Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Hyperbole: Why?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 24, 2014,0,2093443.story#axzz2uHGk9ei3


As the Oscars approach and I read this article by Charles McNulty, I suddenly felt understood. Why do people need to say “the best” frequently, thereby invalidating their point? There is the concept of a recency bias, where we are prone to exaggerate our most recent experience, and hence the last movie we saw is often “the best”. Narcissism is at play as well. We want to believe that we have exceeded our previous experience, thereby making this particular event “special” and us, special, by association. This strong need to feel like we have had a uniquely intriguing experience is how corporations make loads of money by both personalizing and making the activity feel exclusive. Exclusivity, specialness, sells. Narcissism licking, is another phrase which comes to mind. If I can stroke an ego, I will be liked. This is simple marketing. Understanding narcissism does not just help us develop more intimate relationships, it also helps us exploit them, if that is what we so desire. Not understanding narcissism creates a vulnerability of being “played”. Marla, of Monte-Marla comes to mind. She needed flattery so much that she could not distinguish between “sucking up” and true appreciation such that she could not discern between genuine gratitude and the need to please. This distinction is critical towards understanding the unconscious need to please, resulting in a tendency towards hyperbole. Genuine gratitude comes from a deeper, meaningful place, which feels vastly different than the hyperbole resulting from a deep need to please others. This distinction, although subtle to some, is important in the long-game of relationships, as over time, deep appreciation persists, whereas the need to please turns into resentment and anger. More case examples to come. Stay tuned.

6 Responses to “Hyperbole: Why?”

  1. Jon said

    Well… I have to start with my old line, “If I have told you once, I have told you a quintillion times, DON’T USE HYPERBOLE!”

    Now that that is out of the way, I will have to agree with Charles McNulty that this was not a great year for films. A few were bad, many were OK, some were good, but none of them seemed great to me. As the old saying goes, “You pays your monies and takes your chances.” Sigh… I would have liked a great film, but it wasn’t to be found.

    On to the last topic, the distinction “between genuine gratitude and the need to please.” This can be seen also as real feelings verses obsequiousness, or as long viewed friendship verses short viewed acquaintance. Given that, sadly, Marla’s narcissism seems to color her ability to develop and sustain true friendships.

    • Your old line is funny because it illustrates how many people speak without thinking…humor grabs hold of the unconscious mind.
      Best picture, as we all know, is relative to the other films of that year, and hence the need to know best of what?
      Finally, gratitude versus the need to please is a subject which interests me deeply, because, as you can imagine, it is not either/or, both may be at play at the same time, but it is still important to parse out the factors that go into an expression of thanks. This understanding creates a deepening of the mind and a resilience against the possible anger and resentment down the line.

  2. Ashana M said

    Our need for specialness seems to be linked to alienation. People in collectivist cultures typically have more moderate self-esteem–and most rate themselves as “below average” in many areas. Those in more individualistic societies have extremely high self-esteem (on average). We tend to think we are “above average” at most things. I think we feel we must be special because we have to make it all on our own. It’s unfortunate.

    Having seen none of this year’s films, I’m afraid I can’t comment on whether any of them were the “best.” They probably weren’t. The Oscar nominees are usually fairly mediocre.

    • Ashana, you remind me that self-esteem is both externally and internally driven. I was focused on the internal aspects, the need to feel special, and you rightly point out that there is a cultural component as well. Thanks.

  3. Shelly said

    “…the need to please turns into resentment and anger.” What brings about this need to please? What are the origins? And why should it bring about resentment and anger, unless it is ignored or not appreciated? When you say that we all have the need to feel special, why is that? I don’t necessarily feel that is so. At least on a conscious level, I don’t. I more feel like I don’t want to be different than others, to stick out or to be noticed in any way.

    • The need to please is often a result of a child who grows up with a narcissistic parent and thereby learns that to get attention they must “take care” of their parent, thus ignoring their own needs, and wishes. This ignoring of one’s sense of agency (perhaps one can use the word soul) leads to anger and resentment. Feeling special and fitting in are both universal aspects of the human desire. We both want to belong to a group, and at the same time, feel like we offer up a unique contribution. I would venture a guess that you are tuned into the part of you that wants to belong, but I would bet that there is another part of you that also wants to be unique. Balancing these seemingly opposing thoughts is the art of living. Thanks.

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