I'd like to get your thoughts on what I call transcendental lying and the relationship of this specific form of lying, if any, to human identity. Here's what I mean by transcendental lying.
I recognize two variations. There's the kind in which one not only denies having done something bad that she indeed did do; but has obviously tried to create a second persona, which is the real monster (the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect).
Here, I'm thinking of Susan Smith. She is the young woman, who, several years back, drugged and drowned her own small children in the back seat of her car. She cried in front of the cameras, put out a reward for anyone with information, pleaded to the "kidnapper" to return them safely (she accused a tall, black man of having carjacked her and took the car with the kids in the back).
The second variation is embodied in what I would call the serial impersonator. I'm thinking of the character Leonardo DiCaprio played in the movie, Catch Me If You Can, based on a true story. Take this where you will.
Good Day Kimberly Bunch
Welcome and thank you for being the first visitor to our form. "Mental illness" may play a role, of course. I am also very interested in what is happening phenomenologically. What do you think the effect is say, Susan Smith was trying to create?
There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, naturally. I am asking you to apply empathy. Do your best, Kimberly Bunch, and please look deeply into yourself, and imagine what it might have been like for Ms. Smith -- how she may have wanted two opposing things to be true at the same time, perhaps (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect).
We're dealing with a category I call 'Transcendental Lying.' The application in these cases is definitely negative. In another forum we are dealing with the issue of the human trait of lying, in general, and wondering if this has anything to do with the development of human identity -- as counterintuitive as this might sound at first.
Perhaps we could set aside mental illness for the present. As you know, mentally ill people do not always believe they are mentally ill. They believe they are functioning rationally.
What I am asking you to do, Kimberly Bunch, if you are willing, is to play the role of philosopher/psychoanalyst/criminal profiler and make your best determination from the point of view from the other side. Then, I would like you to examine whether or not this behavior is or is not totally divorced from "normal" human experience.
It'll be fun!!!
Well, when healthy people do this sort of thing, we call it acting, and some actors get richly rewarded for assuming the identities of other people for a while.
The guy who played Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings movies, for example, talks about staying immersed in his character (or maybe only the accent) for the entire time he was filming. Then when his part was done, he dropped character, and his fellow actors, not having realized all this time that he was an American, made fun of his "cheezy fake American accent."
This interview is on the special features of the LotR special edition DVDs
I think you're looking at a more extreme version of this, though?
Good Day Jeff Berndt and welcome to our forum.
There is something to what you say about acting, of course. Frankly, I hadn't even thought of that. Well done! That's why two heads or more (preferably not on the same set of shoulders) are always better than one.
Acting, whether on stage or screen can have a transcendental aspect to it. An actress may play heroines, feeling as though these roles lift her out of her usual feelings of powerlessness, and so on. We can look at that.
Moreover, there is an element of 'acting' in the performance of Susan Smith, whom I alluded to in my first post on this, and the real-life guy whom Leonardo DiCaprio played in Catch Me If You Can -- at least from the point of view of the rest of us on the outside looking in, so to speak.
The specific form of transcendental lying I'm talking about is that of the sociopath, quite frankly -- who, I understand, cannot be called "mentally ill" in a convenient sense. I'm talking about the kind of lying that is designed to lift one above one's: A) circumstances -- the serial impostor; and B) the guilt of the specific kind of murderer -- sociopath (i.e., Susan Smith, Menedez Brothers, Scott Peterson, etc).
We're thinking about the Jekyll and Hyde effect here. Pretend this is an episode of "Criminal Minds" (I love that show).
"Moreover, there is an element of 'acting' in the performance of Susan Smith, whom I alluded to in my first post on this, and the real-life guy whom Leonardo DiCaprio played in Catch Me If You Can -- at least from the point of view of the rest of us on the outside looking in, so to speak."
Yes, the CMiYC guy was a brilliant improvisational actor, though he was using those skills socially inappropriately (and in some cases criminally).
There are also folks who play Live Action RolePlaying Games, or LARPs (LRPs in Europe) who tend to blur the lines between relationships in the game setting and relationships in real life.
For example, if a person playing a LARP were to have his character 'killed' in the game, and the 'killer' character were played by someone the victim's player knew outside of the game setting, the player of the victim character might hold a grudge against the player of the killer character.
Another example, and a more common one, is when a given player knows another given player outside the game setting, and so inside the game setting, their two characters will have a similar relationship (whether friendly or unfriendly) to the two players.
I've seen both examples happen back when I used to play LARPs.
I don't think there was ever any actual delusion or confusion of identities, though I suppose such things could be possible...
Good Evening Jeff Berndt
Interesting about the LARPs (LRPs in Europe). Would you mnd fleshing that out for us? What do you think about the role of technology in confusion or delusion or possibly expansion of identity? How does this relate to transcendental lying?
What ways do you see emerging technologies possbily redefining human identity and the ability to engage in transcendental lying?
There is such a thing as an honest, well adjusted, secure, individual who pretty much doesn't lie other than, perhaps, lying about something like getting stuck in traffic when he's late for work. (I once made the mistake of telling a boss I'd be late because I over-slept, thinking it was the honest, mature, thing to do. He went into a big thing about how "You don't call up and say I over-slept!!! You could at least respect me enough to lie!!!" So, after that, I figured I'd lie about that kind of stuff in the future.
Secure, well adjusted, people form their identity when they're young, and that's it. Nothing changes it. They generally don't go around doing things they need to be ashamed of, so they have nothing to lie about. If they mess up and, not intending to, hurt someone, they easily own up, apologize, and try to make things right. They have no reason not to like who they are, and they generally care about and like most other people unless someone gives them real reason not to).
People who commit crimes often just try to fool everyone into thinking they're victims, nice people, and/or insane (if they hope to use an insanity plea as a defense). They may be sociopaths. They may be mentally ill. People who create other identities and don't stick with their own (and be happy with it) (and who aren't as extreme as murdering criminals/psychos) have emotional problems of one sort or another.
Some people are narcissists who want what they want (whether that's something for their own emotional needs or something like money), and they don't see other people as human beings. They don't have empathy. As a result they'll do or say what they have to get what they want and get away with whatever they've done if possible.
Less extreme are people who live with something like extreme envy of others or with some emotional need that makes it impossible for them to be truly nice people and good friends. They want others to think they're nice people, so they'll pretend to be nice/friendly and do things others will see as "nice".
Technology may give "questionable" people a new venue for their usual questionable interactions with others, but I don't think it will ever turn someone "solid" into someone who loses his own identity and/or starts taking advantage of, or hurting, other people.
I don't think there's any such thing as "transcendental lying". I think it's plain, old, lying, emotional problems, personality disorders, other forms of mental illness, or criminal behavior and lying brought to extremes.
Hello Lisa HW
I seem to have expressed myself badly. "Transcendental lying" is a clumsy term I made up to describe a certain kind of lying. It is an attempt to describe how this may function phenomenologically in certain people; I am interested in the internal psychological effect they may be trying to achieve.
In fact my understanding of this is not so different from the way you, yourself, Lisa HW, have defined transcendental lying.
"People who commit crimes often just try to fool everyone into thinking they're victims, nice people, and/or insane (if they hope to use an insanity plea as a defense). They may be sociopaths. They may be mentally ill. People who create other identities and don't stick with their own (and be happy with it) (and who aren't as extreme as murdering criminal psychos) have emotional problems of one set or another."
I would just add that the sociopath, in my opinion, is desperately trying to fool himself as well as the world. It seems to me that he is desperately trying to split himself into two parts (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde): the good guy and the monster. We see the same kind of thing in the movie based on the Stephen King short story, "The Secret Window" with Johnny Depp (it turned out that "shooter" was his "Dark Half").
The goal, after the deed is done, is to cleave off the monster. So, I think that when Susan Smith, who drowned her own children in the back of the family car, cried in front of the cameras and begged the imaginary tall, black man who she said carjacked her and drove off with the car and her kids, to return them safely, she was not just putting on an act for the cameras, in my view; she was attempting to cleave off the demon from the angel, and blame IT for her crimes. She desperately did not want to believe that the "good" Susan Smith, herself, had done such a thing.
You also say that mental illness may play a role, as did Kimberly Bunch, personalyt disorders, etc. If these kind of disfunctions might be attributed to some people, can their approach to truth and falsehood be said to be the same as that of "normal" people, unethical perhaps, who engage in "... plain, old, lying...?"
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