Le Motif


Perspective is the key to both understanding and denial. For instance, I believe affirmative action is a good thing because of the discrimination my friends have faced. Some people have an entirely different view and consider it to be special treatment for those who don’t deserve it. Their worldview may be limited to that of the beliefs held by their immediate social circle. So how do you know who is “right?” It isn’t so black and white; rather, it’s mostly gray!

In her collection of poetry entitled, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” one well-known poet and social justice activist has some pretty good advice about navigating the gray areas. Here is how she handles them:

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Maya Angelou

The French word for motive is called “le motif,” and it literally translates to “the reason.” Personal motivation refers to the reasoning that leads up to a person’s behavior. For instance, a criminal trial defense lawyer may point out childhood factors like abuse and neglect to minimize the behavior of the accused in front of a jury. Sometimes it changes their perspective, and sometimes it does not.

So called “normal people” often play a similar game. Consider what people like to call “typical teen selfies.” Some general assumptions about those social media photos are as follows:

  1. They are funny, silly, or cute.
  2. Everyone is doing it.
  3. They build self-esteem
  4. Only girls do it.
  5. They are addicted to social media.
  6. They are sexy.
  7. They are foolish.
  8. They are dangerous.

Our perspective about selfies depends on who we are – parent, friend, teacher, counselor, predator, etc. My perspective is going to be different than yours, and each of their motives for posting social media selfies is different too. As a person who has worked with many dysfunctional individuals, I have felt number 8 more often than not. In my opinion, most selfies are unrestricted to strangers’ views, accompanied by too much personal information, and a sign that parents are not adequately supervising the kids’ accounts.

Here is another reason number 8 resonates with me so much: excessive posting of selfies is sometimes the habit of extremely troubled individuals; those who create an online fantasy persona. They believe they are super special and take care to present the ideal online environment to uphold this delusion. Rather than a harmless sharing of fun times with friends, that’s about feeding a potentially harmful and lifelong psychopathology.

We can learn a lot about the motives behind people’s actions simply by learning more about our own perspectives. We can begin to have meaningful conversations instead of making faulty assumptions and snap judgments. We can understand one another.



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