The Butthead Formula

How can you tell who's a butthead? Not by whether they butt heads with you.

Posted Sep 06, 2017

What makes a butthead a butthead? We tend to decide subjectively: If someone butts heads with you, they’re a butthead, right?

Wrong. By that standard, we end up with a world full of buttheads all sure that their enemies are buttheads. So if that subjective approach isn’t it, is there anything like an objective definition? What is a butthead other than someone I butt heads with?

I’ve been struggling with this question for 20 years. Here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve got so far.

Buttheads assume that they’re not at fault. If there’s a problem, it’s not them. They automatically translate “ouch” into “you’ve done me wrong,” “I want” into “you owe.” They project all flaws and mistakes onto others, anyone who gets in their way.

The butthead formula is simple. Anyone can apply it:

  1. Projection: Buttheads turn every accusation against the accuser. They’re like rubber, you’re like glue. Whatever you say about them bounces off them and sticks to you.
  2. Feigned authority: Buttheads play judge over every debate they enter. They get to decide who’s right and wrong and they always decide they’re right.
  3. Hypocrisy: Buttheads will say or do anything. The only thing consistent about them is their false claim that they’re consistent.

That’s it, just wall-to-wall projection, feigned authority, and hypocrisy. They’re never wrong and they always demand the last word on their righteousness and consistency. What they’re right about doesn’t matter. They can dress up their butthead formula in any belief – religious, spiritual, political, philosophical, right-wing, left-wing, whatever, so long as believing it convinces them that they’re entitled.

So who’s a butthead? In a way all of us. We all engage in some projection, feigned authority, and hypocrisy.

But in a way, not all of us. An outright butthead’s projection, feigned authority, and hypocrisy are totally unleashed. They had a breakthrough and now they’re self-glorifying know-it-alls, free from all self-doubt. They’ve “discovered” a truth that floats their boat by making the waters choppy for everyone who disagrees with them.

Buttheadedness is contagious. It’s hard to defeat a butthead so if someone is succeeding by being one, others are tempted to join them or beat them with some counter-buttheadedness.

That’s why we need to curb it cleanly, not by picking sides in butthead-on-butthead battles but by seeking a neutral definition. That’s why I keep working on my question and encourage you to work on it too. Cause if we go with the popular subjective definition, that anyone who disagrees with us is a butthead, we’re well on your way to becoming outright buttheads ourselves.