Self-Deception

Authenticity in humans is no doubt one of the surest measurements of a healthy mental state.  One that has a pureness of clarity, able to distinguish the real from the delusive, striving always for the truth; accepting of reality, accepting of itself.  The healthy human psyche wears no disguise; does not hide behind rose-tinted glass; does not insulate itself from painful truths.  Or does it?

There are few things more complex than the human mind and when it comes to authenticity, the waters are fairly murky.

According to Freud’s psychodynamic model, the psyche is composed of three distinct components; superego, ego and id.  His well-established theory posits that the ego component sits smack dab in the middle between superego and id.   In control of the reality state, ego strives to keep the peace while satisfying, at least in part, both the needs of superego and those of id.  Id, with its intense need for immediate satisfaction of primal needs and superego, with its unrelenting, guilt-infusing reminder to always do the right thing.  The inescapable kill-joy that is superego is a necessary counter-balance to the immature and insatiable primal drives of id.

Holding fort on the reality state is no easy feat for ego.  At times, the conflict between id and superego can become so intense as to threaten the very existence of ego.  Tension and conflict mount as id refuses to compromise on its pleasure principle and superego’s righteous voice cannot be quelled.  When this occurs, ego must protect itself.  It does so by putting up various defences; ego defences.  Without such defences, the ego would lose all control of the reality state; disintegrating and imploding within itself.  Chaos would ensue, leading to disastrous consequences for the organism itself.

Protected by the ego defences, the organism is allowed to continue to function, but it does so at the cost of self-deception.   In the long run, the insulating cover of self-deception can lead to a weakening, or even a loss of the self; in the short run, it is an absolute necessity.   Most (but not all) defences are unconscious and the organism itself is unaware of their existence.  If we know what to look for, we can see these defences in others.  Rarely can we see them in ourselves.

What does this all mean in the context of personal growth and authenticity?  There is hope.  It is possible to become aware of the defences that we construct.  We can start to see the walls we put up through self-awareness, learning, catharsis, self-acceptance, self-honesty and a willingness to face our demons.  It isn’t an easy task to be sure.  We must consciously come face to face with those things that threaten us the most.  We must climb that tree, find the weakest branch and walk on it until it breaks.  Only then can we come to understand that we will survive facing even our greatest fears.  As the walls slowly fall away, clarity replaces the muted, protective veil on reality and authenticity replaces self-deception.

Self-deception has its place, but seeking authenticity through the removal of at least some of our defences will lead to a stronger grasp of reality, and in turn, a more realistic and defined sense of self.   True peace of mind can only come through genuine acceptance of what and who we are.

I recently read a great book called Hide and Seek; The Psychology of Self-Deception by Dr. Neel Burton.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading a clear description of all of the ego-defences.  Fascinating stuff.

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9 Responses to Self-Deception

  1. I’ve never been a big fan of Freud, but your explanation of his ego, id, super ego theories are clear and interesting. I’ll be posting an article on the inner voice in which I compare what we say to what we keep to ourselves to the id and ego. I’m sure I’m not as articulate as you on this matter, but I’d be interested in what you think. Well written.

    • lthibault11 says:

      I am not a big fan of Freud either, but I do like his theory on the various components of the psyche. It provides an interesting visual to work with. I will keep an eye out for your piece on the inner voice and look forward to reading it. Thank you for your comment.

      L

  2. Nina Renee says:

    “We must consciously come face to face with those things that threaten us the most. We must climb that tree, find the weakest branch and walk on it until it breaks. Only then can we come to understand that we will survive facing even our greatest fears.”

    Brilliant. Do I have your permission to post this on my wall?? 🙂

  3. You found my post on inner and outer voices, and although I didn’t mention Freud, I equate the inner voice to the ego and the outer voice to the id; although, I’m sure that’s not accurate. You’re an excellent writer who’s honest about her introversion. I haven’t perused your site, but I’ll check out our articles on introversion; and, perhaps, we can collaborate on an article. Sound good?

    • lthibault11 says:

      Sure!

      I am indeed very comfortable with my introverted self and always have been. Even before I became acquainted with Jung’s personality theory, I knew that the way I experienced the world was different from the “norm”. Despite significant social pressures to conform to the extroverted ideal, I realized very early on in life that this was who I was, and nothing was going to change that. I accepted, and then embraced my introversion.

      Introversion is a popular topic these days and I think that’s a good thing. Introverts need, and have a right, to live their lives authentically. And the extroverts of the world can only gain by opening their minds and looking past the stereotype that marks the introvert as anti-social, shy, uninteresting and withdrawn. By taking the time to dig a little deeper, they may be surprised to find the goldmine that lies below the surface of the introverted personality.

      With respect to Freud, I think both the id and superego speak loudly. I agree with you that id is more vocal and persistent in being heard. The immature id wants what it wants, and it wants it now! Ego has the tough and thankless job of keeping the peace, lol.

      L

  4. m. barber says:

    “We must consciously come face to face with those things that threaten us the most. We must climb that tree, find the weakest branch and walk on it until it breaks. Only then can we come to understand that we will survive facing even our greatest fears.”

    These words are golden. Thank you again. 🙂

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