We have discussed self-ideation several times here but I think a more in-depth analysis of it is needed. So today I’m looking at self-ideation in the context of three conditions that we have also discussed, in order to highlight both how they affect self-ideation and to give us a better understanding of what it is.
The three contexts I’ve chosen to discuss self-ideation in are Borderline Personality Disorder, Dark Triad and Autogynephilia. These are quite different and self-ideation within them is also different, but they complement each other to give us a holistic overview.
First though, how do we define self ideation? It is clearly related to Identity, but with a major difference: identity is socially-formed while self-ideation exists within the mind of the individual. The individual may well seek out Identities that seem to ‘fit’ but those are pre-formed; they exist outside the individual.
The success of doing so depends on the extent to which our self-ideation matches any stated Identity and it should be obvious that any such match will be a compromise, like a ready-to-wear suit. It might not exactly fit. It’s pretty easy to adopt the Identity of ‘Rangers supporter’, but others are more difficult. Being a Christian, for example, may mean many things to different people.
That is because Identity is collective while self-ideation is individual. Nobody is exactly like anyone else but we can still adopt collective Identities when it is useful to do so — or when it serves another for us to do so.
Self-ideation then is an idea that we alone have of ourselves. It is private and internal. This is not the same as the idea that other people have of us. Burns’ aphorism, ‘to see ourselves as others see us’ becomes apposite here.
Most of us can project an Identity that is somewhat different to our self-ideation, in order to achieve the things we want. For example, we may affect a particular political persuasion in order to be accepted within a certain group or to further our careers; but this does not necessarily mean that we actually see ourselves that way. The disparity between the two, if revealed, can cause stress and many a career has been ended because it was revealed.
So self-ideation is unique to ourselves and only parts of it are revealed to others, normally.
Now let’s look at the three cases above and examine them in terms of self-ideation.
Borderlines: shattered self-ideation
Borderline Personality Disorder occurs when an individual displays characteristics of several disorders. They are ‘on the borderline’ between them. It is widely recognised in the West.
In this condition, self-ideation is notoriously weak, so much so that it can even affect professionals working with Borderlines. It is really stressful on their close relatives and loved ones too.
Borderlines usually have few friends, for this reason. Although self-ideation is something we recognise internally, inconsistencies in it can be detected by those around us. They might feel that they never know to whom they are talking, or that the subject is moody, unreliable and inconsistent. The person, however, is often unaware of these issues and may be surprised at the reactions they provoke. That is because even though the self-ideation is extremely variable, the self remains the same.
To a Borderline, ‘I’ am always going through life. It’s just that ‘I’ is like a boat adrift. Another way of thinking about this is to imagine self-ideation as a mirror. For most of us, the mirror is intact and the self reflected in it is the same. It may change through time but it is largely consistent.
Now imagine the mirror was thrown onto the ground and shattered into a hundred pieces. They all reflect the self, but which one is true? This is what life for a Borderline is like and being unable to be certain of whom they are, they become unsettled and stressed, which they then communicate to others.
This can proceed into a vicious cycle in which the more anxious they get, the more their behaviour deteriorates, the more remorse they feel as a result and the more anxiety they feel. This can be catastrophic both for the subject and his or her relatives.
A Borderline’s manifestations of inconsistent behaviour are effectively a cry for help, asking ‘Who am I?’
Borderlines do not cause the disruption that they do out of malice aforethought. They simply do not have the anchor of self-ideation that the rest of us rely on, which allows us to navigate society. They are essentially helpless and cannot modify their behaviour, because lacking a firm self-ideation they are unable to measure it against their own moral compass.
Dark Triads: strong Self-ideation
Dark Triads have three main personality traits, Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. There’s a recent article about them here. Sometimes, Sadism is added to the mix to make the Dark Tetrad, who is a truly terrifying character.
Because Borderlines and Dark Triads can exhibit similar characteristics, they are sometimes confused but they are actually very different and the crux of that difference is in self-ideation. Borderlines never know who they really are: Dark Triads and Tetrads absolutely do know who they are. Their self-ideation is very strong and this makes them dangerous, because that self is the only thing that matters to them.
While a Borderline might experience agonising remorse at some of the things they’ve done, verging, sometimes, on suicidality, a Dark Triad would never, ever feel that. He might be aware of the hurt he causes but he doesn’t care. His (or her) self-ideation is cast-iron and practically immutable. He never feels remorse or angst at his actions, though he may be annoyed at being caught out in some subterfuge. But he will immediately regroup and carry on, whereas the Borderline would go to pieces. In fact, Borderlines are largely incapable of the scheming and manipulation that Dark Triads so readily exhibit.
Autogynephilia: bi-located Self-ideation
So with an example of completely shattered self-ideation and a strongly consistent one, are there any others to consider? The most common is Autogynephilia.
Autogynephilia is ‘a man’s propensity to be aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman’ (Ray Blanchard). This requires a little explanation.
The Erotic Target
All of us have an ‘ideal other’ who is our Erotic Target. This begins to form in childhood and is usually developed by the early twenties, in men. Following Freud, this will be predicated at first on the person’s mother, if male, or father, if female. However, cultural influences soon begin to make an impression and these modify the Erotic Target to suit. Actual sex with an appropriate target will reinforce this further and indeed is a strong argument for lifelong monogamy, since then, the Erotic Target will always be the same person and will evolve as he or she does, through time.
In Autogynephilia the Erotic Target becomes located on the self. All Erotic Targets are the product of the self, indeed every interaction we have with the outside world is filtered through the self via our cognitive systems. We actually inhabit a mental model of the real world. The Erotic Target, is a part of the mental model, constructed by ourselves. It should be easy to see how in some individuals, this Erotic Target can become mapped not onto a representation of someone outside the self, but onto a part of the self instead — or rather, perhaps I should say, the wrong part of the self.
This is called an Erotic Target Location Error or ETLE and this is where self-ideation comes in. The ETLE is more than just an image, it is a role that the person can inhabit and does. It becomes, effectively, another Self. One of the indications that it has done this is when it gets a name.
It is telling, in this context, that Sexual Inverts who complete themselves as women (if male) rarely change their names. They might modify them slightly, such that Andrew becomes Andrea, John becomes Joanna and so on, or they might just, like Filipina Kevin Balot, simply retain the name they were Christened with. They are able to do this because Inverts have normal level of self-ideation. They absolutely know whom and what they are; they are not awarded self-ideation by a name.
Autogynephilic males will often give somewhat outlandish names to their ETLE; for example Bruce became ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner.
Once the ETLE has become established and even as it is establishing itself, it will begin to cause problems with self-ideation. This is because as a result of its existence self-ideation becomes bi-located. It is not shattered as it would be for a Borderline, but it is not sure as it is for a Dark Triad; instead it has two bases within the Self: it is bi-located.
It’s not possible for two strong, consistent self-ideations to exist within the same self, so as soon as the ETLE is established, it begins to undermine the host’s self-ideation. Its purpose is to completely destroy the host’s self-ideation and ultimately the host himself.
The Beautiful Succubus
It is like a succubus, mating with the host in his unconscious mind but all the while sucking the life out of him and feeding her own self-ideation from it. This is really a vampire and it will eventually, if it can, kill the host and replace him.
When this happens, the problem of bi-located self-ideation resolves, since there now is only one Self. In a sense, all Autogynephiles who have reached this stage — they don’t all — are murderers. They have invaded and killed the host self, and replaced it with their own.
In all conditions where ETLEs are formed, a similar bi-location of self-ideation occurs. The stress and anxiety which this causes — often considered to be ‘gender dysphoria’ but not always, can only be resolved through establishing one of the selves as dominant or preferably, by assisting one to completely destroy the other.