Heroes, Role Models and Idols

Now that I’ve gone through all the responses to my last post and done a little more reading on the subject, I feel clearer about heroes and what we expect of them. While a number of people made idiosyncratic or very personal choices, the majority named men and women who tended (1) to have overcome some kind of adversity and (2) behaved in a selfless manner. I’ll be exploring these attributes further in the final section of my upcoming eSingle, The Hero as Narcissist: How Greg Mortenson and Lance Armstrong Conned a Willing Public, available some time during the month of April.

At first, I tried to make a distinction between heroes and role models, but the more I read about their defining features, they didn’t strike me as very different. Heroes and role models both tend to embody our ideals for human behavior. That’s a good thing, I suppose — we need to have ideals we can strive toward. But we can get into trouble when we idealize those people who embody our ideals, when we fail to see them as human beings with some outstanding qualities but flawed and fallible like the rest of us in other areas.

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Who Are Your Heroes and Why?

As I work on the final section of my eBook about Greg Mortenson and Lance Armstrong (“The Hero as Narcissist”), I’ve been thinking about why the public so ready to believe the stories they invented about themselves — that is, why we need heroes/heroines to admire. In my research, I came across an interesting quote. So far, I haven’t been able to attribute it to an actual person, whether it’s an ancient proverb or if someone in particular first said it.

“Tell me who your heroes are, and I’ll tell you who you are – or at least who you want to be.”

Whoever said it first, I think this sentence contains an important truth.

I’d like to ask for your help in clarifying my thoughts about this issue, so I’m inviting everyone to leave a comment and tell me: (1) if you have a particular hero or heroine; and (2) why that person is heroic in your eyes. Keep it short. In advance, I’d ask that nobody criticize the choice made by anyone else. I won’t approve any comment that shows disrespect for another person.

The Difference Between Anger and Hatred

In preparation for my appearance later today on Sandy Weiner’s BlogTalkRadio program Courageous Conversations, I’ve been thinking about anger and hatred. Sandy and I will be discussing how to cope with the eruption of hatred in our intimate relationships and I needed to clarify how hatred differs from anger.

We can distinguish between anger and hatred in two ways: intensity and duration. It helps to think of them as occurring along a spectrum. Anger might be triggered when a loved one does something that frustrates us. It tends to come and go and doesn’t crowd out all our other feelings for that person. We can often voice it in ways that aren’t hurtful. Hatred lasts longer and is more pervasive. It tends to overwhelm us and obscure everything else we might feel. It makes us want to take action, to hurt or destroy whatever inspires the hatred.

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Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and the Anti-Shame Zeitgeist

Because I write so much about the topic of shame on my website, I’m often asked if I’m familiar with the work of Brené Brown, the noted shame researcher from the University of Houston. I’ve known about Dr. Brown for quite some time now and have watched both of her TED Talk videos several times, but until recently, I hadn’t read any of her books. With the release of Daring Greatly and its climb up the bestseller lists, I decided it was time I acquainted myself more deeply with her work, especially as I’ve begun the background research for my book on shame in earnest.

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This Therapist Needs Your Help

One of my Skype clients was recently searching for an in-person therapist to see her husband and decided to ask for a referral from an eminent professional in the city where she lives. With an international reputation, this man has authored several books and is frequently invited to speak at conferences all over the world. Not long after she left a voice message indicating that she’d like him to suggest a referral, he returned her call and offered himself as a candidate. Because she had assumed (given his reputation) that he’d have a full practice, his offer took her by surprise. She felt (and I also felt) that those openings in his practice didn’t reflect well on his skills as a therapist.

After the session in which she and I discussed the referral, I thought differently about it. I recognized my underlying belief, one I suspect is shared by many of my colleagues: in order to appear successful as a therapist (and in many other professions), you cannot appear needy. Back in Los Angeles, my colleagues and I taught classes and supervised interns and gave papers in order to build our practices, but rarely asked directly for referrals. You must put yourself forward as a competent authority, hoping that other people will see you as such and then send referrals your way. Or you buy private supervision from one of the rainmakers in the field, often for years, until they eventually decide to feed you new clients (the president of my institute once privately described it to me as “indentured servitude”). You do all these things to get the clients you need in order to sustain a practice but you’re not supposed to ask for them.

The eminent therapist who asked my client to consider him as a candidate thus looked too needy. In this warped view of mine, expressing need disqualified him as a therapist. In order to get what you need, you have to appear not to need it. Is that crazy? I’m embarrassed that I still hold this view on some level. It feels like a kind of hypocrisy: the people who come to me for therapy often feel ashamed of their own needs, feeling as if they must hide their neediness or be rejected; I always try to help them acknowledge those needs and feel brave enough to ask for what they need in their relationships. Do as I say, not as I do. Tsk tsk tsk.

I feel some embarrassment even now because I need your help, but I’m going to ask for it anyway. As you know, my book Why Do I Do That? will be released later this month — on October 29th, to be precise. Because I withdrew from my contract with New Harbinger Publications, electing to release the book on my own, I don’t have a publicity department behind me; I must take charge of all the promotion myself. I’ll be doing my best to promote awareness through press releases and scheduling interviews, but the greatest potential for making this book a success lies with you, the regular readers of my posts. I’m asking for your support at this critical time.

As you may know, I’ve been writing this website for just about two years now. As of today, I’ve written 168 posts averaging 500-1000 words in length; there are over 5,100 comments on the site, almost half of them mine because I try to answer nearly every reader who submits one. In addition, I’ve received hundreds of private emails from people asking for advice and I’ve answered every one of them. I don’t charge for answering a comment or replying to an email, nor do I accept advertising on my site. After Psychotherapy has been a pro bono labor of love and I plan to go on with this non-paying venture; my efforts are more than repaid by the gratification I derive from writing and sharing my ideas, and from the gratitude of the people I reach.

I’d like to make some money off of my book, of course, but even more, I want it to be successful. I’ve been writing since I was 12, and the publication of this book is a very big deal for me. If it does well enough, I may get the attention of a more mainstream publisher and have the opportunity to reach a larger audience. I’ve so enjoyed having total artistic control over my book that I’m not sure I still want to go that route, but at least I’d like to have the option. My research tells me that I need to rank well on Amazon, and that becoming an “Amazon bestseller” for even one day is important. In order to do, that I’ll need your help.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Buy a copy of the book from Amazon, preferably on October 29th. The trade paperback version (242 pages) costs $14.95 and the eBook $8.95. Ask yourself whether the time you’ve spent here and the posts you’ve read have given you insight or enjoyment worth 15 dollars. It’s your chance to give something back to me and I need it. I’ll also be very grateful!

2. Let other people know about it. Tell friends and put something about it on your Facebook status. Word of mouth is everything.

3. After you read the book, write a review on Amazon and/or one of the other book review sites like goodreads.com. Hopefully it will be a positive review: the number of good reviews a book receives correlates well with sales. Some time during November, I’ll make both the print and digital versions available on Barnes & Noble, the eBook only on iTunes.

If any of you have your own websites and would be willing to review the book, please write and let me know (afterpsy@gmail.com); I’ll send you an advance digital copy. I’d like to coordinate a number of reviews or mentions right around the time the book comes out. Or if you know someone else who might be interested in reviewing it, please let me know. Finally, if you have any suggestions for other ways to promote the book, please do not hesitate to tell me.

Thanks for your help!

Oh … and here’s the cover