This Therapist Learned Some New Psychological Terms

Comparison, the Dunning-Kruger Effect, Limerence and the Dark Triad

One of the best parts of my job is that I learn from my clients every day.  I learn about them, myself, global topics, and on occasion, I learn about new psychological terms and concepts.  I figured that if I hadn’t heard of them, maybe you hadn’t either. So, here’s a few concepts that I’d never heard of just a few months ago.

Compersion

Compersion is basically the opposite of jealousy. It’s that happy feeling you get when someone you care about experiences joy, even if it comes from someone else. The term is used frequently in the context of polyamorous and ethically non-monogamous (ENM) relationships. In romantic relationships, compersion goes beyond simply allowing your partner to have outside connections. It’s the act of actively experiencing joy and fulfillment when your partner thrives in another relationship. Imagine feeling a warm glow when your partner excitedly shares details about a date with someone new, or feeling proud when they light up talking about a deep conversation with another love interest. Compersion signifies a secure sense of self and a deep trust in your bond, allowing you to celebrate your partner’s happiness even if it stems from outside your shared connection.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect, named for the two psychologists who coined the phenomenon,  is a cognitive bias that trips us up in our self-assessment. It describes the tendency for people with low ability in a certain area to wildly overestimate their skills. This overconfidence stems from a lack of the very knowledge and skills they’re missing. Ironically, those who are truly competent often underestimate their abilities because they believe everyone has skills at the same level as their own. They can see the complexities of the task and recognize areas for improvement. This creates a kind of double-edged sword: the unskilled are overconfident and the skilled doubt themselves.

Limerence

Limerence is an intense state of infatuation that feels more like an obsession than love. It involves intrusive thoughts and a constant desire for closeness with a particular person, often called the “limerent object.” This fixation can be all-consuming, leading to neglecting responsibilities and social life. Unlike love, which grows over time, limerence is fueled by the uncertainty of whether the feelings are reciprocated. The focus is on the fantasy of being desired rather than a deep connection with the person themself. This intense yearning can be exhilarating but also emotionally draining, and it often fades with time, especially if the feelings aren’t returned.

Infatuation is limerence

Dark Triad

The Dark Triad refers to a trio of negative personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Individuals high in these traits tend to be manipulative and self-serving. Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance and crave admiration. Machiavellianism is characterized by cynicism, a belief that people are inherently selfish, and a willingness to exploit others for personal gain. Psychopathy involves a lack of empathy and remorse, coldness, and a thrill-seeking mentality. While these traits can manifest independently, they often co-occur, creating a potent and potentially harmful personality.

Social media can be a breeding ground for the Dark Triad to flourish. Narcissists might bombard followers with selfies and carefully crafted posts to garner attention and admiration. They may ruthlessly troll anyone who criticizes their image. Machiavellianism can manifest in manipulative attempts to influence others’ opinions through strategic posts, gossip, or even staged controversies to gain an edge. Psychopathic tendencies might surface in the form of online aggression, a lack of remorse for hurtful comments, and a thrill-seeking desire to push boundaries and provoke reactions. Overall, the Dark Triad on social media can be a toxic mix, leaving a trail of negativity and manipulation in its wake.

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