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The Psychology of House MD

By Tricia Andor, Licensed Professional Counselor

Dr. House, the medical genius of House, the most watched television show of 2008 worldwide, demonstrates impression management in the way he interacts with his patients, colleagues, and staff. As you watch the video, notice the various styles of impression management employed:

  • Using abrasive language to create an impression of toughness or untouch-ability.
  • Presenting a hardened exterior in order to avoid being hurt.
  • Intellectualizing in order to avoid personal connection.

Although impression management seeks to create a certain false, or less than accurate image of ourselves to others, employing impression management is not necessarily a) done intentionally or b) done as an attempt to “trick” others. It can be done intentionally and can be used as a means to trick others into thinking one is other than he is. But it’s usually not.

More often than being of an out-to-trick-them kind of intent, impression management functions as an outgrowth of one’s beliefs, expectations, and fears that we often aren’t even aware of (“Feelings are bad.” “Being in control at all times is good.” “Human connection, emotions, and feelings are for sissies.” “If I get close to others I might get hurt, and I can’t handle that.” – would be examples of such beliefs/expectations/fears someone like the character House could possibly have.) When we gain more insight about these unnoticed beliefs, expectations, and fears, the less likely we want or need to act on them.

This is one of the positive outcomes of therapy people mention most frequently to me – feeling more able and confident to be themselves in their relationships. And when people are more confident in their ability to relate with others honestly, the less they find themselves seeking to manage impressions.