In my opinion autistic people tend to be more honest than your average neurotypical. Lying hurts, its hard. Except lying for fun; inventing stuff that few would be deceived by or if they are they will realise by the end that it was a joke. I do this all the time as I’ve said Lying is my hobby.
But many of us have difficulty with social lies; for instance ‘How are you?’ if I am feeling bad and I say the appropriate, socially acceptable answer “Fine, thank you!” I am lying, aren’t I? There’s false humility, polite “We must get together”s; it’s insane. Why do so many rules of politeness involve lies, lies that aren’t even supposed to be believed. This is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to not be autistic. You guys are weird!
However a combination of learned politeness,lies resulting in great rewards and the truth being ‘punished’ can lead to autistics lying a lot. We pretend to be normal, we lie about pain, illness or difficulties to avoid help, or visits to scary medical centres. Sometimes our symptoms are hard to believe, if the truth is denied long enough we bend into line.
For example my two eldest at 13 and 11 told therapists we hit them. After a short time going back & forth I was convinced that this was true but as I had no memory of it, my husband & I must be having simultaneous black outs. As it turned out touching them when the were having a meltdown hurt, they had no way of describing that and called it being hit. That was discovered when my mother asked them to demonstrate. If you don’t believe me I have a letter from Child Protection saying we were fully investigated and that we have never abused our kids. Horrifically enough this kind of letter is very important to have if you are regularly accessing the therapy community.
Our family’s biggest problem with lying is after a short while the lie becomes ‘fixed’. There is no lie so fantastic that one of us can not become convinced it happened. You were alone in the room and this (whatever) is broken did it fly across the room by itself? We have learnt not to ask that. There is an oft quoted line from Sherlock Holmes “Once you eliminate the impossible whatever is left no matter how improbable must be the truth”.
We have tried to use this as a tool to investigate incidents and arguments between the kids, but walking books, flying crockery & invisible beings are brought in as improbables and the whole thing falls apart. Alex is about the worst, you only have about 2 minutes to stop her replacing her memory with a false one. After that she genuinely believes whatever nonsense she invented (or I accidentally did), then she can never see the truth.
Lying is a complicated issue in the autistic mind. We are also likely to believe the most ridiculous lies, because we don’t really expect people to lie to us, no matter how often they have done it before. Except for joke lies, we can get used to joke lies because we can understand the fun of them.
What made me think of this?
This morning Tabby told me she had taken two pretty flowers off Charlie’s coat when she brought him inside. Awwww cute we both agreed. Then she told me that he had also had a yellow bug on him that she had used the flowers to remove and return to the garden. So I made a joke that the bug was Charlie’s pet and that Tabby was mean. Standard breakfast conversation in the Holt household. So Alex and I built up the story and Tabby defended her actions until I realised I had to stop. I was becoming depressed, I was starting to cry, because Charlie had lost the bug pet he loved so much. I know that this is not true, but apparently I’m a little more vulnerable than I thought I was because I was starting to respond as if it was real, crying, tightness in my head & chest, comforting a completely oblivious dog.
In the words of Billy Joel “You may be right, I may be crazy but it just may be a lunatic” that the autistic person you know is most like.