Saturday, May 10, 2014

"The Two False Selves"

"Poor Me and The Great I-Am are identical twins. They're both looking for all the attention they can get." - Alcoholics Anonymous

I've pointed out before I don't believe in any of that Alpha/Beta/Whatever. There is more than one reason, and all of them are interrelated.

One, "Alpha" is a grandiose comic-book concept, closer to fantasies of James Bond/Matt Helm/Derek Flint/Travis McGee than reality. (The "Alpha" is the "idealized false self," unless it's defined as the Greeks defined it: being the best you at be, at what you are good at doing (the "True Self"). The Greeks noticed you got Eudaimonia (well-being) through Arete (excellence). In other words, fulfilling your potential.

Men, ideally, are supposed to be protectors, providers, inventors, discoverers, creators, fixers, explorers - to push the boundaries. That is, to be the best you can. That is the real "Alpha." What Jack Donovan called "strength, courage, honor, and mastery." What the Four Cardinal Virtues calls Prudence, Justice, Self-Control and Courage.

"Grandiose" is the operative word here. It's narcissistic, and in narcissism you have to project your problems elsewhere. Hence, the despised "Beta" (the "despicable false self"). It's called scapegoating, and scapegoating/projection is the first defense humans use. "It's your fault, not mine!"

There is no way around this. No matter the excuses and rationalizations, "Alpha" will be the narcissistic grandiose and "Beta" will be the narcissistic devalued. It's a terrible thing, and will cause nothing but trouble.

One site that does understand narcissism in The Rawness, and he understands it quite well.

He's right that this splitting has to do with shame, because so many men have been shamed. As a result, they try to cover up that shame with grandiosity. It's a common defense.

Here is an article from his site, titled "The Two False Selves."

"I often talk about the idealized false self in my writing. It’s a concept that comes up very often in psychology, philosophy, and eastern spirituality, although not always under the same name. It basically means a perfectionist persona that one believes represents the ideal type of person one should aspire to be. Neurotic people then put all their efforts into appearing to be this idealized false self. If a neurotic person had to choose between appearing to be their idealized, false self to the outside world and being secretly utterly miserable inside or being happy and at peace inside but not appearing to be their idealized false self to the outside world, they would prefer the former choice.

"When you read a lot of psychological and spiritual self-help, you come across a lot of writing about false self and true self. While this distinction is very useful, it doesn’t tell the full story. There are two things lacking in this construct: first, neurotics usually have two false selves, not one, and second, not everyone has a developed true self. Today I’ll focus on the first observation, and save the second for my next post.

"Karen Horney, in Neurosis and Human Growth, discusses the two false selves. Everyone has an idealized false self, an inflated persona they display to the world, and a true self, which is the more vulnerable person they are deep down in their heart of hearts and behind closed doors. However there is also a second false self in addition to the idealized false self, which I call the despicable false self. If the idealized false self can be described as everything a person feels they should try be, then the despicable false self can be described as everything a person dreads being and feels they should try to be the opposite of. The more neurotic one is, the more extreme, unrealistic and caricaturelike the polarization of both of these false selves is in their imagination.

"So to review where we are, there are three selves in play:

The idealized false self
The despicable false self
The true self

"What differentiates an emotionally healthy person from a neurotic person is their relationships to these three selves? An emotionally healthy person may have a positive ideal he aspires to and a negative image that he wants to avoid, but on some conscious level he’s aware that neither of these ideals or their corresponding labels truly represents him, or are even truly attainable (although in all honesty the despised false self is probably easier to come close to attaining than the idealized one is). The neurotic, whether narcissistic or codependent, really believes his only choice is between these two ideals and totally buys into their corresponding labels, believes both are attainable, and has a constant struggle of oscillating between two damaging false selves.

"These two false selves are what are at play in a previous post I did, 'The Superhuman/Subhuman Dichotomy of Shame.' I suggest reading or rereading it now. What a person is doing when they’re undergoing the dichotomy of shame is oscillating between playing the roles of these two false selves, the idealized false self when feeling superhuman and the dreaded false self when feeling subhuman.

"Horney believed that the self is the core of one’s being, their potential. If one has an accurate conception of themselves, they are free to realize their potential. The healthy person’s real self is aimed at reaching their self-actualization throughout life.

"The neurotic’s self is split, however, into an ideal self and a despised self. One’s ideal self is created when one feels they are lacking in some area of life and are not living up to the ideals that they should be. What they 'should' be is their ideal. This ideal self is not a positive goal, nor is it realistic or possible. The despised self, on the other hand, is the feeling that one is hated by all around them; one assumes that this hated being is their true self. The neurotic, therefore, swings back and forth between pretending to be perfect and hating themselves. Horney called this inner battle the 'tyranny of the shoulds' and the neurotic’s 'striving for glory'. These two impossible selves prevent the neurotic from ever reaching their potential.

"That passage describes a key component of this: that most people are driven by a fear that their dreaded, despicable self is actually their true self. Much of people’s problems stem from the dysfunctional ways they deal with this fear, which as usual consist of overcompensation, surrender, and/or avoidance.

"Some good examples of this can be seen in the labels people choose to admire or bash. For example men may spend a lot of time thinking about alpha males (idealized false self) and beta males (despicable false self) and which category they fall under. Women may think about whether they’re a good girl vs. a slut or a bad bitch vs. a basic bitch.

"The best solutions involve first, becoming aware of the concept of the three selves, and second, identifying what the idealized false self, despised false self, and true self specifically are for you. The problem is, for many of us, we effectively don’t have a true self that we can easily identify because our true selves are so underdeveloped through neglect, similar to a muscle one never uses. It’s like those deep undercover cop movies where someone is playing a role so long and spending so little time in their real identity that they believe they’re the role and begin to forget who they really are. The role becomes more real than the person they were born as. This idea of an underdeveloped true self will be the subject of the next post."

Well, I met a girl in West Hollywood
I ain't naming names
She really worked me over good
She was just like Jesse James
She really worked me over good
She was a credit to her gender
She put me through some changes, Lord
Sort of like a Waring blender
Warren Zevon, "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me"

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