Why Do We Idealize People? - by Bazigah Murad

Our brain is our guardian angel. Whenever it senses us being a part of imminent danger, it takes drastic measures to protect us from harm. A term called the ‘defense mechanism’ is mostly used to describe this. When it perceives an event as stressful or frightening, it activates our flight or fight response and triggers the body to pump stress hormones and prepares us to either fight the forthcoming threat or flee for survival. It could go as far as to block certain memories that are mostly associated with a stressful or traumatic event or refuse to accept and blatantly ignore the reality of a situation. These are only two of the many defense mechanisms our brain has constructed to protect itself and us. While they are a natural part of our psychological development and are mostly not under our conscious control, they are still quite unhealthy and lead to an influx of emotional distress later.

Idealization is indeed a very vivid example of how our brain shields us from negative emotional responses that might prove hard to deal with. According to the Urban Dictionary, Idealization is a form of an emotional state when you love or adore someone, so much so that you mistakenly believe that they have more positive aspects compared to negative aspects (or no negative aspects at all). I don’t think we have ever so deeply navigated our feelings of unconditional affection and adoration for someone, have we?

“In psychoanalytic theory, idealization is seen as a defense mechanism that helps us navigate our confusing feelings and maintain a positive image of the people that matter to us” an article says.

Idealization of someone or something may sound trivial and an optimistic eye to judge, but it is much worse than that. Now, let me assure you, and myself, that it is not completely our fault. As I mentioned earlier, most of the time, defense mechanisms are not under our conscious control. And idealization in relationships is an inevitable practice that is bound to come into the act when we don’t want to lose someone. We reconstruct memories of them and convince ourselves of a reality that is not real.

Idealization of relationships at the beginning is perhaps the most human thing one can do. Some psychoanalysts even encourage it to build healthier bonds. People could even go as far as to believe that they need their partner’s optimistic views of them to help shape them into better people. However, overabundance of anything is discouraged. We may have started our relationship by fawning over their dreamy eyes and charming ways, but no human is ever free of faults. Sometimes, our experiences and traumas refuse to give our brains the benefit of doubt. Therefore, we end up idealizing people to an unhealthy limit. We put them on a pedestal, make them superior to us, subsequently disparaging ourselves and giving into all kinds of behaviours. That’s where self-destruction comes in. By constantly exaggerating someone’s virtues and ignoring their flaws, we surrender ourselves to all kinds of abusive practices that the person may put us through, and also become addicted to enduring that behaviour for however long.

Idealization and denial may be synonymous with each other. Because not only do we program our brains to see someone in an unrealistic light but also