Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another hit at the self esteem myth

The absurd idea that high self-esteem is a universal good thing (contrasting with the Christian message of the importance of humility) has already been extensively debunked (See e.g. here and here and here) but the study below offers some refinements. The comments about people with fragile self-esteem seem particularly apt. I have long identified preachers of Leftism as having high but fragile self esteem -- or "large but weak egos", as I usually put it

Oscar Levant, a mid-century pianist, film star and wit, once watched noted keyboardist and composer George Gershwin spend an evening playing his own music at a party and clearly having a great time. "Tell me, George," Levant said, somewhat jealously, "if you have it to do all over again would you still fall in love with yourself""

Increasingly, psychologists are looking at such behavior and saying out loud what may go against the grain of how many people act: high self-esteem is not the same thing as healthy self-esteem. And new research by a psychology professor from the University of Georgia is adding another twist: those with "secure" high self-esteem are less likely to be verbally defensive than those who have "fragile" high self-esteem. "There are many kinds of high self-esteem, and in this study we found that for those in which it is fragile and shallow it's no better than having low self-esteem," said Michael Kernis. "People with fragile high self-esteem compensate for their self-doubts by engaging in exaggerated tendencies to defend, protect and enhance their feelings of self-worth." The research was published today in the Journal of Personality. Kernis's co-authors are Chad Lakey and Whitney Heppner, both doctoral students in the UGA social psychology program.

Amid the complexity of perspectives on the human psyche, a slow but relentless change is occurring in how psychologists view self-esteem, said Kernis. It was once thought that more self-esteem necessarily is better self-esteem. In recent years, however, high self-esteem per se has come under attack on several fronts, especially in areas such as aggressive behavior. Also, individuals with high self-esteem sometimes become very unlikable when others or events threaten their egos.

While high self-esteem is still generally valued as a good quality that is important to a happy and productive life, more researchers are breaking it down into finer gradations and starting to understand when high self-esteem turns from good to bad. In fact, it is now thought that there are multiple forms of high self-esteem, only some of which consistently relate to positive psychological functioning.

One of the ways in which high self-esteem can turn bad is when it is accompanied by verbal defensiveness-lashing out at others when a person's opinions, beliefs, statements or values are threatened. So Kernis and his colleagues designed a study, reported in the current article, to see if respondents whose self-esteem is "fragile" were more verbally defensive than those whose self-esteem was "secure."

Using 100 undergraduates, they set up a study in three phases. In the first part, students completed a basic demographic questionnaire and other measures to evaluate their levels and other aspects of self-esteem. In phase 2, the team assessed the students' stability of self-esteem because the more unstable or variable one's self-esteem, the more fragile it is. And finally, in the last phase, the researchers conducted a structured "life experiences interview" to measure what they call "defensive verbalization."

"Our findings offer strong support for a multi-component model of self-esteem that highlights the distinction between its fragile and secure forms," said Kernis. "Individuals with low self-esteem or fragile high self-esteem were more verbally defensive than individuals with secure high self-esteem. One reason for this is that potential threats are in fact more threatening to people with low or fragile high self-esteem than those with secure high self-esteem, and so they work harder to counteract them." On the other hand, individuals with secure high self-esteem appear to accept themselves "warts and all," and, feeling less threatened, they are less likely to be defensive by blaming others or providing excuses when they speak about past transgressions or threatening experiences.

One reason the study's findings are important, Kernis said, is that it shows that greater verbal defensiveness relates to lower psychological well-being and life satisfaction. "These findings support the view that heightened defensiveness reflects insecurity, fragility and less-than-optimal functioning rather than a healthy psychological outlook," said Kernis. "We aren't suggesting there's something wrong with people when they want to feel good about themselves. What we are saying is that when feeling good about themselves becomes a prime directive, for these people excessive defensiveness and self-promotion are likely to follow, the self-esteem is likely to be fragile rather than secure and any psychological benefits will be very limited."



Some truths about McCain that are stranger than fiction

Excerpts from an account by Karl Rove -- retelling what wartime comrades of McCain have related to him

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple." The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place. Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complemented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Another story I heard over dinner with the Days involved Mr. McCain serving as one of the three chaplains for his fellow prisoners. At one point, after being shuttled among different prisons, Mr. Day had found himself as the most senior officer at the Hanoi Hilton. So he tapped Mr. McCain to help administer religious services to the other prisoners. Today, Mr. Day, a very active 83, still vividly recalls Mr. McCain's sermons. "He remembered the Episcopal liturgy," Mr. Day says, "and sounded like a bona fide preacher." One of Mr. McCain's first sermons took as its text Luke 20:25 and Matthew 22:21, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Mr. McCain said he and his fellow prisoners shouldn't ask God to free them, but to help them become the best people they could be while serving as POWs. It was Caesar who put them in prison and Caesar who would get them out. Their task was to act with honor.

Another McCain story, somewhat better known, is about the Vietnamese practice of torturing him by tying his head between his ankles with his arms behind him, and then leaving him for hours. The torture so badly busted up his shoulders that to this day Mr. McCain can't raise his arms over his head. One night, a Vietnamese guard loosened his bonds, returning at the end of his watch to tighten them again so no one would notice. Shortly after, on Christmas Day, the same guard stood beside Mr. McCain in the prison yard and drew a cross in the sand before erasing it. Mr. McCain later said that when he returned to Vietnam for the first time after the war, the only person he really wanted to meet was that guard.

Mr. Day recalls with pride Mr. McCain stubbornly refusing to accept special treatment or curry favor to be released early, even when gravely ill. Mr. McCain knew the Vietnamese wanted the propaganda victory of the son and grandson of Navy admirals accepting special treatment. "He wasn't corruptible then," Mr. Day says, "and he's not corruptible today."

More here


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

The articles on self-esteem helped connect a few dots. Even George Carlin in his performance titled "It's Bad for You" noted "Most mass-murderers think very HIGHLY of themselves!" And a song titled "Mr. Most Important Person" ("You're the most important person in the world...") reminds me of this inflated self-esteem insanity. A great quote comes from the third linked article: "They turn violent toward others who fail to give them the inflated respect they think they deserve." Do others immediately think of Muslims, and particularly Mohammed, when reading that sentence?
Any honest look at history shows Mohammed to be one who turned violent against the Jews and Christians when they rejected him and his "revelations" as obviously false. He became enraged at being rejected, and Jews and Christians not giving him the inflated (and undeserved) respect that Mohammed believed they owed him is a very plausible explanation. Looking at Islam, it basically calls on followers to be like Mohammed, not like G-d. The Koran is clearly Mohammed's words, not G-d's. Mohammed even called upon his followers to murder anyone who said anything negative about him, calling it blasphemy or slander, which again is getting violent against those who did not give Mohammed the overinflated and undeserved respect that Mohammed believed he was entitled to. One can see those dots connected time and time again throughout Islam.