Self-delusion definition

Self-delusion can be defined as the most popular ways to ‘escape’ from oneself used by individuals when feeling vulnerable. Of course, people do not deliberately deceive themselves, but their subconscious mind come up with such tricks to protect their psychological well-being.

The common ‘I’m so busy’  syndrome is one of the most common examples of self-delusion. A person who is unable to be successful in a particular area may decide to avoid it by pretending to be busy. Some workaholics live in self-delusion because they have failed to establish social life and decided to isolate themselves using this approach.

Self-delusion meaning

People get absorbed by self-delusion because they are not strong enough to admit that they are vulnerable. Individuals try not to face the uncomfortable realities of life because  they are not ready to solve them yet. 

In his work “A New Language for Psychoanalysis“, the famous American psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Roy Schaefer describes the patient’s habit of deceiving himself as a way of “unconscious protection” from unpleasant or shameful experiences.

The phenomenon of self-delusion is reflected in the writings of a number of existentialist philosophers, the most famous of whom are Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre. In the works of the latter, self-delusion plays a key role and is interpreted as the main form of inauthentic existence.

From the context of Sartre’s writings, it follows that a necessary condition for self-delusion is the so-called “separation” of the essence of a person into two parts (“I” and “consciousness”), one of which hides from the other something known only to her. 

The degrees of self-delusion

The first degree of self-delusion is a simple denial of unpleasant facts. They sound like:

“I am not an alcoholic, even though I drink daily.”

“I don’t eat too much, even though I am overweight.”

The second degree of self-deception is minimization. At this stage, individuals recognize an unseemly fact, but considers it the norm and provides a justification for their actions. 

The third degree is projection, which means that a person admits that there is a problem, but shifts the responsibility onto someone else. 

Self-delusion can ruin life because a person stops caring about solving real problems. Psychologists say that any attempt to deceive oneself is based on an unconscious need, and the only way to avoid self-delusion is to help a person satisfy this need in another way.

Svitlana Drach

Svitlana Drach

Psychology4u.net team member

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