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High Self-Esteem

What do neo-Nazis, wife-beaters and Ku Klux Klan members have in common'

If you guessed “high, but misplaced self-esteem,” you’re right. Studies not suggest that too much self-esteem is worse than too little. That’s what three researchers found after 150 studies in psychology and criminology. their article, published in Psychological Review, states the societal pursuit of self-esteem may literally end up doing considerable harm.”

One of the authors of the study, Joseph Boden of the University of Virginia, says, “You’ve got a lot of people running around with seriously inflated egos who come crashing to earth all the time.” Their self-esteem must be attached to real concrete accomplishments and skills to be valid. The study found aggressive, violent and hostile people—such as neo-Nazis, wife-beaters and members of the Ku Klux Klan—”consistently express favorable views of themselves.”

The study suggests standard psychotherapy, which attempts to raise the self-esteem of violent people, may actually be harmful. “These people are often violent precisely because they already believe themselves to be superior beings,” the study concludes. “Perhaps it would be better to try instilling modesty and humility.” Hmmm, now that’s a thought.

New Man, July/August, 1996, p. 14

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