Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Secret Lives of Secret People

In a NYT article today about keeping secrets and double lives, I was stuck on this description of “repressors”:

“… in a series of experiments over the past decade, psychologists have identified a larger group they call repressors, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the population, who are adept at ignoring or suppressing information that is embarrassing to them and thus well equipped to keep secrets, some psychologists say.

“Repressors score low on questionnaires that measure anxiety and defensiveness - reporting, for example, that they are rarely resentful, worried about money, or troubled by nightmares and headaches. They think well of themselves and don't sweat the small stuff.

“Although little is known about the mental development of such people, some psychologists believe they have learned to block distressing thoughts by distracting themselves with good memories. Over time - with practice, in effect - this may become habitual, blunting their access to potentially humiliating or threatening memories and secrets.”

See, now, I can’t stand these people. The kind who have low anxiety and think everything they do is okay. Who “blunt” their experiences in order to remain unhurt. But this is what this country appears to strive for—isn’t that what all those “who moved my cheese” self-help books are about? What all that “I look good” and “I’m the best” talk-show attitude is about? I get the idea that there is a place before neurosis that would probably serve most of us well to try to find, but this, this “repression,” well, even the word implies that it is too much, self-protection gone too far. (Although that’s obvious, I know. What’s not is the naming of this type this way.) Isn’t this what leads to homophobia and xenophobia and so many other-hating phobias?

I wonder how similar this kind of person is to another type mentioned in the article:

“In a famous paper on the subject of double lives, published in 1960, the English analyst Dr. Donald W. Winnicott argued that a false self emerged in particular households where children are raised to be so exquisitely tuned to the expectations of others that they become deaf to their own longings and needs.

“"In effect, they bury a part of themselves alive," said Dr. Kwawer of the White Institute.”


At 11:33 AM, Blogger finnegan said...

Sounds suspiciously like the Bush W admin.


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