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Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception (Eudaimonia, #1)

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Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love… —Fyodor Dostoevsky Self-deception is common and universal, and the cause of most human tragedies. Of course, the Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love… —Fyodor Dostoevsky Self-deception is common and universal, and the cause of most human tragedies. Of course, the science of self-deception can help us to live better and get more out of life. But it can also cast a murky light on human nature and the human condition, for example, on such exclusively human phenomena as anger, depression, fear, pity, pride, dream making, love making, and god making, not to forget age-old philosophical problems such as selfhood, virtue, happiness, and the good life. Nothing, in the end, could possibly be more important.


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Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love… —Fyodor Dostoevsky Self-deception is common and universal, and the cause of most human tragedies. Of course, the Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love… —Fyodor Dostoevsky Self-deception is common and universal, and the cause of most human tragedies. Of course, the science of self-deception can help us to live better and get more out of life. But it can also cast a murky light on human nature and the human condition, for example, on such exclusively human phenomena as anger, depression, fear, pity, pride, dream making, love making, and god making, not to forget age-old philosophical problems such as selfhood, virtue, happiness, and the good life. Nothing, in the end, could possibly be more important.

30 review for Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception (Eudaimonia, #1)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeriel

    Non-fiction books have a certain notoriety for stating the obvious, but dispelling that myth, Dr. Neel Burton's Hide & Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception provides information that is not only useful and enlightening but also formatted in a clear, concise manner. I received this book from Goodreads in a First Reads giveaway and can say that I am satisfied with it. Explaining the various ways deception manifests itself in our behaviors, this book offers a comprehensive list of actions that rai Non-fiction books have a certain notoriety for stating the obvious, but dispelling that myth, Dr. Neel Burton's Hide & Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception provides information that is not only useful and enlightening but also formatted in a clear, concise manner. I received this book from Goodreads in a First Reads giveaway and can say that I am satisfied with it. Explaining the various ways deception manifests itself in our behaviors, this book offers a comprehensive list of actions that raises our awareness on this field of psychology. What I appreciate most in Burton's book is its organization. Each topic is divided among several parts, which in turn have their own collection of chapters. While I initially believed this book would be a guide on how to resolve behaviors of self-deception, I began to realize there is no one way of handling them. However, Burton explains in great detail the traits of each idea, providing examples to prove his point. From these examples, it is apparent he is well-read, which allows us not only to gain insight on the primary topic, psychology, but on various other subjects like literature, religion, philosophy, etc. As a whole, this book is both interesting and educational, and the language is easy to understand, a characteristic I find vital in any non-fiction work. I really feel like I walked away from this book with some useful information even if I do not intend on going into the field of psychology. For anyone interested in a quick, enlightening read, check out Neel Burton's Hide & Seek.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Borgford

    Most of the content I have heard before, but it is nice to see it all in a concise organized fashion. Although the concepts have been around for a while, the practical examples are excellent and really help to explain the theories.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    Basically, this can be see as a bunch of Wikipedia articles on ego defences. However, I found it insightful, engaging, and enlightening. Human beings are not rational, but rationalizing animals. They find it frightening to think and painful to change because thought and change threaten the beliefs that make up their sense of self. As an engineer, I found straightforward descriptions of the reactions to identifiable stimuli understandable and reasonable: ... repression relates to mental or internal Basically, this can be see as a bunch of Wikipedia articles on ego defences. However, I found it insightful, engaging, and enlightening. Human beings are not rational, but rationalizing animals. They find it frightening to think and painful to change because thought and change threaten the beliefs that make up their sense of self. As an engineer, I found straightforward descriptions of the reactions to identifiable stimuli understandable and reasonable: ... repression relates to mental or internal stimuli, denial relates to external stimuli, to things that are ‘out there’. In myself and others, I often recoil from over-simplification as a reaction to imposing complexity. I enjoyed the part of the exploring that: Positive illusions tend to be more common, and more marked, in the West. In East and South Asian cultures, for example, people are less vested in themselves and more vested in their community and society, and tend, if anything, to self-effacement rather than self-enhancement. ... Positive illusions are also more common in unskilled people, possibly because highly skilled people tend to assume, albeit falsely, that those around them enjoy similar levels of insight and competence. This Dunning-Kruger effect, as it has been called, is neatly encapsulated in a short fragment from the introduction to Darwin’s Descent of Man: '…ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge…' And, of course, it may also be that, compared to highly skilled people, unskilled people are more reliant on positive illusions for their self-esteem and broader mental health. Compare to Dunning–Kruger effect. There were some physiological connections I appreciated: Confabulation is rarely seen in healthy people, but is often a feature of organic amnestic states such as Alzheimer’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Whereas a hallucination is experienced as arising from the sense organs (outer space), a daydream is experienced as arising from the mind (inner space). Along with such books as If This Be Heresy and The Use and Misuse of Language I am interested in explorations of how the human mind responds to the imaginable ideal in the context of actual reality, as it done here. According to St Augustine (d. 430 CE), man is prone to a curious feeling of dissatisfaction accompanied by a subtle sense of longing for something undefined.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo Simas

    Excellent for self-evaluation! It helps make sense of our strange behaviors, by showing that we all self-deceive with different "ego defenses", which are psychological protection strategies. Excellent for self-evaluation! It helps make sense of our strange behaviors, by showing that we all self-deceive with different "ego defenses", which are psychological protection strategies.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Profound, wise and very interesting Writing from a Freudian perspective with insights from evolutionary psychology, Greek philosophy, the "Bhagavad Gita," Buddhism, and everyday life, psychiatrist/philosopher Neel Burton makes it clear that self-deception is and has always been the norm in human behavior. Dr. Burton organizes ego defenses into four basic categories: "abstraction," "transformation (or distortion)," "evasion," and "projection." Abstraction includes denial, repression, anger, intellec Profound, wise and very interesting Writing from a Freudian perspective with insights from evolutionary psychology, Greek philosophy, the "Bhagavad Gita," Buddhism, and everyday life, psychiatrist/philosopher Neel Burton makes it clear that self-deception is and has always been the norm in human behavior. Dr. Burton organizes ego defenses into four basic categories: "abstraction," "transformation (or distortion)," "evasion," and "projection." Abstraction includes denial, repression, anger, intellectualization, depression, and some others. Transformation recalls reaction formation (a term I haven't heard in years), minimization, etc. Evasion is about being vague or inauthentic, or maybe regressing or daydreaming, or telling jokes. Projection is basically tagging others with your own failures or shortcomings. This all may sound somewhat abstract but Burton's straightforward and uncluttered prose makes this book a surprisingly easy read. Some of that is due to the vivid examples from history and literature that Burton provides to support his elaborate taxonomy. I very much liked Burton's defense of depression especially in light of the overmedication we are getting from the psychiatric profession these days. Burton writes "The time and space and solitude that the adoption of the depressive position affords prevents us from making rash decisions...," allows us "to see the bigger picture" and "to reassess our social relationships..." (p. 60). I would add that seasonal depression at least may well be adaptive in that staying put (depressed persons typically don't want to do anything or go anywhere) when the weather is not good may help to avoid danger and prolong life. Burton's near celebration of the honesty and courage of "people in the depressive position" that ends the chapter may be a bit overdone for some people. You might want read it for yourself on pages 62 and 63. For me this is an example of the intelligence and creativity that Burton brings to the subject of ego defenses. Burton classifies some defense mechanisms as "mature" and others as "immature," (or what we might call adaptive and productive verses unadaptive and destructive). He contends that one of the purposes of daydreaming is "to relax and recuperate; and perhaps even to find creative inspiration." (p. 138) In writing about regression (perhaps as a means of relating to children) Burton explains how ego defenses can in general be positive. "If regression, or indeed any other process that is used for ego defence, is consciously employed--whether for ego defence or any other purpose such as empathy, enjoyment, play, humour, inspiration, creativity, and even survival--then it stops being our unthinking master and turns into our good and faithful servant." (p. 143) In the chapter on asceticism Burton reminds us of these words from Krishna in the "Bhagavad Gita": "There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist..." (p. 164). On the next page Burton quotes Wittgenstein in what amounts to an interpretation of Krishna's words: "If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present." This idea is further explored in my book, "Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)." While Burton includes "altruism" as an ego defense, he notes "There can be no such thing as an `altruistic' act that does not involve some element of self-interest, no such thing, for example, as an altruistic act that does not lead to some degree, no matter how small, of pride or self-satisfaction." (p. 179) I think Burton is correct in this and indeed in his overall assessment of the meaning and purpose of self-deceptions. Where I would differ slightly is by saying that ego defenses (or self-deceptions) are in general either adaptive or maladaptive in the Darwinian sense and should be seen as attempts to maintain "psychological homeostasis." For more on this see my book, "The World Is Not as We Think It Is." One of the things that makes this book much more interesting than might be expected is the way Burton recalls apt historical examples or incidents in the news to illustrate his points. Noting that the so-called "Stockholm Syndrome" may partially underlie the ego defense "reaction formation," Burton recalls the famous Patty Heart case from the 1970s after pointing to the syndrome's christening by psychiatrist Nils Bejerot after a robbery and hostage situation at a Stockholm bank in 1973. (See pages 85-87.) In Chapter 17 Burton sees "inauthenticity" (basically what I would call "faking it") as a means to "minimize or put off the existential anxiety associated with choice and responsibility." (p. 115) In this context he recalls Freud and Erich Fromm who wrote "The Fear of Freedom" (titled "Escape from Freedom" in the US) and other works on our existential fear of real freedom. Burton quotes Freud from "Civilization and Its Discontents": "Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility." Perhaps the most profound statement in the book is this from page 108" "...one could go so far as to argue that the self is nothing but the sum total of our ego defences, and that it is therefore tantamount to one gigantic ego defence, namely, the ego itself." I want to close this rather long review with three quotes from the book that I think illustrate Burton's deep understanding of human psychology: In talking about what is the right thing to do (such as perhaps leaving your estate to some worthy cause) Burton writes, "...this goes to the very heart of ancient virtue, which can be defined as the perfection of our nature through the triumph of reason over passion. The truly altruistic act is the virtuous act and the virtuous act is, always, the rational act." (p. 179) In lamenting the relative absence of Plato and Aristotle in higher education today, Burton writes, "...the best education is not that which enables a person to make a living, nor even that which enables him to make a social contribution, but that which inspires and enables him on the path of freedom and individuation, and which, in the longer term, leads to the fullest living and the greatest social contribution." (p.183) Finally, there is this from Burton's "Final Words": "...it is not just that ego defences may or may not provide us with one or several advantages, but also that they define our human nature and thereby frame the human experience." (p. 218) There is so much more that I could say about this deeply wise and most stimulating book. Perhaps the best thing I can do is to suggest that you get a copy and read it for yourself. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gediminas

    I guess I was deceived by this book I've heard about a few of the ego defenses in passing before, so the overall concept was not new to me. It was by no means advanced knowledge (not even intermediate), so I expected to deepen my understanding and gain new insights. Unfortunately, I came away empty-handed. The book covered the general idea very briefly and then went on to enumerate and categorize various ego defenses, illustrating each with examples from literature and history. There was not much I guess I was deceived by this book I've heard about a few of the ego defenses in passing before, so the overall concept was not new to me. It was by no means advanced knowledge (not even intermediate), so I expected to deepen my understanding and gain new insights. Unfortunately, I came away empty-handed. The book covered the general idea very briefly and then went on to enumerate and categorize various ego defenses, illustrating each with examples from literature and history. There was not much beyond that. On the bright side, this overview was well-organized, accessible and easy to read. In the end, it felt more like a reference you'd pull up when you need to check something, rather than an insightful and coherent set of ideas, helping you form new perspectives and mental models.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I'm not sure how to characterize this. It's the author's slightly clinical but very readable take on a lot of human emotions, our "opinions", and more -- the ego, essentially. It does not attempt or claim to provide solutions, It's not self help. But it may help bring new perspective for some about their ego. I've been hyper self-aware at times, so there weren't any aha's for me. But I bet it's opened a lot of reader's minds to some degree either for themselves or how/why others behave. This mig I'm not sure how to characterize this. It's the author's slightly clinical but very readable take on a lot of human emotions, our "opinions", and more -- the ego, essentially. It does not attempt or claim to provide solutions, It's not self help. But it may help bring new perspective for some about their ego. I've been hyper self-aware at times, so there weren't any aha's for me. But I bet it's opened a lot of reader's minds to some degree either for themselves or how/why others behave. This might be best for those that want to be challenged about their behavior or feelings or just want to potentially know themselves a little more -- none of that is guaranteed of course. I really appreciate the copy for review!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    To explain complex matters simply is a gift. It lifted my soul as I navigate a new path for myself as a truth teller. A tricky path because of all that I leave behind but this book reminded me time and time again that truth and trust are the essence of life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa McCarthy

    I find this subject most interesting. Learning about self is amazing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A good, short, explanation of defensive mechanisms of the Ego, that you are probably familiar with, at least some concepts, and adding a little scientific flair to it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tiago

    Rating:3.5

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elena (bookinistka)

    Eye-opening stuff.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. This book is well organized and Dr. Burton does an excellent job at explaining the ego defenses he explores by providing real life examples of each on. It was nice to have him distinguish the differences between some of the ego defenses that are extremely similar to one another. An interesting read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Semeiotickled

    Concise yet comprehensive, Dr. Neel Burton provides a well-written and accessible tour d'horizon of the most common ego defences we encounter. Well worth the read, for anyone with an interest in greater self-knowledge, or in greater understanding of others. Concise yet comprehensive, Dr. Neel Burton provides a well-written and accessible tour d'horizon of the most common ego defences we encounter. Well worth the read, for anyone with an interest in greater self-knowledge, or in greater understanding of others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richel

    "Know Thyself", said Socrates. If you know yourself, you don't have to resort to self-deception. A person who is true to himself, is not restricted in his thoughts and emotions, therefore, he develops his full potential. The book is well-written, so it is easy to understand. Highly recommended! "Know Thyself", said Socrates. If you know yourself, you don't have to resort to self-deception. A person who is true to himself, is not restricted in his thoughts and emotions, therefore, he develops his full potential. The book is well-written, so it is easy to understand. Highly recommended!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ayla Quesada

    Really interesting insight into the types and uses of ego defense.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather Helstein

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jan Smith

  20. 5 out of 5

    Somesh Valanke

  21. 4 out of 5

    Precious

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brennan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anurag

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Francis

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Uke

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peace

  30. 4 out of 5

    kwtf

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