Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


September 7th, 2013


It wasn’t long after the revelations of Anthony Weiner’s sexting that people starting talking about his self-destructive bent. Television pundits, patients in my office, professional colleagues and family and friends all seemed stymied, as usual, when such an apparently successful person seems to act in ways which bring about a shameful scandal often leading to a wonderful career coming to an end. To understand this phenomenon one must ask another question: What was he after? Shedding light on that might explain the apparent mystery of how such people destroy themselves. Such so-called destruction is almost always secondary to efforts to construct a highly unrealistic self-intoxicated image of themselves.

I have never met Anthony Weiner but have treated many people with very similar behavioral problems. This short piece is not about him in particular but is based on my experience with the many who seem to share some characteristics. Essentially the problem is nearly always one of self intoxication. But what is this intoxication all about?

For many people with insecurities often stemming from early in life, the striving to overcome them leads to apparent great success as measured in our particular society: power, political victories, fame, admiration, prestige, and possessions of all sorts. Sometimes, in the lucky scenario, insecurity yields to increasing self-confidence and fulfillment. But when insecurities are particularly harsh, instead of real self-confidence, a spurious sense of unrealistic pride and entitlement ensues. Sometimes these people are lured to political careers. Often they become like rock stars due to blind aggrandizement by followers who yearn for direction and a false pride. Sometimes even sexual favors or seduction are offered. For the insecure person these lures and temptations come to be expected as feverish self-aggrandizement couples with the blind admiration received. Any real footing of genuine self esteem is eroded by all the attention received as it becomes a drug of excitement. Such people often become more and more narcissistic and even grandiose coming to expect special treatment and privilege and this unreal situation is fed into by a more-than-willing crowd of groupies hoping themselves to catch some of the action.

As the cycle continues there is a highly charged progression and an addiction sets in. It is an addiction to the stimulation which grows increasingly out of control. False hope that all problems will go away if s/he can just get a little more. All the attention and seduction and temptation intoxicates such a person and like so many other addictions more and more of the drug is needed to make an impact, as the real self of the person becomes more and more distant. And like in any other drunken state, judgment becomes impaired. After all how can sound judgment prevail when a cycle of reaching ever more feverishly toward the impossible goal of everlasting glory has taken over? The addiction to this phantom of glory is no less destructive than any addiction we witness. And like all addictions, a crisis finally occurs and pain becomes unavoidable. The price has to be paid for trying to be superhuman. Such people then fall back to Earth like all such seekers do. The manic like frenzy is often followed by depression. But most importantly a crisis of opportunity open for rehabilitation and finally a true humble search for healthy self esteem can begin. And then with great efforts all the talents and constructive forces which had become ensnared by the search for an unreal solution to low self esteem can be garnered for a constructive life, walking on Earth amongst other far-from-perfect fellow human beings. The supernatural search for excited unreality will be exchanged for a natural appreciation of one’s assets. If in fact Anthony Weiner is like this we can join in hopefully that such a talented and constructive person can now turn towards his own potentially humble humanity and live more wholeheartedly and can continue to contribute as he had but now under the influence of the sober goal of being a human being like the rest of us. I am not sure that this particular person will make the shift towards self-realization, we can only hope.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

Henry Paul MD