Lies For Self-Esteem
“I can’t help it. I have a problem with truth. This is the best I can do.” She was telling me about someone in Hollywood having “picked up” her screenplay. This was the one that was going to do it for her, to make her famous.
She had told me before that she was not a very good typist on her computer. Come to think of it, she was not terribly good at writing with a pen on paper. She was struggling with words. She was actually seeming to make up words so that she could keep talking. This is a normal conversation in southern California. But telling your psychiatrist about this sort of myth? Well, at the very least it is a waste of your healthcare dollar.
I fell upon an “interpretation,” an ancient psychiatrist ploy, faintly reminiscent of Freudian analysis. I’ll bet you feel good telling me about this …” She smiled and nodded happily. She managed to run out of steam pretty quickly. This young glamorous woman looked up shocked. “I guess you can tell I’m lying, huh?” She was crueler to herself than I would ever have been with her. After all, the conversation she was having would have been commonplace, and (dare I say?) normal in any of a very large number of coffeehouses in southern California. I would have been happier if she had brought me her “real self,” if I could have helped her talk about something she could do, however small, that she could really be proud of.
At one time, I remember hearing people at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous would run around yelling “get real.” People who are actively maintaining their addiction need to lie, and tend to do soo habitually — often lying to themselves. A lot of people lie a lot. I used to think I could project it fairly well. Now sometimes and look back and wonder how many lies have passed for truths in my office. I am very concerned that I live in an age of too many “alternative truths.” I believe truth is precious. It is something to be sought excitedly, maybe even compulsively. The example above, and many lies, easily seem to aggrandize the owner. A lie is simply the method people use to punch up their self-esteem. This is a frequent behavior in our time. I am thinking very hard about how this may be fixed.