Pride and Depression

Posted on October 17th, 2011 by admin

Basing self-esteem on pride puts a person in a psychologically vulnerable position. To experience self-esteem, a person must continually have something to be proud of, which requires that he/she always demonstrate superiority in some important way. Pride is demanding and perfectionistic. It requires proof of superiority, which means that an individual must provide evidence that he/she is better than other people. Pride demands perfection, since everyone else is more or less imperfect. If a person is like everyone else (average, normal), he/she has nothing to be proud of and, therefore, has no basis for self-esteem. Only by standing out (being outstanding, being above everyone else), can one legitimately claim superiority and, thus, have reason to think well of oneself.

For the person who bases his/her self-esteem on pride, failure and rejection are totally unacceptable. Failure and rejection are shameful and humiliating; they are to be avoided at all costs. They are the antithesis of superiority. Superior people never fail and are never rejected. They never make mistakes; or if they do, they must make sure that no one knows about them. They must hide all of their weaknesses and faults from other people lest they be found out and fall from grace. They must even conceal their imperfections (evidence of inferiority) from themselves by way of various psychological devices and maneuvers. Self-acceptance, self-respect, self-worth, and self-love are not possible without constant proof of superiority. Failure and rejection denote only one thing: inferiority.

The person who bases self-esteem on pride is faced with a terrible dilemma. On one hand, like everyone else, he/she is naturally inclined to use his/her talents and abilities in order to attain and maintain success. In fact, his pride requires him/her not only to be successful but, at minimum, to be more successful than most people. On the other hand, the process of achieving success can be difficult and fraught with uncertainty and risk. There is the ever-present danger of failing. This creates a typical approach-avoidance situation. The desire to succeed motivates this person to pursue success–but only as long as there is no possibility of failure. As soon as imminent failure is perceived, striving for success is mysteriously terminated. Because failure is unbearable, avoidance triumphs over approach in the end. And this unfortunate outcome is repeated over and over. Despite wanting and needing to succeed (without success there can be no self-esteem), the avoidance of success becomes a signature behaviorial style of this individual.

There is also a big issue with rejection. He/she wants to have successful relationships with other people, because his/her self-esteem mainly or entirely depends on the esteem of others. However, because there is always a chance of being rejected, he/she avoids relations whenever the perception of risk is high. So, he/she denies himself/herself the very thing that is most desired and needed. Not trying is preferred over trying and possibly being rejected. His/her pride cannot tolerate rejection (a type of failure), for rejection implies inferiority. It is embarassing and humiliating, resulting in a loss of self-esteem.

What then is the relationship between pride and depression? Obviously, if self-esteem is based on pride, which requires proof of superiority, success is not optional. Failure and rejection signify inferiority and automatically produce a major loss of self-esteem. This alone guarantees that depression will occur. Furthermore, the approach-avoidance dilemma caused by pride prevents an individual from following through with efforts to succeed or even trying in the first place. This is true not only with regard to setting and attaining goals but also attempting to form relationships with others, both of which are vitally necessary for self-esteem. This further reinforces depression and makes it much more difficult to overcome it.

So, depression can serve as a psychological defense mechanism that protects a person from failure and rejection by opposing and repressing any innate desire to succeed or to pursue relationships with others. Devastating past failure or rejection, resulting in damaged pride and extreme loss of self-esteem, would explain the subconscious, defensive use of depression as protection from further insult to pride and, thus, to self-esteem based on pride.

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