Subject: Re: [evol-psych] The Trouble With Self-Esteem
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2002 17:17:13 -0500
From: "Phil Roberts, Jr." 

Ian Montgomerie wrote:
> On 6 Feb 2002, at 15:40, wrote:
> > In a message dated 2/6/02 12:04:11 AM, writes:
> >
> > << Throughout the evolutionary
> > history of man and primate, social status was a reproductive
> > advantage to males, but often required risky aggressive behavior and
> > violent retaliation to maintain it - the social status competition is
> > not a positive-sum game, so maintaining status means being able to
> > defeat or deter challenges to it.  "High self-esteem" is a high
> > opinion of oneself, leading to risk-taking and aggressive behavior
> > because of confidence in one's abilities to succeed in the face of
> > adversity.  >>
> >

I know that it is not particularly fashionable to assume that a 
scientist of the mind should actually spend a bit of time observing 
one, but I respectfully disagree with the last sentence based on 
personal experiences with self-esteem.  When my self-esteem has been 
at its peak, and I remember one particular epoch where it was very 
high indeed, I was most at peace with myself.  Indeed, I distinctly 
remember that I was thinking about getting a job as a dish washer, 
since for the first time in my life my social status had become 
totally irrelevant.  And getting me to respond to an insult was 
nearly impossible.  As such, it seems unlikely to me that the 
self-worth complex can be lightheartedly dismissed as little 
more than a fitness maximizing instinct for social status, 
particularly given the likelihood that dominance hierarchies can be 
maintained by other more biologically expedient means (e.g., animal 
appetites counter valenced by fear) with far less deleterious 
consequences (depression, suicide, addiction, etc.).

> The most violent people are those whose high self-esteem
> is not matched by a similarly high social status.  They are
> predisposed to using a "dominant" strategy, being willing to
> retaliate and escalate in the face of perceived slights - and they will
> perceive that people often slight them by treating them with less
> respect than they "deserve" (since they have a high opinion of their
> own worth and deservingness, but in other peoples' eyes they do
> not have a high status and so are not deferred to in the way that
> someone with high social status would be).

I would like to suggest an alternative interpretation here:
Self-esteem is central to our will to survive, and in order
to help us maintain it, mother nature in her infinite wisdom (NOT)
has managed to gerrymander a number of animal impulses to assist in 
the shepherding of self-worth (e.g., fear of giving a speech or 
asking for a date, anger over an insult, sex as a basis for endearment).  
But this is a task for which these biological impulses are poorly 
designed and, in a modern society are perhaps more often than not 
counterproductive.  But then what else would expect from a process 
that is blind and mechanical, eh?

Phil Roberts, Jr.

             Rehabilitating Introspection
  A Procedure for a First Person Psychical Science