I have been thinking about deception recently. It started with an American documentary "The Staircase", about a domestic murder. Can you ever really know another person, do we see what we choose to see? Are there predators out there who are so convincing they deserve an Oscar?
Two people have recently said to me "I can't believe this has happened"
One woman and her siblings rallied round their father, giving him every support when his second wife died. He left when they were very young, but they forgave him, and adored his new wife. After a year of grieving he suddenly announced he was starting a new life in Africa, never having visited the place.
Within a few years numerous girlfriends, all much younger, came on the scene.
The latest one is expecting his baby, due soon. He is 83, she 25. Unable to comprehend why his children are not celebrating the news, he has changed his will, everything goes to his partner. Furthermore, he says they no longer exist, he never wants to hear from them again. He is fully compos mentis.
Another woman, married to a respected local tradesman, is reeling with shock. After 25 years of marriage, the discovery of his 3 year affair was bad enough. The other woman just happens to be her best friend from childhood, a midwife who delivered and was godmother to her babies. Both families holidayed together every year. Neither of the lovers has expressed any remorse, nor have they stayed together. All that hurt and damage, and they don't even love each other.
The husband has done work for me. I would see him, an open-faced friendly chap, collecting his kids, now teenagers, from school, giving piggybacks. We walked past him yesterday "Don't look at him" I hissed to my other half. "Oh, the sisterhood's closing ranks!" he laughed. Yes, true, but I also felt a bit cheated personally. Mr. Nice Guy Family Man who I recommended to many friends, turns out to be a love rat.
Do we project what we want to see onto people, unconsciously editing out anything that jars with our creation? Take Grieving Dad - is he simply the same selfish man who dumped his wife and kids in the past? Thinking back to times when I have been well and truly betrayed, I can see loads of clues. You invest something of yourself, whether it's money, love, loyalty, hard work. Are you really prepared to see that fall apart, or is it just easier to stifle those thoughts, cling onto the shared make-believe?
I suppose it also begs the question, do we also choose to dislike and distrust some people, never allowing positive impressions to register with us,scared we might find out something good about them?
I used to think I was a good judge of character, not any more. How about you?
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