Truth, Trust, and Ambivalence

A reader sent in the following prompt:

There’s also the topic of manipulating people without negative intent and how empaths can still take it the wrong way if they find out about it. ‘Why didn’t you just say so’ and ‘But you weren’t honest with me’ being common responses, sometimes even disregarding whatever results it had in favor of looking at the disliked methods. Ties into discussions about the value of things like truth and trust.

They raise a good point.  Manipulation does not have to be nefarious.  Lying does not have to carry ill intent.  Neurotypicals often differentiate themselves from psychopaths because of these very notions of truth and trust.  Deceit is a universal trait, however, and it is dishonest to believe that psychopaths and neurotypicals are really all that different when it comes to selective truth and ambivalent manipulation.

Consider the average person attending a bazaar or flea market.  There is an expectation that prices are negotiable and there is a certain tact that needs to be involved to make sure that both parties in the transaction are treated as fairly as possible.  The seller will overprice the goods, knowing that the buyer will demand a lower price, and the buyer will be less than upfront with their desire for the goods in order to place urgency on the seller to come down further in price.  In this case, both parties are essentially playing both liar and manipulator without any real ill intent.

Transactional logic in life demands that there is a give and take between parties and is applied in many more situations than the flea market example above.  Compassion is transactional.  A suffering party requires compassion from another and the other is required to give it or else risk losing social status.  Love is transactional.  If there was not something in it for both parties in a relationship, why would they stick together?  The truth is that truth is relative.  In order to keep transactional endeavors fair, there must be some stretching and massaging of the truth.  And, certainly, if the transaction is unfair, there would be some distortion of truth as well.  Everyone must lie in order to ensure their needs are met in the best manner possible.  Everyone must manipulate from time to time for the same fulfillment of needs.

As a result, it is inane to use the presence of lying and manipulation as a differentiator between the neurotypical and the psychopath.  The degree may vary, sure, but the presence is universal.  The psychopath accepts that trust and truth must be fuzzy.  There should be an expectation that any two humans communicating with one another will be stretching the limits of what is pure at any given moment.  We all have motivations and desires.  However, this should not imply that anyone’s actions be rooted in malevolence.  They certainly can, but all people are subject to this distortion of actuality.

If you want to make the distinction that psychopaths are habitual liars and manipulators, you may certainly do so.  However, these actions need not be destructive in nature and all humans, neurotypical or otherwise, are subject to practicing such actions.  As with many things regarding the perceived gulf between the neurotypical and the psychopath, both groups would benefit from looking into the mirror first before judging the other as a collective.

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