When Lightman says to his daughter Emily — “Where have you been? I was worried sick” — we don’t really hear the full meaning of all his words. Phrases such as “I was worried sick” are used too often for us to register them fully. If Lightman had said ‘I was so worried that I nearly threw up’ or ‘I was so worried that I got a splitting headache’ we would have heard it fully, because that is a novel combination of words not a cliché.
Worry refers to a moderate level of fear; not strong enough to make the worried person sick. It would make more sense if the phrase was: ‘I was terrified sick.’ Very intense emotions, when prolonged over time, can produce physical illness. Lightman was probably not terrified; for Foster earlier had given him an explanation for why it was taking Emily a long time to get to the office – the traffic jam produced by the explosion. So Lightman really wasn’t so worried that he was sick, but the phrase popped out because it is a cliché in which parents emphasize that the worry is a serious one, not trivial.
Lightman says to Foster “since we are so close that makes you, scientifically speaking, my blind spot”. Ordinarily Lightman would know if someone was lying but because of his blind spot he cant know whether Foster is lying when she claimed that she didn’t know their therapy sessions seven years ago were being recorded. He doesn’t want to believe she would lie to him, because of their close relationship.
We are more biased than blinded by people with whom we have a close relationship. We don’t want to know unpleasant truths about them, which is why the last person to know she or he is being sexually betrayed is the person who is being betrayed. Long after it was obvious to friends the victim of the betrayal doesn’t pick up on it – but the friends do not have a blind spot generated by closeness.
Guilt vs. Shame
Foster tells Lightman that he feels “…Responsible [for the death of Doyle’s wife and daughter], ashamed, guilty…” When I teach police I emphasize the difference between guilt and shame. The way in which I use those terms, guilt describes feelings about something we have done. We are motivated to confess, to expiate our guilt. By acknowledging our wrong action, we can seek forgiveness, and try to make up for what we did. Not so with shame. It is not an action but our very self that we are ashamed of. We are motivated to hide not confess, for if the other person actually knew us they would be revolted. No forgiveness, but intense disgust would result from exposure of our shameful nature.
In the closing words of this program Foster says that “it depends on the lie” how well she can succeed. The lie she told Lightman was to protect him and his family, a lie that she felt was justified. She would not have felt any guilt about lying, nor any excitement (which I call duping delight), about this lie.