The Wizard of Oz: What Really Is Behind The Curtain?
In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy found the man behind the curtain, pretending to be the great Wizard of Oz, the spell of the Wizard was broken. The great and powerful wizard was exposed. He was simply an ordinary man, who was just able to perform some clever tricks. The trouble with fantasy is that, for some, the line between delusion and reality is blurred for those people who simply don’t deal in the truth. I am talking about those people with fantastical perceptions of themselves that are so great, that after a while, their fantasies become their reality. Why would someone go to such great lengths to claim that they are more talented/ more skilled/ more beautiful/have a better career than they actually have? Let’s take our own trip to Oz and take a look at a certain type of fantasist and an even closer look at what is behind the curtain of lies.
A self aggrandising person with narcissist traits would have been telling lies for so long and have gotten so good at it, that they really do believe their lies are truth. Rather like a child, they live in a pretend world, and much like a child with an invisible friend, it is very, very real to them. For children, living outside reality to some extent is normal and developmental. When an adult lives outside reality and creates a fantasy world they think is real, we call it crazy. We have all met someone who desperately tries to convince everyone around them of how ‘special’ they are. They do this via their tall tales of being a talented child; inventing qualifications that they do not have; claiming to speak languages that they don’t even recognise; inventing a high powered job/career to cover up their mundane, real one; making up stories about the exotic life that they live and the extraordinary things that they do. One would be forgiven for thinking that something just doesn’t seem add up here. It doesn’t.
If you call a fantasist out or question their stories, they will attack. This happens because: 1. They hate the truth being shown to them. If they know you can see through their lies, then you have blown their flimsy cover and that is terrifying to them; and 2. like a young child, they don’t want to leave their fantasy world; a dream where they are perfect and superior to everyone else. The truth is, they are acutely aware that they are not. In fact, they have very low self esteem. Much lower than you’d expect. They hate themselves and so they cling onto the false self they created. This is the source of their grandiosity. They need a constant influx of narcissistic supply to keep their false image of themselves alive.
The Wizard wanted to appear to be a powerful and ruthless tyrant, even though he was actually a weak and unassuming little man. So, he hid behind a curtain, amplified his voice and projected a scary image onto the far wall when Dorothy and her friends entered the Wizard’s castle. What gives the Wizard away as not being a true narcissist (I’d venture a guess that he was probably more of borderline individual) was the fact that when exposed, he took responsibility and showed true remorse for behaving in the way he did. To do this shows humility and self awareness, which are not traits usually exhibited by the subject of today’s post. Nevertheless, the exposure of the Wizard of Oz remains a good illustration of the way in which a fantasist and narcissist will deny reality and cloak themselves in elaborate lies to escape from their painful truth.
When all is said and done, constant self aggrandisement and boasting without substance highlight an intense self loathing and a desperate need for the world to only see what the fantasist wants to be seen. The false self constructed becomes a mask for the rest of the world to see and is made entirely of lies. This mask isn’t who they really are, but who they want to convince everyone that they are. Their attack on others stems from a deep seated envy of those who are effortlessly all that which they want to be. They may also need to protect the illusions that they create. If they feel this cover is about to be blown by the truth, they attack and rage out of terror that you may see the emptiness inside or even worse for them, the vulnerable true self hiding in the dark corners of their unconscious.
By telling themselves so many lies, they are abusing themselves as much as they abuse others, becoming more and more disconnected from anything that is real. Only, this is rarely realised. They’d rather wander forever in the confusing labyrinth of their disordered minds where up is down, north is south, dark is light, yes is no, wrong is right, and they are gods. They can’t face reality because the truth of being ordinary, and perhaps having nothing so remarkable to boast about, might destroy them. Or so they believe.
What happens if your fantasies have crossed the line into the unhealthy and there is a great disparity between ideals and reality? It leaves you feeling frustrated, agitated and resentful. It is difficult to see a way out when you’re knee deep in it. I get it – real life sometimes isn’t all that thrilling, particularly when you’ve had a difficult childhood and have had to cope with painful experiences. The need to fantasise, rewrite history and claim to be many things that are not true becomes a form of self preservation and self protection. It is not uncommon to not only get used to this mode of being, but to have greater expectations and ideas about what can make you happy. However, in rather the same way as an addict needs more and more to achieve the same high, the same is true for the fantasist. The lies and boasting become more grandiose, until they are so far fetched, that others begin to question and disbelieve. Then, the very thing that is feared, becomes a reality.
Having some fantasies can brighten up a day, remind you of your dreams and aspirations and be a source of motivation. However, you’re on shaky ground when the distortions leave you more and more disconnected from your reality and you’re struggling to remember who you really are.