Some of our biggest fears come from some idealized view that we have developed through our vicarious experiences of living of what our idealized life should look like. Alfred Adler, referred to this as our “final fictionalism”, in which we hold an idealized view of when our life would be “perfect” (Corey, 2009). This final fictionalism is often composed of the messages we have received through society such as culture, the media, and our families of what “the perfect life” looks like. With the invent of technology and mass media, the messages we have all received of what the perfect life looks like has become enmeshed into a superficial horror movie of the battles of materialism, with our looks and possessions being a measure of our success as a human being. Our behaviors and how we conduct ourselves in daily life our often dictated by trying to meet our final fictionalism. We often question where has humanity gone in the world in our governments, but perhaps we should question where has the humanity gone in each human.
We all have a “final fictionalism”, but sometimes we need to scrutinize the content of what a perfect life will look like. A perfect life that is built on material pursuits and power often engages a person to pursue a path that is deviant in the forms of using manipulation, coercion, and lies to engage themselves into a world where the sense of self is built on a shallow base. We all know these people, the narcissist person that often gets their feelings of being grandiose by their conquest over others, their possessions, and their perceived power over others. They tend to be selfish, self-absorbed, and often lack respect of others feelings (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). However, what happens when that shallow based is shaken, cracked, or threatened? If the perfect life is built on just an image, or possessions, what happens to the human aspect of the person? They tend to externalize blaming and shaming others in their environment.
Developing a final fictionalism that is built on the concepts of the humanistic needs of having our basic needs mets, safety and security, as well as authentic love and support from those close to us gives us the ability to grow as a human in a positive direction (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Maslow (1943) developed the classic “Hierarchy of Needs” to describe the base of human growth and development and the conditions needed for a person to reach a level of self-actualization. Self-actualization is the process of a person realizing both their strengths and limitations, but at the same time striving to move forward in positive pursuits for not only themselves, but also the rest of humanity. When we look at many of the leaders or role models throughout the world, how many of those figures actually meet these criteria?
I can say I am not self-actualized, although I am struggling towards working towards a better human version of me. One of the pivotal questions I have asked myself lately, combines the concepts of Adler’s “final fictionalism”, while incorporating the humanistic principles of becoming a self-actualized being. My materialistic pursuits of my younger years have seemed to lose their shiny attraction, and I am searching for meaning through authenticity. I can say that there was a time when the “car”, “the big house”, “the designer labels”, and “jewelry” provided some type of shallow sense of self-accomplishment, but what I have learned that there is far greater joy in someone saying “thank you for supporting me or being there for me, or being authentically honest in who we are. I think there are a couple of questions we can all honestly ask ourselves at the end of the day to let us know where we all fall on the continuum of being an authentic human versus edging into the endless competition of the narcissist: If I could ask for two wishes what would they be? If I could only keep two things about my life what would they be? If we find ourselves answering these questions with objects or status, perhaps we need to start questioning our level of being an authentic human. Love, connections, and helping others leaves far more wealth in our world than any objects, possession, or position ever will.
Corey, G. ( 2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.