“Double Imposter Syndrome” Has Multiple Shrinks Worried

FLUSHING, New York.  It’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, “prime time” for identity thief Mikhail Kraznov, a Freedonian national in the U.S. on a temporary visa.  “So many credit cards will be lost by drunks tonight,” he says.  “It is like taking candy from baby, no?”

But this reporter finds the young man’s disaffected expression to be at odds with his apparent good fortune as he picks up a Discover Card left behind at The Neutered Elf, a neighborhood bar here.  “I don’t know what it is,” he says.  “I have a good job taking money from innocent people, and yet I don’t feel as if I deserve it.”

Kraznov and others like him are victims of what psychologists and psychiatrists have started to refer to as “double imposter syndrome,” a state of mind experienced by those who live falsely and yet feel that they are not authentic.  “Double imposter victims are haunted by a gnawing suspicion that even though they are openly duplicitous in some fashion, they aren’t very good at it, or aren’t entitled to the fruits of their success,” says Dr. Emil Kronapka, a resident at the Piersall Center, a multi-disciplinary psychiatric facility in Framingham, Mass.  “We try to get them to understand that everybody else is faking it too, so it’s no big deal.”

“Please don’t ask me to impersonate myself.”

One sufferer who’s unconvinced is Shecky Feldman, a B-list impressionist who is currently booked at Caligula’s Palace in Las Vegas during the post-New Year’s lull.  “I’ve been an impressionist since I was a kid,” he says, shaking his head disconsolately in his dressing room after opening for The Flying Crostini Brothers, a troupe of acrobats.  “For some reason–I can’t quite put my finger on it–I don’t feel as if I’m realizing my true personality.”

At least one case of triple imposter syndrome has been reported, involving Slappy McGrath, a ventriloquist’s dummy dressed as a mime who is currently working on the first draft of “Dummies for Dummies,” to be published later this year.  “I’m perfectly fine,” he says as he jerks his head backwards at his owner, Con Chapman.  “It’s this guy who’s the sicko.”

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