The Ethics of Psychological Profiling

Because of how I’m about to talk about other people, as if I were some disembodied, authoritative expert, I will level the playing field by admitting that last week I lost my pants. They were on one second, gone the next. That’s how superior I am to you. Anyway. . . .

I have this friend . . . no, customer . . . no client. I have this client who comes into the Yacht Club about five times a week. He has a very unique . . . I hesitate to call it a problem. It doesn’t seem like a problem to me, but he presents it as a problem, so let’s just call it a problem. His problem is that he has an overwhelming feeling that he’s supposed to be doing something really important. His is just one of many psychological quirks which have been openly discussed with me by drinkers at the bar over the past decade, and I will be coming back to it later, but first I want to mention a few others that I believe may be related. And these are all real, you can be assured, as anyone who knows me will attest that I am not only constitutionally incapable of lying, but I also have a terrible imagination.

The first “similar condition” is one which afflicts quite a few of my clients, though not the one who feels he is supposed to be doing something important. It is the feeling that one is famous. Exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, this sensation becomes more pronounced upon entering the Yacht Club and intensifies as the crowd grows and last call approaches. And, although I would not presume to suggest that the Yacht Club makes you feel like a superstar (I’ll leave that to the eternally absent wits in the T-shirt design department) I am not above breaking into the Cheers theme song and pointing out how nice it is to go where everybody knows your name (unless you’re famous, which kind of messes that theory up.) A few of my pseudo-fame-afflicted clients have confided to me that when they go out to other bars they still feel like they are famous, but in disguise!

Another related condition, and probably the most frequently mentioned, is the sensation that one is in a movie. This is the one I can most relate to, as I frequently feel like I’m in a movie if I am out in public with headphones on. I’ve often wanted to suggest to the people who naturally feel like they’re in a movie to wear headphones into the Yacht Club. I bet it would be like being in one of those wild 3-D movies like Avatar.

More than anything, these descriptions of feeling famous or of being in a movie remind me of textbook accounts of paranoid schizophrenics who feel that someone is out to get them, but without the unpleasantness. And if schizophrenia is a mental illness, what would you call the condition my original client had, that of having a strong inclination that you were supposed to be doing something great for mankind? At first I thought maybe megalomania, but upon further questioning (subtle, of course!) I gleaned that my client had no desire to conquer anyone, nor was there any need for fame. In fact, he said that the feeling that he was supposed to be doing something very important and helpful did not include even a need to be recognized, in any way, as the person who did “this thing”. I still don’t totally understand why he sees this as a problem, unless it’s that every day he wakes up and realizes he hasn’t done what he should. He’s in for a rude awakening if his secret drive ever vanishes.

Aside from being just innately fascinating these case studies may be useful to you should you ever be in a conversation with someone who seems distracted or even a little bit snooty. They may see you as just another autograph hound, or member of the papparazi.

There are many happily-married, wonderful women out there whose husbands are simply no longer interested in them. To meet them, go to (That’s an actual commercial Ross and Roy and I saw while watching the Braves game Friday night)