OK, who are these “screamers”? In a nutshell, they are the folks who are convinced that their opinions, actions, and beliefs are totally correct. In fact, they are so certain their way is best, they become obsessed with trying to convince you to join them in taking the life pathway of personal enlightenment! “My way is best! Join me so you can share in the joy!”

I remember a time in graduate school when my wife and I went to a student party. The year was 1967 and the place was Syracuse University. The times were ripe with student rebellion against…….actually, against just about everything in conventional society. The Vietnam War was kicking into high gear; John F. Kennedy was dead from an assassin’s bullet; his brother, Robert, and Martin Luther King had only a few months to live before they, too, would be murdered. A few college students were really pissed off about the war and some were even taking to the streets to tear apart the American system. Some joined Dylan saying the times, they were a-changin’!

Me? Hell, I was just interested in getting my PhD in psychology and moving on with my professional life with my chosen partner. I had a nice paid assistantship with an eminent psychology professor, Joyce had a job and was earning her own “PHD” (Putting Husband Through,”) and we really weren’t interested in tearing down “the system.”

I say all this just to give you the cultural context present when we were enjoying ourselves at the student party. A few cold brews hit the spot after a week of slaving away in the classroom and the research lab. But a couple of guys I knew decided for some reason that my recreational life was incomplete. They cornered me and began extolling the virtues of “grass.”

“Man,” one of them said, “dump the alcohol. Pot is the way to go. You have to……” And they went on and on and on preaching to me about the benefits and glories of getting stoned. They were totally unwilling to let me do my thing, which was get a Bud buzz!

I told them I was fine with alcohol as my recreational drug of choice. They were wasting their time trying to convert me to their drug. Before turning away I added, “Plus it sounds like you’re trying to convince yourselves of your drug choice. To me, seems like you’re pretty insecure about that choice.”

These guys were “screaming” at me with their excessive attempts to proselytize me to their way of thinking about marijuana. The fact that they were trying so intensely and obsessively suggested to me that deep down, they were insecure and unsure about their actions, and were trying to convince themselves of the wisdom of their choice by getting me to join them.  Psychologists call it Reaction Formation, which means acting on the outside the opposite of doubts and insecurities you feel on the  inside.

A couple of examples: Those who are guilt-ridden on the inside yell long and hard to convince you how pure and sinless they are. Of course, they’re really working to convince themselves. Or, how about those who have strong dependency needs but fear rejection? They are desperate to depend on others and long for their support, but they display to others how self-sufficient and independent they are. They strut around like the chief rooster, proudly screaming they are totally self-sufficient, when inside they are a quivering mass of insecurity and anxiety.

Screamers deny their true feelings; they wear a protective armor when around others to hide those inner feelings. Their actions are designed to do one thing: Avoid facing what is inside them because those feelings are saturated with fear and anxiety. What better way to deny and avoid them than to act precisely the opposite!

It’s a beautiful strategy designed to protect a fragile ego, right? A strategy, yes! A beautiful one? No way! Once folks get on that road of avoiding their fears, frustrations, anxieties, guilt, anger, or any of a number of negative emotions, they are heading in one direction: Depression.

There’s only one way to get off that road, one way to feel secure in your own skin, one way to be able to stop presenting a “false you” to others, one way to stop “screaming.” That way is to attack your inner demons! Confront them, meet them head on, accept them as real for you, deal with them, and resolve them. That, my friends, is coping, and throughout this blog we suggest specific actions to accomplish the coping task!



6 thoughts on “”

  1. According to Alfred Adler, those who only seek personal gain are psychologically unhealthy people. These individuals are self-absorbed people, who are primarily motivated by an inferiority complex. The individuals described in this story were college students who were inappropriately pressuring someone else to participate in recreational drug use. These individuals did not only ask someone to try smoking marijuana, but they insisted on it inappropriately. They continued to harass the gentlemen in the story who did not find any interest in trying it. These individuals sought for personal gain, which is one of the concepts described in Adler’s inferiority complex. Another concept expressed in Adler’s inferiority complex is how a person seeks gratification through feelings of achievement. The blog post read: “The fact that they were trying so intensely and obsessively suggested to me that deep down, they were insecure and unsure about their actions, and were trying to convince themselves of the wisdom of their choice by getting me to join them.” The people in this story who were being disrespectful and were pressuring the man in the story to get high wanted to feel a sense of achievement by converting someone else into their own style of life.
    As Psychologists and future professionals, it is important to recognize the subtle differences in people and not be judgmental of someone else’s decisions. The role of a therapist is to provide feedback onto their clients from an unbiased place while providing alternative thoughts to help people think more constructively. If people were to interact with one another much like a therapist (non-judgmental and unbiased), the world would be a much better place and people will begin to respect another person’s decisions.


  2. These screamers make me think of the “dominance need” from Rotter and Hochreich. The dominance need includes any set of behaviors directed at gaining power over the lives of others. A kind reminder or suggestion is good, however, forcing others to do whatever you told is not. Moreover, I don’t think what screamers’ saying is all for people’s good. They just want others to listen and to follow them.
    According to Freud, reaction formation is a defense mechanism in which a person represses one impulse and adopts the exact opposite form of behavior, which ordinarily is exaggerated and ostentatious. We know that there is a better defense mechanism called sublimation. The people who used marijuana as their recreational drug in this post could find other ways to feel happy which are cultural or social aims. Therefore they don’t need to lie to themselves that drug is good.
    Anyway, don’t let those screamers to influence your thoughts. Be wise.


  3. Scan letters to the editor in any newspaper and you’ll find great examples of reaction formation, confirmation bias, dissonance reduction, and all sorts of psychological processes. Your concluding advice is excellent for anyone wishing to evaluate with critical thinking, statements in those newspaper letters.


  4. This post reminds me of Adler and his belief of how the sloe dynamic force behind people’s actions is striving for either success or superiority. People who strive for personal superiority identify themselves as screamers, according to Adler. Those people are motivated largely by exaggerated feelings of personal inferiority and are known to be psychologically unhealthy people. These type of people tend to be very narcissistic and only think about their own personal gains. It’s very interesting because according to Adler, those people also tend to have feelings of inferiority.


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