Our sense of self and true identity is most heavily influenced, according to modern psychodynamic theory, by the quality of our relationship with our primary carer (most frequently the mother) during our first year of life.
Those of us who experienced a poor quality of care during this critical developmental period, such as not having been treated with sensitivity or empathy, not having had our fundamental emotional needs met, or because we were abused or otherwise neglected, are at the greatest risk of developing a poor sense of self-identity in adulthood (i. e. a feeling of not knowing, or being uncertain about, ‘who we really are’).
Fame As A Coping Strategy :
Some people attempt to deal with their weak sense of identity by excessive use of drink and drugs, not infrequently leading to addiction.
However, others, to compensate for their feelings of lack of identity, may become addicted to the feelings, emotions and sensations that being famous can induce.
For example, being recognized in the street (although in many ways annoying, or even distressing) can provide an ephemeral sense of identity and temporarily heighten one’s feelings of self-esteem and personal worth.
Similarly, being on stage in front of enraptured, adoring, possibly hysterical fans floods the celebrity’s brain with chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine, providing an almost transcendental ‘buzz’ which no drug, it is said, can accurately recreate.
But Who Am I?
However, the problem is that part of being famous frequently involves adopting a persona, or, to use a more clinical expression, false self.
Because it is the false self that is recognized by fans, rather than the real self, identity confusion is intensified; the real self is neglected and remains unknown, increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. The famous person may then become even more out of touch, or dissociated from, who s/he ‘really is’.
Indeed, famous people frequently lament the fact that their fans think they know them but, in reality, have no idea of what they’re really like. In fact, the persona and ‘true self’ may be radically different – the former confident, even swaggering, and the latter, the real self, deeply insecure and emotionally fragile.
Effects On Relationships:
The false self / persona may become so dominant (in effect, the famous person may take to ‘hiding behind’ it) that people who knew the famous person before his/her success may no longer ‘recognize’ him/her and become alienated. This can then lead to the breakdown of such relationships, leaving the famous person feeling more vulnerable than ever and more reliant still on unhealthy relationships with ‘hangers on’ who serve only to encourage the development of the false self.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).