In psychology, mythomania (also known as pseudologia fantastica or pathological lying) is a condition involving compulsive lying by a person with no obvious motivation. The affected person might believe their lies to be truth, and may have to create elaborate myths to reconcile them with other facts.
The myths behind mythomaniacs
According to statistics, we all lie at least twice a day. These lying serve us to avoid conflicts, to justify ourselves: they are small arrangements with the truth, the so-called “white lies”. Most of us are rarely proud of it and often a little embarrassed.
According to Ernest Dupré (1862-1921), a French psychiatrist, who coined the term “mythomania” in 1905, this disease is “a constitutional tendency to alter the truth, to fabricate, to lie and the creation of imaginary fables ”. According to him, the mythomaniac is someone who opens his mouth only to tell lies, and has been doing it since childhood. Ordinary people lying about this and that usually end up betraying themselves (not that they were to be believed anyway nor that someone really cares about their lying), where pathological liars let nothing shine, neither in their facial expressions nor in their words.
If the “normal” liar – even if he is a very ill-intentioned crook – knowingly deceives his interlocutor, the mythomaniac first deceives himself: the other, as an individual, matters little to him. In fact, he’s talking to himself.
Lying as a Disease: A Mythomaniac’s Life
Life as a mythomaniac is not easy. To stay in her fantasy world, which protects her from the harshness of reality, the person must permanently break the ties forged. Very often, she chooses a flight, a permanent wandering.
The worst thing, for a mythomaniac, is to be placed in front of his lie and thus lose the reason of his existence. That’s why, when discovered, he immediately sets off on a new fabrication.
If the mythomaniac cannot stand reality, it is due first of all to the fact that he cannot stand himself. It’d be an understatement to say that he doesn’t like himself. It is as if he had to portray himself as another in order to grant himself the right to exist. “Every lie carries with it a desire. That of the mythomaniac is to be recognized… for what he is not “, specifies the psychoanalyst J.D. Nasio in the foreword to Paul Ekman’sbook “Why do children lie”.
Contrary to what Ernest Dupré claimed, mythomania is not innate. It is around 3-4 years old that children begin to try their hand at lying: they have mastered language well enough and have now understood that adults do not know everything; we can therefore try to deceive them, to avoid punishment, to obtain something refused or banned… But the mythomaniac, by a kind of decision of the unconscious, will lock himself in a fictitious universe, where the real and the fiction are equivalent. There is a particular pleasure in mythomania: making yourself believe that all wishes are possible.
Psychotherapies that deal with neurotic symptoms are seldom effective for mythomania. For good reason: if the mythomaniac is recommended to follow one, it is almost always at the request of those around him, worried about him.
However, for therapy to work, the patient must be the requester. When he is seized with anguish – that is, when his storytelling machine seizes up – the mythomaniac may be tempted to start working on himself. But as soon as he feels calm, he leaves. In addition, therapy is an encounter with truth, an uninteresting prospect for a being who shuns truth.
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