Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Self-Deception: Psychoanalytic Principles in Action

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 20, 2012

Leo, fifty-two, says he is happily married, even though he spends every weekend with his guy friends from his childhood. Bo, seventy-three, says he loves his wife and kids, but he tells them they have ruined his life in that they have financially drained him of his resources. Marcy, sixty, says she comes from a wonderful family, even though her father beat her frequently when he drank too much. These examples of how people create narratives which involve what they wish to be true, rather than what they actually feel to be true, is where psychoanalysis enters as a helpful discipline. We embrace contradiction, as we understand the layers of the mind. We understand that wishes can seem like truths, until a point in time, where reality collides with the wish, and crisis ensues. Leo thought he was happily married, until his wife of thirty years told him she was leaving the marriage because she felt lonely. This crisis led to couples therapy which eventually led to Leo going into his own intensive therapy, such that Leo could begin to see his disappointments in the marriage. He would come to understand that he was avoiding his marriage by “hanging out” with his “buddies.” Ultimately, he could see how he was lying to himself-the worst kind of lie. Yet, if he could lie to himself, he could also learn to be honest with himself, and so he could learn to forgive himself and appreciate his personal growth. He came to embrace his more authentic life. He saved his marriage. The ability to deceive ourselves is uniquely human. This brain complexity demands a highly skilled and highly intensive intervention. Fortunately, we have tools for such complexity.

5 Responses to “Self-Deception: Psychoanalytic Principles in Action”

  1. Jon said

    Your story of (and by extension, Bo and Marcy) Leo puts me in a Hegelian mood – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis. The thesis is self-deception. The antithesis is self-honesty. The synthesis is a healthier psyche.

  2. Shelly said

    Psychoanalysis can be beneficial indeed only if there is complete agreement between patient and therapist that there is a need for treatment. The relationship cannot be forced by a third party who decides that the second party “needs treatment” even if the therapist also agrees that the patient would be healthier with treatment. The patient-therapist bond is sacred and cannot be forced. Without buy-in by all involved parties therapy cannot be one-sided. I’m thinking forced parental sessions in cases of child abuse, etc….

    • Hi Shelly,
      I agree. The beauty of psychoanalysis is the “buy in” by the patient that the problems in his/her life stems from the inner workings of his/her brain. This is the premise from which the work or the journey begins. Without an acceptance that one trips oneself up, then there is no point to self-discovery, which is, in essence, what psychoanalysis offers up. Thanks Again!

  3. Click Here said

    Why Not Try This Out
    I always enjoy coming back to this blog for posts like this. do you agree

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