The Imposter Syndrome refers to a series of beliefs that seem to tell us that if we are successful, strong, confident, or ambitious—in other words, if we acquire and enjoy the good things in life—we will suffer the punishment of shame, guilt or an otherwise painful psychological consequence. People limit or put themselves down in order to mitigate such consequences. They may become perfectionists. They may be unable to properly take care of themselves and burn out. Self-awareness of such dynamics is the first step toward overcoming the imposter syndrome and allowing oneself to enjoy, rather than undo, one’s success.
In our theory and practice as psychoanalysts, we have a tendency to idealize and elevate process goals over therapeutic outcome. This tendency is problematic because it deprives us of a vital check and balance in our technique and can lead to an implicit pessimism about our ability to systemically evaluate and modify our theory of therapeutic action. This trend in analytic thinking is traced, and vignettes are presented to illustrate it. Speculations about the reasons for the tilt toward process goals and away from therapeutic goals are offered.