We’ve all heard this popular saying: “Tell me what you presume and I’ll tell you what you’re missing.” It refers to when someone attributes a certain virtue to themselves. But, before long, they begin to show signs that contradict everything they are preaching about. In this case, what they are “advertising” is some trait or attribute that the person awards themselves.
This same logic doesn’t apply every time someone talks proudly about what they are or something they’ve done. There’s something that gives them away. It is the fact that there’s “a plus” in their attitude. They emphasize this trait strongly and way too frequently. They wave it like a flag, and their exaggeration of it is very evident.
Actually, someone immersed in this mechanism isn’t truly aware of it. On the contrary. The individual actually thinks that promoting certain ideas or values, using themselves as a model, is a genuine crusade. Deep down, their intention is not to convince others, but to convince themselves that it is true. The whole while they are trying to prove what they preach with concrete actions and arguments.
You excessively presume what you wish to be, not what you are
Someone who seems like a big talker but doesn’t apply what he preaches is actually a person trapped within a defense mechanism. Said mechanism is known as “reactive formation”. It’s practicing a behavior in order to avoid a repressed desire. In other words, the person desires something that they think is reprehensible. And in order to defend themselves against this unconscious impulse, they start to force themselves to do exactly the opposite.
The examples of this are endless. Those who wish to eat until they burst, but think that this wish or desire is reproachable because they could get fat and be rejected by society. Thus, they dedicate themselves to fanatically encouraging diets and finding junk food repugnant. Or the case of people who have very intense sexual desires, but consider them sinful. Therefore, they begin a crusade in the name of abstinence and chastity.
It is much more common to find people who are eager for the attention of certain people who hate or despise. The person is not lying or deliberately pretending. They are simply incapable of recognizing their own feelings, due to a moral self-imposed censorship.
Reactive formation can be targeted towards a specific aspect, such as order or hygiene, for example. But it can also become a behavioral pattern which forms part of their personality structure. In this case, there is a form of “false personality” in which practically all of an individual’s actions are oriented towards keeping up this mask. These are the type of people who “pretend to be someone they are not”.
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What hinders the expression of the desire is an extremely rigid moral conscience or an external mandate you are afraid or breaking. That’s why you presume to be something you are not, without really having the intention of doing so. What lets you identify that a reactive formation mechanism has been put into place is how emphatic or exaggerated your words or actions have become. Your “no” is too blunt. Your “yes” is especially exaggerated. These are signs that there is a hidden desire that guides you towards the opposite.
Currently, social networks are an authentic catalog for these mechanisms. Sometimes it seems that they were designed precisely so that each individual could prove that they are “something” that they are probably not. They post smiling photographs, though they are not as happy as they seem in the picture. People presume about their trips, their new jobs, their conquests. But there must be something uncertain for you about them if you need others to see them.
Reactive formations can give way to an obsessive personality. You presume to be something you’re not, and in order to keep up this self-deceit, you need to be alert all of the time. You need to constantly keep an eye on yourself and prove that you are not worthy of any suspicion. The situation can become exhausting, because the repressed desire will return over and over again, and you’ll feel besieged by it.
In this obsession to keep your unconscious desire under control, you might even experience a great deal of distress. A great inner tension can be generated, between that which is fighting to be expressed and the enormous effort you have to make to “keep it at bay”.
In those conditions, your strength can wane, and it is possible that you may develop compulsive behaviors. Thus, you shouldn’t forget that desires, regardless of what they are, are inoffensive solely when you acknowledge them. Then you can decide, consciously, whether to carry them out or not.