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Origin of the Desire for Social Recognition


Theodore Reik (pp. 114-15) provides a common sense theory for the origin of the desire for social recognition.

"In childhood love is restricted to only a few persons—the parents, the nurse, a playmate. The child wants to be appreciated and admired by this small circle which represents his whole world. A world is not characterized by its spaciousness and expansion in a material sense but by the ability of the individual to imagine its extent. For my grandson, two years old, the discovery that other people have fathers was a revelation. He had thought that there was only one papa existent.

"The circle of persons by whom the child wants to be loved, appreciated and approved of increases by and by and includes teachers, friends and acquaintances, the gang at the playground. Later on it extends to even larger groups. A man does not search for social recognition from his family and friends alone, but beyond them, from the community, the nation, the continent, the whole world, corresponding to the extent and character of his ambition. To be loved by a woman is only one form of this same need; it is restricted to a single woman. You could also say that the need for social recognition is the enlargement of an original wish to be admired and appreciated by one person. This need is alive in every one of us in one form or another. We all long for social recognition. The poet or the composer may put his work into a drawer and decide never to publish it, but in its conception and in his labors he consciously or unconsciously imagined an audience, many readers or listeners, or only one—that is enough. He might have felt the bliss of creation in his loneliness, but unconsciously he was not alone. He has an invisible audience. Reality is less important in this instance than the psychological significance. No one creates for himself alone, because achievement as well as love is of a social nature. The wish to be socially recognized is the most general form of the individual need to be loved. It can become strong enough to displace the other need, that of being loved by a particular person or by several persons, as if society had taken the place of these individuals. It is a remarkable development that a group or a great number of people can occasionally substitute for the desired acknowledgment and admiration of a single person, whose appreciation was originally longed for."

Values of the Inventive Type

Sensitivity to Recognition

Theodor Reik (2007). Of Love And Lust - On The Psychoanalysis Of Romantic And Sexual Emotions. Chicago: Joline.

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Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus