the Looking Glass where "Everything Up is Down. Everything Down is Up." A surreal and crazy-making Wonderland-ish quality with a parallel universe, an alternate reality. 

The Cheshire Cat nailed it: “We’re all crazy here.” 


And now it's like déjà vu when daily news reports recreate that same crazy-making experience  –  complete with denials, distractions, alternative facts. And gaslighting. 

“You’re imagining it!”

“You didn’t hear me say that.”

“You must have misunderstood.”

“No, that’s not what you saw!”

“It’s all in your head.”

“What? Are you crazy?”

So, What Exactly is Gaslighting?

When I was a psychology doctoral student gaslighting was a term we used to describe narcissistic, sociopathic or abusive relationships where one person purposefully denied the perceived reality of the partner.

#126 gaslight 1944 movie

The term comes from the 1940’s film Gaslight with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton, about a woman whose husband, in order to distract her from his criminal activities, manipulates her into questioning her perception of reality, He deliberately dims the gaslights in the house, and when his wife comments on it he tells her she’s “imagining it.“ She begins to believe she is going insane. 


Gaslighting has become a popular term as described by Frida Ghitis, CNN Opinion Contributor, these include:

"saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth"

Over the years I’ve blogged about mystification, Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing’s observations of communication styles in highly dysfunctional families – attempts to befuddle, cloud, obscure, and mask what is really going on. 

Todays popular term “gaslighting” has taken on some of the same meaning as Laing's "Mystification" ideas.

What If Someone Believes Their Own Lies? 

Does repeating a lie make it appear true?

And what if someone is fooling him or herself? What if their reality is different from that of most other folks? What if they have difficulty distinguishing Fact from Fiction? Reality from Fantasy? 

And what if when someone tries to correct them, they seem to cover their ears and sing loudly to block out the truth.

Permission to Act Badly

How do folks think they can get away with this this kind of blatant lying? The answer is we watch toxic behavior of others and we copy it. It’s like they are giving us permission to act that way. Lying is a good example. 


Over the years I’ve been blogging about how attitudes, moral character, values and temperament appear to be trickling down from our political leaders into our workplace and personal lives.

Catching the Disrespect Virus

Let’s start with understanding why there seems to be such a toxic atmosphere around: disrespect, black and white thinking, contentious behavior, personal attacks, sharp tones of voice, aggressiveness, nastiness, character assassination, outbursts, bullying, anger and rage, vindictiveness, outright lying, and deflections. 

And there seems to be an inability to take responsibility for actions and say “I made a mistake and I’m sorry.”

I’m hearing about this trickle down from psychotherapy and workplace clients and from friends and colleagues. 

I’m hearing about it from schoolteachers where bullying, name-calling and cultural slurs are becoming rampant, even in kindergarten. 

I’m hearing stories about extreme polarization, arguments and short tempers at dinner tables and in meetings with coworkers or committee members. 

As if someone said it’s OK. And by their actions and words they did sort of give permission. 

Could it be that many of us are catching the disrespect virus that keeps popping up all around us? 

It’s as if we are being given permission by our former president, the person who used to hold highest office in the land to act out in similar ways to what we observe happening in Congress.   Ways that normally would cross our boundaries of appropriateness and propriety.

For many of us seeing these behaviors brings back uncomfortable childhood memories of manipulation and exploitation. 

For many of us it brings up old feelings of rejection. 

And all too often for most of us, the feelings of the young child become superimposed on the functioning of the adult.

Connected to mystification is obfuscation - the willful concealment of meaning in communication, making it ambiguous, confusing and hard to interpret.

Whenever I’m exposed to gaslighting I feel like a child again, –– confused, befuddled and finding myself mistrusting my own perceptions. And learning to mistrust others.

Psychological Projection Can Be Crazy-making

Even more crazy-making is psychological projection – when one person blames the other for their own unacceptable behavior, undesirable thoughts and feelings, or their own limitations. 

They may be projecting onto you their own dark side, their own blind spots.

We see it in campaigning all the time: in the form of accusations made by one party about the other. Accusations about voter fraud, health care plans, tax plans, the economic crisis, negative ads, and Covid.

My workplace and psychotherapy clients are experiencing effects of this and to be honest, it's really getting to me too. 

Every day I feel increasingly contaminated by the negative energy of it. I hate the way it has been affecting my interactions with others . . . and with myself.

Have you, too, been experiencing contentious behaviors in your family or work situations? Or have you found yourself losing control more than usual? 

What Is All This Mirroring About?

It is useful here to understand the concept of isomorphism (sometimes referred to as ‘parallel process’ or ‘social contagion.’)   

You’ve probably noticed how images in TV commercials sometimes morph one into another. For example as you watch, a human face changes into a lion’s face or an antelope transforms into a car.?

Well, this is what happens with many interactions as well. One process morphs into another — taking on the same properties. 

It is a mirroring of one situation by another, a reflection of one by the other. We pick up the mood or energy of what's going on with others, and imitate it – often unknowingly until it is pointed out. 

When attitude, character and temperament seem to trickle down, this is isomorphism.

When this culture of disrespect affects global interactions, this is isomorphism. 

When our interactions with family or friends or neighbors or coworkers or colleagues appear to be permeated by the negative qualities of politicians, this is isomorphism. 

And there is something contagious about this kind of contentious, pervasive and toxic behavior. Could it be that many of us of catching the disrespect virus that keeps popping up all around us?

Politics have become so full of lies, half-truths, evasiveness and exaggerations I finding myself checking things out regularly with the AP Fact Checks at http://apnews.com/APFactCheck

Or with Politifact.com at


Interestingly, R.D. Laing's article on Mystification begins with: "You can fool some of the people some of the time . . . ."

I really don't like being fooled.

Now in this New Year, I’m hoping to hear more sincerity, honesty truth, and the ability to say, ”I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”

More about R.D.Laing’s work:

R.D. Laing: Mystification, Confusion and Conflict


More on Lying: When Does Lying Become Compulsive or Pathological?


Sending you Warm Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Until next month, 


Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
Both books are now available on Kindle!



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Title: The Queen of Rejection
Group: Relationship Coach, Professional Speaker, Practicing Psychotherapist, Author
Dateline: San Francisco Bay Area, CA United States
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