Discount It All
When you don’t know what to believe, believe NOTHING. Discount it ALL!! – Susan J. Elliott
Discount It All
Copyright © Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
No portion of this post may be copied without the express permission of the author AND a link back to the original material.
When I was wrestling with the different things I was being told at the end of my first marriage, someone told me he was a pathological liar. I just stared at this person, unable to speak. The reason it left me speechless was 1) who SAYS that about your husband? and 2) I feared it was true.
There were so many things he said that were simply untrue and couldn’t be true because if they were true then a second set of things he said could NOT be true. It was head spinning stuff.
Upon our breakup a year or so later, I was so lost. He said I love you and will never love anyone as much as you. Yet, he was seeing someone else. He said I don’t want to hurt you while doing a lot of things that caused me excruciating pain. He said I care about the boys more than anything else in the world while doing many things that hurt them. He was, for a time, obviously sleeping with both her and me. He tried to come back to me and yet never quite gave her up.
He told me lie upon lie upon lie upon lie. Half of it had to be lies because it simply didn’t comport with the other half of anything he said. His words and actions did not match.
My head was spinning. He keyed into certain things that I believed about us: we were together a long time; we had 3 kids together; we were friends before we were a couple; we had a long term history that went back to high school and no one else was going to match; we just bought a dream home together; didn’t I think he WANTED it to work? He told me I was part of his childhood and the best times of his life in high school and if he gave me up, he gave that up. He was always waxing nostalgic while I was spinning around on the floor like Curly from the 3 Stooges going woo woo woo.
When he said THAT set of stuff I believed him because it MATCHED what I believed and what I fervently wanted to think was true and MOST important.
Then he said the second set of things: what was wrong with me; why it would never work out; why I forced him into the arms of someone else; why he was confused about whether or not he really loved her instead of me, I simply ignored it. There was no spinning, no freaking out.
I ignored the second set because it WAS NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR.
So when he ACTED on the second, I was heartbroken and confused. But you JUST told me how much I meant and how of course he wanted it to work. I could not figure out how one thing could be true yet opposite of the way he was acting.
About 2 months into our separation someone said to me, “The truth shall ring true.” It was as if they had taken a giant gong and just smashed me over the head with it. You know why? Because NOTHING the ex said rang true. It was all a bunch of garbage. The only reason why anything he said ever rang true was because I wanted to fool myself into believing he meant it. But on its face? Nothing rang true.
Liar liar pants on fire. And yet even though I knew it was a carrot/stick thing. I was spinning while he was extracting himself from the relationship. Slowly. On his terms. And scratching an itch whenever he had it. Yet I still drove myself bonkers by trying to understand this behavior that made no sense. I banged my head against the “trying to make sense out of nonsense” wall over and over again.
So finally I whined to my therapist, “I don’t know WHAT to believe anymore…”
And she said, simply, “Believe none of it. Discount it all.”
And she repeated, “When you don’t know what to believe because a person is saying two different things or their actions are incongruous with their words, discount it all.”
Instead of trying to tease out the truth (as if there was any) or parse out what he was saying as I had been doing, just throw the whole thing out the window (followed, hopefully, by him). Later on I would figure out that he was a narcissist and learn, albeit slowly, that narcissists rarely tell the truth. I had to take my time in wrapping my brain around the fact that he just didn’t tell the truth.
It was hard to be told that I couldn’t believe anything he said. Especially after years of being gaslighted and meant to feel as if everything I said and did was wrong. Now I not only had to come to terms that he was a liar, but now I had to think about everything in terms of DISCOUNT IT ALL. The entire relationship – 15 years – was a lie that I couldn’t depend on…not an “I love you ” not a “I hate you” – nothing…everything, everything, everything had to be rejected.
It was a sad, sad day but that’s what I did in order to keep my sanity. Every time I would think about things and my head was back to spinning, I would catch myself and say, “NO. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make sense. Discount it all. STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS.” My readers and clients know that I advise them to do this all the time.
Why? Because once I decided it didn’t make sense and was never going to make sense, things got better after that. Once I learned to discount it all, all of it lost its power to upend me. And in the years I have been doing this, I’ve seen people heal and grow when they surrender to the fact it’s not going to make sense and they learn to discount it all.
There is a certain amount of processing that goes along with the necessary grief process of review and relinquishment. We must think about things to a certain degree to figure out what the hell just happened. But there comes a time to put a pin in it and put it away for this day, this hour, this minute.
We have to remember to keep our lives in balance and not get lost in the minutia of the past. There are things we will never figure out, whether or not our ex was a pathological liar. There are things that will never make sense, whether or not our ex was a narcissist. We have to rely on acceptance statements and get it through our heads that, for today, I need to just let this be and get on with my life. We may need to come back to it again later or tomorrow, but we must be sure we are taking breaks from what can become an obsession.
It’s important to understand who and what we have been involved with, but at the same time we need to be building our own lives back up.
We must be doing things other than this…hobbies/interests/friends as well as recovery in other areas. What are our goals? What are our dreams? What areas are lacking? Look at our goals list and make sure we have goals in every area. What are we doing for fun? for entertainment? for hobbies? What interests are we taking on? What have we always wanted to learn about? Figure it out and go learn it. Take these things and put them into the rotation to be sure you are staying balanced — working the bad stuff out — working the good stuff in. Check yourself…how is your balance?
Confusion Isn’t Lying – Or Is It?
About a year after learning to discount it all with my ex, I was seeing a guy who was a sweet, funny, charming, exceedingly confused man. And while we would have fantastic times together and loved each other to death, he would get into these funks where he would be confused about his ex. Should he call her? Should he give it another try? Yes, she was horrible but they were together 3 years. Should he just forget those 3 years? He was getting in deep with me…was it too soon?
He would say “I love you” and “I’m so grateful for you” and “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me…” after a long and intensely wonderful weekend. He’d be smiling and hugging me and kissing me as he walked me out to my car. Telling me I was the very best thing since the folded napkin. We’d had magical and fun weekends whereas he described a relationship with his ex where arguments and misery abounded. He always told me how much fun I was…how funny and fun to be with and how happy I made him. And how his ex had the personality of a flea and how much better it was to be with someone who could laugh and make him laugh.
Then his ex would call and an hour later be on the phone to me saying how confused he was and perhaps we shouldn’t see each other any more. My balloon would burst into a million little pieces.
After a few months of this…I would sit with all the wonderful things he said and try to parse it out and tease out the truth…I was sure, very sure, that he DID love me and he WAS grateful for me and he WAS confused about his ex.
How to sort it all out?
Simple. Discount it all.
I had to get to the point where I simply discounted everything.
Guy B was NOT a liar. He was an honestly confused young man. But willed confusion can be lying to yourself. Choosing to not decide is deciding. While I didn’t think he was a direct liar, there had to be some skirting around the truth going on somewhere. Either he didn’t love me as much as he said he did, or he had stronger feelings for his ex than he said he did.
I believed him when he told me whatever it was he told me. Because it was the truth at the time he said it. I honestly believed that at 8 pm he loved me and wanted to be with me and I honestly believed that at 11 pm he was having second thoughts about his ex. And when you are faced with someone who believes A at 8 pm and B at 11 pm, that doesn’t make him a liar, but it makes him an unreliable source. And if I want to know how someone feels, I think it’s a good idea if they, themselves, know. Otherwise I cannot get a reliable report and if I can’t get a reliable report, be it because the person is a liar or confused or a mental case, it doesn’t matter. If I can’t get one, I have to discount it all, not just take the report I like. And if I wanted to look at his willed confusion as deceit, I could make a case for that. I didn’t WANT to make a case for that, but I “could” and that really felt awful.
When Set A and Set B do not mesh, it doesn’t matter if they are lies or confusion, nonsense is nonsense. The origin of nonsense does not matter.
I wanted to believe the second guy because I really did think he wanted to be with me. But when I was away from him I had to admit there were too many inconsistencies. Did it matter that he wasn’t a big fat liar? No. Not really. Whether a person is a liar or just confused, their words have to line up with all their other words.
I honestly believed he was not lying to me and not playing me. Part of him was torn and part of him was incapable of making a firm decision and sticking with it. And we were a rebound couple, getting together on the heels of both of us breaking up with someone.
To move on from him, I had to discount it all just as if he had done nothing but lie to me. It hurt and it was hard but it made no sense. And trying to live with the nonsense was causing my head and my heart to ache.
Breaking it off with him (or rather resisting contact later on) was one of the hardest things I ever had to do because it was so good between us compared to the horribly abusive relationship with my ex. This was someone I truly had fun with and clicked with on SO many levels…but I couldn’t live with his ex contacting him and upending him. I tried to wait out his dips into “What do I do now?” but it drove me crazy that he could not or would not make a decision.
So I used the “discount it all” method with him. It was hard but it worked. I had to discount all the wonderful stuff he said because it did not jibe with the non-wonderful stuff.
And he would not be the last one. I met other confused men later on. Or not completely confused but erratic and inconsistent and after a while it rose to the level of “I have to discount it all because I cannot figure this out…” The guy did not have to be a big fat liar or even a confused bananahead. If the messages were garbled and he was an unreliable reporter about his own feelings, well then I had to just toss it all. It wasn’t for me to try to figure it out. I was no longer allowing anyone to put me in knots whether they were purposely lying to me about their whereabouts or changing their minds because knowing their own mind was not a priority to them. Screw all of that.
I became no longer interested in putting more effort into trying to understand someone than he was interested in understanding himself and coming to some conclusion.
Rumination is not lying or confusing – but a split personality serves no purpose
I dated a guy who would ruminate about everything and come to zero conclusions. He was always in some funk or another because he never did anything about anything. His issues, questions, confusions led him around by the nose. He would spend a day being all freaked out about something but never ever ever doing anything about anything. He seemed to make up crap to worry about.
One night we were in the middle of a nice dinner, and – out of the blue – he told me he thought his son didn’t think he was “cool.” I had no idea where it came from but the air went out of the room. He started to just ruminate about it…like he was willing himself to be miserable. Neither one of us knew whether it was true or not. When I pressed him on EVIDENCE of his son thinking he was uncool (though who really cares if a teenager thinks his parent is uncool – well, he did), he had none. He was just willing himself into a funk over absolutely nothing.
Then the next day he would be all laughs and goofiness. Then the next morning (usually Sundays after a wonderful night out) he would wake up saying he was depressed. And not have a clue about what. The roller coaster ride made my eyes roll back into my head. I had whiplash and a headache. I wanted off.
It was willed angst. It was some kind of “woe is me” mindset that would wreck our days and nights and many an otherwise nice weekend. He would seem to work on it and then just wind up in an emotional morass over nothing. While I liked the funny, goofy guy I couldn’t take the down times.
Although not the same as “truth telling,” or even confusion, the question was, “Who is the real guy here?” And that question was not answerable.
I had to discount it all.
I couldn’t ride the emotional waves anymore. I had to throw out my fond thoughts of the guy sitting across from me laughing one of the most wonderful laughs I’ve ever heard with the angry thoughts of the guy who qualified for Cuckoo’s Nest every Sunday morning. The task of trying to put them together was too hard. I couldn’t do it.
There were two very distinct personalities here. It’s who he was (who? both of them!) and I didn’t want to sign up with Mr. Woe is Me. So I had to let go Mr. Wonderful Laugh. The fact that he would almost purposely try to ruin a fantastic weekend with bullshit bellybutton gazing, was too much for me. Life is too short to be with someone who falls into a funk for no reason whatsoever. He became a chore. As I say in GPYB, it was like trying to push glue up a hill. I didn’t want to. I wanted to have more fun than you can have when glue pushing.
If someones words do not match their other words or if their words and actions are not consistent or their moods are all over the map, or just trying to figure out how this could be true if this other thing is true, discount it all.
Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure which end is up. Discount it all.
Don’t waste time wondering, “How could someone do…” or “How could someone be so…” or “How could someone say x and do z?” DISCOUNT IT ALL. Whenever these questions pop up, wave them away with “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter…” and DISCOUNT IT ALL.
Don’t feed your own denial by trying to hang on the parts you WANT to hear, listen for all of it and then, discount it all.
If someone does something that makes NO sense whatsoever, discount it all.
It hurts and its hard but in the end, it makes for an easier time of moving on once and for all.
Be good to you today. Discount it all.
Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
No portion of this may be copied without the EXPRESS permission of the Author and a link back to the original content.