Dr. Blasey Ford comes across as authentic and credible as a person, and as someone committed to her values and the truth. And she does so as calmly as possible while feeling fear.
Kavanaugh (and yes, I am purposefully leaving off the honorific for the purposes of this article) comes across as entitled, rageful, and as a person who cares more for his reputation and continued power than the truth.
How am I able to observe these distinctions with an eye toward determining who might be lying? I am a psychotherapist who has worked with adult and child survivors, and with adult abusers, and am trained in looking for authenticity and prevarication.
Anger is our “go to” emotion when we believe accusations made against us are TRUE. You probably thought I would say the opposite. But anger is an emotion that makes us feel powerful, and we would rather feel that than feel scared, or sad. When an accusation is false, there is no need for anger. We can calmly and clearly defend ourselves when we are not at fault.
Dr. Blasey Ford clearly owned her own fear of testifying in a highly stressful situation, and did so as calmly as possible. She held her ground, while cooperating fully, and, in fact, over cooperating in some instances, as we women can often do. (That was painful to watch, but that is another article). She clearly had nothing to gain and everything to lose by testifying, and yet her values led her to do so.
Kavanaugh, in stark contrast, refused to cooperate at all with his questioners, and he did so in a setting he is much more accustomed to than she. He stuck to his talking points, refused to answer questions, smirked and raged. All of these behaviors are typical of someone who is lying.
He probably is genuinely sad his family is having to go through this. Most people who are covering up sexual assault have convinced their closest family members that they could never have done something so heinous. That part of them usually comes out in certain circumstances. With their families, they present another part of themselves, which is meritorious. That is why he hammered on his volunteer activities with his children’s teams, and his church involvement in his teens. The circumstances where Kavanaugh presumably offends appear to be when he is drinking heavily and is in situations where such abuse is considered “funny” and frat boys being frat boys. He is undoubtedly careful not to let his wife, parents or children see that side of him. And so they believe him. Plus, if they don’t believe him, family members will have to deal with their own feelings of betrayal and guilt by association, and those fears create denial. Offenders count on denial by their families, and when that denial is threatened they become enraged.
Kavanaugh also pursed his lips throughout the hearing, which is a physical sign of either trying to hold in strong emotion, or of lying. He obviously did not hold back strong emotions, because he vividly expressed anger, and shed tears. He maintained that anger for the duration of the hearing, and used intimidation tactics with the women senators on the committee. Asking Senator Amy Klobuchar if she had ever blacked out, instead of answering her question as to whether he ever had, was not only a sign he could be lying and covering up, but also the belligerence he displayed, especially toward the female senators, is typical of an abuser.
Dr. Ford’s open countenance, and wide-eyed expressions, reflect both fear and courage in the face of that fear. Liars are either overly emotional, or very cold and self-possessed. She was neither.
Kavanaugh’s over emoting does indicate that he is not a sociopath. They are the ones who can calmly and with manipulation convince you they are telling the truth. Sometimes they are so good at it they believe it themselves. It seems to me that Kavanaugh isn’t sure that the assault did not happen. His emotionalism, as well as his deflection of the question about whether he had ever blacked out, indicates he isn’t positive about either the attack or blacking out. If he had admitted to blacking out, then he would be admitting he might have assaulted Dr. Blasey-Ford during a black or grey out.
These are my observations after 20 years of working in Private Practice, in a prison, with gang members, and as a counselor under contract with Child Protective Services. I also have experienced denial of the deeds of a family member in my own family of origin. While I cannot diagnose Kavanaugh, nor unequivocally say he is lying, I can say that were I a senator, I would not vote for his confirmation based on his emotionalism and his aggressiveness toward a committee charged with the enormous responsibility of “advise and consent” for a lifetime appointment. With time, most liars are found out. We don’t want that to happen after his appointment is irrevocable.