Monday, August 11, 2008

Success Without Distress: John Edwards: A self-deceiving psycho-diagnostician

(Note from Ovidia: Without an intervention, is the same fate in store for
Brett Favre ??!?!)

By Dr. Steven Berglas writes in Success Without Distress

Professional psychologists think their cause is advanced when politicians like Henry Waxman protect the NIMH budget from cuts. Humphf. I say we got a real incremental boost in our status when John Edwards became only one of a handful of politicians to self-diagnose the cause of his professional self-destruction in public. Any time a former candidate for Vice President uses the term “narcissism” with reporters taking notes, our stock goes up.

Unfortunately, that’s where my good news ends. You see, Edwards used “narcissism” on 08/08/08 in a statement admitting that he had, indeed, had an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter, exactly as The National Enquirer had been asserting for weeks. Sounding just like a shrink, Mr. Edwards’ rationale for doing “the naughty” with Ms. Hunter was that success clouded his judgment. In his own words: "In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic." I can hear Dana Carvey (as the Church Lady) saying: “Now isn’t that special…?”

After issuing his statement, almost-VP Edwards went on ABC’s Nightline to reiterate his excuse and close the book on the issue. How did he propose to do that? Why, of course, by saying that he understood what drove him to do what he did and it won’t happen again! “Now isn’t that special…?”

Here’s the BIG HOLE in Mr. Edwards’ mea culpa: He strongly suggests that since he “understands” what he did, he is positioned to live “happily ever after” as a sadder-but-wiser-and-chastened man. Trust me; it won’t happen. Why? Because like most of what has been oozing out of his mouth since being caught virtually in flagrante delicto at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, his “apology” was disingenuous.

In my first blog for Psychology Today I said:

My decision to blog stems from a veritable lifetime of studying the question: "They had the world in the palm of their hands...what made them do it?" This question appears in headlines, dominates the airwaves, and passes over virtually every intelligent person's lips, after people like Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, or Martha Stewart engage in self-destructive, career-threatening (or career terminating) behavior.

Clearly the former Democratic U.S. senator from North Carolina evokes a “Here we go again…” from those familiar with my work. This, of course, is horribly sad, since a man and his family are in pain. The reason why I am neither concerned with what Mr. Edwards did with Ms. Hunter nor the implications his infidelity has for our political system (and the fact that such a huge moral collapse would be ignored by every major newspaper in the USA is a BIG DEAL), is because I think his post-trysting behavior is of greater import.

I have never met nor have I ever spoken to John Edwards, but as a result of studying, and working with men like him for over 30 years, I do know what makes these individuals “tick”. As such, I fear that he is going to be psychologically devastated if he thinks that after last Friday’s “performance” he is on the road to redemption.

Edwards did not have an affair because “success went to his head.” If anything, he had an affair (or has had many), because of the pain caused by blows to his self-esteem.

Edwards was successful since high school when he was a star football player. Men like that don’t suddenly get ‘Wrecked By Success” (as Freud observed in 1915) 20 years after first tasting stardom; it happens with the first bite.

But let’s say that John Edwards was truly resistant to the ravages of success; wouldn’t a windfall such as the one his personal injury law practice brought him – nearly $30 million— have rocked his world enough to tip him over?

One other thing: I have worked with over 40 multi-millionaires who were unfaithful to their spouses because of “success-induced” narcissism. Not one of these men engaged in a single, time-limited affair, as Edwards claims he did. Unless or until these men began working with me, they were active, serial seducers of naive women –like Bill Clinton— not one-time adulterers.

An Alternative Perspective:
People like Edwards, who as far back as they can remember, enjoyed continual success, respond horridly to career failure and the knowledge that they cannot be considered “a success” again unless, or until, they replicate or exceed past performance levels. When he left the U.S. Senate to run for VP with Al Gore in 2004, and recently in a failed campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Edwards tasted failure.

I feel these two blows to Edwards’ ego are what drove him to act-out. Specifically, I feel that Edwards had a need to re-assert his power and his masculinity (via an affair) because of his history of believing that his entire self-worth derived from success. Had Edwards not “proved his potency,” I feel he would have suffered ego-annihilation when he failed.

Why Edwards Is Still In Trouble:
I could address this for pages; actually, I did, in my last book, Reclaiming The Fire: How successful people overcome burnout. Since I feel I have so much to say about Edwards’ plight, let me draw some of it out over subsequent blogs. For the moment, consider this:

For men who, almost literally, become addicted to the external accoutrements of success, there is one and only one cure: Subordinating their ego to family (or a community) OR religion. There are no other known substitutes for the highs obtained from adulation, material wealth, and interpersonal power.

The issue is, involving oneself in either requires candor, humility, and the knowledge that although you may be your Mamma’s favorite boy, you are not her SUN; you’re her SON. Edwards’ sins by omission and, until he was caught-red-handed, lies, demonstrate that he is not ready to subordinate his ego to anything.

I will address other aspects of why I am worried that John Edwards is deceiving-himself into a major psychological catastrophe in subsequent blogs.

Until then, please tell me what you think.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | cna certification