Betrayal of The Self
by Stanley Siegel
Infidelity means different things to many of us. Most commonly it brings to mind a violation or betrayal of another person, usually a partner or loved one. But as several of the authors in this month issue show, among the most profound infidelity is the betrayal of the self – the abandonment, denial or falsification of the truth about who we are and all the ensuing psychological and relationship consequences that follow.
Deborah Cox, Ph.D. describes this phenomenon with surgical precision in her moving essay, How I Abandoned Desire: “Could it be that I obeyed the lesson to fear my sexual self, so thoroughly, that I sought out mates who would help me repress it? First, I marry someone who doesn’t turn me on. Then I marry someone who most definitely does – but I enlist him in the campaign to silence my sexual urges. And could my stellar repressive abilities have contributed to my cancer?”
Romance rarely fails to lead to self-delusion. Perhaps its a necessary part of forging a bond. But the deeper we fall, the more we tend to abandon ourselves. We strive to present our best selves and imagine the same ideal in our partner, only to find later when come out of the romantic haze, we barely have anything in common with them.
Dr. Brandy Engler, in Love’s Illusions I Recall, describes exactly this detail when she surrenders to a whirlwind romance from which she saves herself from heartbreak just in the nick of time. “The lesson I had to learn”, she says, “was that I didn’t need to seek shiny relationships to compensate for some fear of mediocrity or hard work. If I wanted an extraordinary life, I had to be extraordinary myself.”
Alyssa Siegel’s column this month, My Cheating Heart, examines the common emotional, physical and practical factors that lead to marital infidelity and what spouses can do – from communicating our true sexual desires to listen to theirs – to minimize the risk.
In The Heterophobic Man, I write about a case that was infuriating initially for the cruel betrayal of an individual patient by the professional community and society at large, and then more cumulatively and retroactively, for the legion of similar betrayals it most assuredly represents through the misuse of diagnosis – at great cost to all of us.
What does porn mean? How can we use it to stay truthful to our sexuality. Feminist porn, sexual identity, gender roles and women’s desires are discussed in the first in a series of conversations. Porn Talk is A Conversation Between Porn Stars, with Nica Noelle, porn director, actor, and media journalist and Benjamin Peck, attorney, porn actor and frequent contributor to Psychology Tomorrow.
We justify killing by relabeling it, just as civilizations always have – to protect ourselves; to protect our trade interests; to exact retribution. There is nothing new about violence according to Benjamin Peck, in Thou Shalt Not Kill: Is Violence In Our Souls? But how we decide when it is justified, that is a matter of who holds the power at the moment.
Is there any more predictable betrayal than when the body refuses to perform as it had? Award winning poet Eleanor Lerman writes, from the collective consciousness of her generation, about the amazement, amusement and anger they all feel about getting older and the profound realization that there is an enduring mystery ahead.
While the idea of the body holding memories and emotions is not new, Jack Wiener’s, approach is. The choreographer and psychoanalyst talks with Dr. Velleda Ceccoli in Jeté into The Unconscious: The Kinetics of Emotion, about his unique method of re-aligning the body so it can be freed from the oppression of unwanted thoughts.
In her intelligent and red-hot book, Garden of Desire: The Evolution of Women’s Fantasies, leading British sex writer Emily Dubberley explores the meaning of desire and discovers new truths about female sexuality through self-reported stories, and a survey of contemporary psychology. Psychology Tomorrow asks you to share your fantasies anonymously.
The fashion industry, along with advertising and media that support it, conspire against the acceptance of our body as it exists, to conform. We must measure our body against these industries’ idealized visions. But if we reject fashion stereotypes, as Tiago Pinto Ribeiro and Raquel Barbosa write in The Body in Fashion, we can learn to appreciate our body as integral to the whole self and play with fashion as a means of self-expression, comfort and belonging, rather than being played upon by it.
Finally, Matthew Ortiz’s reviews Woody Allen’s devastating and funny film, Blue Jasmine. From a psychological perspective, the movie is as much a powerful study of the price of infidelity as it is about the consequence of a life without self-reflection.
“To thine own self be true.”