Self (psychology)

Self (psychology)

The self is a key construct in several schools of psychology, broadly referring to the cognitive representation of one's identity. The earliest formulation of the self in modern psychology stems from the distinction between the self as "I," the subjective knower, and the self as "Me", the object that is known. [James,W. (1981). "The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1890)] Current views of the self in psychology diverge greatly from this early conception, positioning the self as playing an integral part in human motivation, cognition, affect, and social identity. [Sedikides, C. & Spencer, S. J. (Eds.) (2007). "The Self". New York: Psychology Press]

The Self in Kohut's Formulation

Heinz Kohut [Kohut, H. (1966) Forms and Transformations of Narcissism. In "Self Psychology and the Humanities", ed. C. Strozier. New York: Norton, 1985 pp. 97-123] initially proposed a bipolar self compromising two systems of narcissistic perfection:" 1) a system of ambitions and, 2) a system of ideals." Kohut called the pole of ambitions the "narcissistic self" (later, the "grandiose self" [Kohut, H. (1971) "The Analysis of the Self." New York: International Universities Press] ), while the pole of ideals was designated the "idealized parental imago". According to Kohut, these poles of the self represented natural progressions in the psychic life of infants and toddlers.

Kohut argued that when the child's ambitions and exhibitionistic strivings were chronically frustrated, arrests in the grandiose self led to the preservation of a false, expansive sense of self that could manifest outwardly, in the visible grandiosity of the frank narcissist, or remain hidden from view, unless discovered in a narcissistic therapeutic transference (or "selfobject transference") that would expose these primitive grandiose fantasies and strivings. Kohut termed this form of transference a "mirror transference". In this transference, the strivings of the grandiose self are mobilized and the patient attempts to use the therapist to gratify these strivings.

Kohut proposed that arrests in the pole of ideals occurred when the child suffered chronic and excessive disappointment over the failings of early idealized figures. Deficits in the pole of ideals were associated with the development of an idealizing transference to the therapist who becomes associated with the patient's primitive fantasies of omnipotent parental perfection.

Kohut believed that narcissistic injuries were inevitable and, in any case, necessary to temper ambitions and ideals with realism through the experience of more manageable frustrations and disappointments. It was the chronicity and lack of recovery from these injuries (arising from a number of possible causes) that he regarded as central to the preservation of primitive self systems untempered by realism.

By 1984, ["How Does Analysis Cure Insert" ed. A Golberg and P Stepansky. Chicago: University of Chicago Press] Kohut's observation of patients led him to propose two additional forms of transference associated with self deficits: "1) the twinship and, 2) the merger transference". In his later years, Kohut believed that selfobject needs were both present and quite varied in normal individuals, as well as in narcissistic individuals.

To be clear, selfobjects are not external persons. Kohut and Wolf, 1978 [Disorders of the Self and Their Treatment. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 59: 413-425] explain:

"Selfobjects are objects which we experience as part of our self; the expected control over them is, therefore, closer to the concept of control which a grownup expects to have over his own body and mind than to the concept of control which he expects to have over others. (p.413)"

Kohut's notion of the self can be difficult to grasp because it is experience-distant, although it is posited based upon experience-near observation of the therapeutic transference. Kohut relied heavily on empathy as a method of observation. Specifically, the clinician's observations of his or her own feelings in the transference help the clinician see things from the subjective view of the patient -- to experience the world in ways that are closer to the way the patient experiences it. (note: Kohut did not regard empathy as curative. Empathy is a method of observation).

Jung self

In Jungian theory, the Self is one of the archetypes. It signifies the coherent whole, unified consciousness and unconscious of a person. The Self, according to Jung, is realised as the product of individuation, which in Jungian view is the process of integrating one's personality. For Jung, the self is symbolised by the circle (especially when divided in four quadrants), the square, or the mandala.

What distinguishes Jungian psychology is the idea that there are two centers of the personality. The ego is the center of consciousness, whereas the Self is the center of the total personality, which includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center. While the ego is a self-contained little circle off the center contained within the whole, the Self can be understood as the greater circle.

Critiques of the concept of selfhood

'Selfhood' or complete autonomy is a common Western approach to psychology and models of self are employed constantly in areas such as psychotherapy and self help. Edward E. Sampson (1989) argues that the preoccupation with independence is harmful in that it creates racial, sexual and national divides and does not allow for observation of the self-in-other and other-in-self.

The very notion of selfhood is an attacked idea because it is seen as necessary for the mechanisms of advanced capitalism to function. In "Inventing our selves: Psychology, power, and personhood", Nikolas Rose (1998) proposes that psychology is now employed as a technology that allows humans to buy into an invented and arguably false sense of self. Rose believes that freedom assists governments and exploitation.

It is said by someweasel-inline that for an individual to talk about, explain, understand or judge oneself is linguistically impossible, since it requires the self to understand its "self". This is seen as philosophically invalid, being self-referential, or reification, also known as a circular argument. Thus, if actions arise so that the self attempts self-explanation, confusion may well occur within linguistic mental pathways and processes.


ee also

*Identity (social science)
*List of basic self topics
*Self (Jung)
*Self (philosophy)
*Self Psychology
*Self (sociology)

External links

* [ Definitions of Various Self Constructs] - Self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-confidence & self-concept.
* [ Discussion of Self] – Page of the Emotional Competency website.
* [ Theory of Self] - Proposed by an autistic to explain autism

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