There were many long, detailed essays by people who are experts at self-examination. They could finely calibrate each passing emotion. But these people often did not lead the happiest or most fulfilling lives. It’s not only that they were driven to introspection by bad events. Through self-obsession, they seemed to reinforce the very emotions, thoughts and habits they were trying to escape.
Many of the most impressive people, on the other hand, were strategic self-deceivers. When something bad was done to them, they forgot it, forgave it or were grateful for it. When it comes to self-narratives, honesty may not be the best policy.
To me, that the way we structure society rewards self-deception suggests more that there’s something seriously wrong with the way we structure society than with those who fail to strategically self-deceive. I also suspect that society’s system of rewarding particular kinds of self-serving self-deception (and punishing honest self-criticism) contributes a great deal to the anti-rational trends ultimately subverting advanced capitalist societies’ ability to govern themselves democratically (something Brooks has identified and lamented in dozens if not hundreds of columns by now).