Often, when reflecting on our careers, relationships, and the overall state of our lives, we tend to ask ourselves whether we made the right choices. Sometimes we may even imagine if and how things might have been different. This kind of reflection comes up on stand-up comedian and renowned podcaster Marc Maron’s show, “Maron”; on the episode entitled “Projections,” in which Maron has lunch with a filmmaker friend, Danny, played by Eric Stoltz.
Earlier in the episode Maron reflects:
You know, I’ve never been really good at compromise. It’s not that I had a vision of what I should or shouldn’t be; it’s just that I’ve never liked being told what to do. And I never liked doing things that I didn’t want to do. In other words, I’m a child. I am a child. And that’s why I’m speaking to you from my garage right now… If I just learned how to compromise earlier on, I might have been in a different place in my life. But I think my fear is that, if I did do that, on some level I’d never recover from that compromise. This is some heavy speculation about compromise, people. But knowing – I can tell you this from experience – knowing that I never really did compromise – I can honestly say that THAT hasn’t really worked out yet.
As they reminisce about old times and discuss a possible small role for Maron in one of Danny’s upcoming films, Maron pictures different versions of what life might have been like for him if he had made different choices or more compromises. In one fantasy, he is married with kids, in another, he quit show business to become a cook, and so on.
At the end of the episode Maron concludes:
You know at some point you may think you know what other people are thinking or assume that they are thinking the worst about you. But I’d be willing to bet that most of the time, 99% of the time you’re wrong because most of the time people are thinking about themselves and the sooner you accept that, the less likely you are to put yourself in a position that will make you uncomfortable. That makes sense doesn’t it? I mean, insecurity is what drives us into situations that only add to the pile of **** that we’re going to eventually have to dig ourselves out of once we find ourselves. Like a wife you don’t like or a gay lover you’re not attracted to or a garbage truck you think is a spaceship [referring to the disparaging role he was offered in the movie]…
The point Maron makes is consistent with the humanistic psychology concept of incogruence. According to Carl Rogers, incongruence is what stands between people and reaching their full potential (i.e., self-actualization). Congruent people live authentically and show little, if any, discrepancy between who they really are and what they show to the world, whereas incongruent individuals tend to live their lives inauthentically in order to attain conditional positive regard from others. Over time, incongruent individuals may experience a discrepancy between the people they are (the real self) and the people they present to the world (the ideal self).
In this episode we see that Maron has avoided compromise and leaned on the side of congruence throughout his life, but not without his own struggles. While he appears ultimately satisfied with his current place in life–single, running a podcast from his garage–he acknowledges, or at least ponders about the possible avenues that may have been easier, more profitable, or less lonely. In other words, it’s my guess that while neither Maron or Rogers would advocate a life of unwavering compromise, I don’t think either of them would necessarily suggest that a life of complete congruence is plausible either. Instead, Maron’s episode illustrates the inherent challenge of living in accordance with our values when the divide between compromises that move us forward and compromises that give in to insecurity is not always clear.
photo credit: brooklynvegan.com