NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Living a Double Life - Part 1: The Public Self and Private Self

What does it mean to live a double life?  In this blog article, I'll explore what it means to have a public self and a private self as well as personal fantasies, which are common to most people.   In a future article, I'll compare this common behavior to the concept of living a double life.

The Private Self

The Public Self and the Private Self
Let's start by exploring a common phenomenon:  The public and the private self.  On the most basic level, everyone has a public and a private self.  

The public self is the self that, as the term implies. we show to the world.  We usually show different aspects of this public self, depending upon the context.

So, for instance, we might present ourselves at work in a different light than we present ourselves when we socialize with friends or loved ones or when we're relaxing at home.

At work, we might be more formal, depending upon the setting, as opposed to when we're relaxed and informal with loved ones.  With loved ones, we usually allow more private aspects of ourselves to reveal themselves.  And we're usually different with the various people in our lives.  For instance, people usually allow themselves to be more emotionally vulnerable with a spouse or romantic partner than with a casual friend.

Like anything else, the different aspects of self are on a continuum.  Generally speaking, there's nothing unusual about having these different aspects of self, unless there's a big disconnect with these aspects, which I'll discuss in a future blog article.

Fantasies of the Private Self
Aside from how we are in terms of the public and private self, we all have personal fantasies, many of which we keep to ourselves, possibly not even revealing them to those closest to us.

There are all kinds of fantasies, including sexual fantasies, fantasies of being successful, fantasies of being a hero, and so on.  

Fantasies are common and they're usually forward looking.

When a fantasy is positive and forward looking, it can provide the beginning of a new idea.  It can be the beginning of a new creative endeavor by allowing oneself to "think outside the box" or to come up with creative solutions to problems, a new invention, artwork, and so on.

Of course, in order for the fantasy to come to fruition, the fantasy can't just remain in someone's head--some action needs to be taken.

Living a Double Life 
So far, what I've described are common aspects of everyday life, not what would be described as "living a double life" in the usual sense of the term.  These common aspects of self, the public and private selves and inner fantasies are usually part of a more or less integrated personality and an integrated life.

When we use the term "living a double life," we're usually referring to someone who lives a compartmentalized life with very different aspects of him or herself  hidden away from most people. This is in contrast to what we've been exploring so far, the person who has a more integrated life.  The person who is living a double life often has a secret part of his or her life.  It's not unusual for the secret part of his or her life to be hidden away from even loved ones.

Aside from secrecy, there's often some form of deception involved.  Like anything else, leading a double life can be viewed on a continuum from moderate to severe.

Leading a double life could involve anything from cheating on a spouse to, on the more extreme level, sociopathic behavior.

The most severe form of leading a double life would involve sociopathic behavior that can be harmful to oneself as well as others.

Examples of Living a Double Life That Are Harmful Would Be:
  • Engaging in infidelity
  • Having a second family that the spouse and family in the primary family know nothing about
  • Having a separate, secret identity (like the main character in "Mad Men," Don Draper)
  • Engaging in money laundering
  • Engaging in White collar crime
  • Engaging in a Ponzi scheme
  • Other attempts to defraud others
And so on...

I've written a prior blog article about a book that describes sociopathic and near sociopathic behavior, Book: Almost a Sociopath, so in a future blog article, I'll focus on the more common types of living a double life on the less extreme end of the spectrum.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.