There was a conversation I was part of many years ago which baffled and befuddled me - as they usually did - surrounding (yet another) mismatch between cause and effect; resultant behavior disproportionate to the initiator. This one was singularly different in that there was an actual witness present - one who not only knew the answer to the initial query, but after observing the unnecessary reaction - was surprised it was also a lie.
I used to surprise myself by unintentionally exaggerating event details when it was something I experienced personally - I would often correct myself, but was awfully curious as to why I would continue to do such a thing. So I asked around. The best answer? To impart emotional significance. When we're in the midst of something unfamiliar, dealing with it for the first time can seem far more immersive than a simple retelling might suggest. Now that I understand this of course, I endeavor to communicate my perception of events as they unfolded with as little misrepresentation as possible; describing my own internal reactions rather than exaggerating the external facts.
In philosophical debates concerning behavior, I often allow if one claims something false to be true - because they believe it to be so, it cannot be considered a lie because the intent is not to deceive. But in comparing the two stories above, I wondered where the line was between an emotional exaggeration and habitual behavioral issues. If I'd been baffled and befuddled at 3000 disproportionate reactions, and one was revealed to have at its core an untruth, was it possible more were similarly veined?
I had to look into the only term I could think of, "pathological" which I had incorrectly denoted in anecdotal life as saying anything to get one's way for as long as possible. But that wasn't even close. As it turns out, a pathological liar does so impulsively, without rational motive or even benefit. This alone has the ability to besiege every tenant of conflict resolution.
When entire underlying belief systems are randomly supplanted - held onto as an idealogical bastion confirming world-view one moment, then completely disregarded the next as a grasp to embrace an antithetical viewpoint - it counters common foundational groundwork antiestablishmentarianists and conformists alike use to navigate interactions. One cannot simply claim a highly volatile misinterpretation of life mechanics as a defense for chronic bad behavior.
When I was serving in the Air Force I had to force a member off my team for being a liability. In his defense, his buddy told me, "But he's a fantastic worker when he wants to be." I turned on my the heel of my combat boot and explained I needed a team-member who could perform when I required them to, not at their own leisure. This was, quite pointedly, the military. Mood's a thing for cattle and loveplay, not fighting.
This led me to recall a uniquely disturbing conversation concerning performance outside the military:
"Things didn't go so well earlier, I need to talk to you about my expectations for a smoother working relationship."
"It hurts me to discuss that."
"Ok? Well, we still need to discuss it."
"Why are you trying to hurt me?"
"I'm not trying to hurt you, but if we can't talk about these things, its going to put your employment in jeopardy."
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, but its a very real eventuality if we can't discuss our working relationship."
"STOP THREATENING ME!"
Needless to say, the employment was terminated.
And I was reminded again of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten where none of his tips could ever prepare us for dealing with someone who lives in an alternate-reality, no matter how kind-hearted our intentions. I suggest living graciously...and wearing body armor.
* All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Pt I.