Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression


self-deceptionSelf-Deception –

In psychoanalytic theory, a model that is rarely discussed today, is the concept of “regression in the service of the ego. “

This sounds weighty, but bear with me: 

When we are under severe duress, stress, demand, to protect our emotional well being (our ego) we retreat to very primitive ways of thinking.  This regression is neither healthy nor unhealthy; it is merely a characteristic of our daily functioning. 

Irrational responses are regressive. One has to be regressive in order to have an emotional response to art, to a sporting event…or to falling in love.   The determining factor as to whether the regression is healthy is whether such primitive responses are adaptive or maladaptive. An example of adaptive regression is when an artist or musician can delve into these primitive thoughts and be creative (Salvador Dali) or be destroyed by them (Vincent van Gough) 

If a man of limited education and equally limited training is injured, he will retreat to a primitive belief that protects him from self-loathing, humiliation and vulnerability.  He may, indeed, delude himself into believing that his modest job was a career track from which he has now been derailed.  He may well build upon that belief over time, seeing few financial options. Perhaps carrying continued discomfort or limitations, he begins to convince others and himself that “but-for this injury” he would have been a success in life. Now that the injury has occurred, his chances for a productive life have been taken from him.  

Interestingly, what I concurrently see, is a self-deception that he has plans to be retrained and/or educated, his goals are quite unrealistic, and intended to feed his diminished sense of worth.  For example, he was delivering for a pharmacy and now considers becoming a pharmacist without a concept of what that would entail, merely that it would enable him work other than delivery driving. 

Merely because we can see the distortion does not mean that the patient, without assistance, will understand and resolve his own false beliefs.” 

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