Psychologists ask: What do we mean by “self”

In the introduction to their book Handbook of Self and Identity, psychologists Mark Leary and June Price Tangney write: Although psychologists and sociologists often have had difficulty agreeing how to define and conceptualize their constructs, “self” has been particularly troublesome. Not only have we lacked a single, universally accepted definition of “self,” but also many… Read more

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The social and cultural history of the self

Have human beings always had a self? Has there always been an “I” who reflects on a “me”? We’ll never know what it was like to be alive at the origins of self-consciousness, but that doesn’t keep us from speculating. Charles Taylor imagines the following scenario in Paleolithic times: As a hunting group is closing… Read more

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You are what you think

What follows was originally published in 1981. (You can tell from the sentence “Would it be worth getting an answering machine?” Yes, folks, not only was there a time when not everyone had a cell phone. People actually used to talk to each other on the phone rather than send a text message.) See the… Read more

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The flexible self and the inflexible individual

What follows was originally published in 1981 and was called “Meet the Enemy.” See the posts Something I wrote a long time ago and More thoughts from the past. Identity and self-opinion are acquired through a series of personal relationships. Our impressionable natures come under the influence of others and we respond by adopting new… Read more

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More thoughts from the past

When I was originally thinking of writing this blog, it didn’t occur to me to include chapters from my 1981 book on anxiety. But as I was writing the last post, I saw a connection between my past and this blog. I’m still intensely interested in the things I wrote about over 30 years ago.… Read more

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The sociology of knowledge

In the late 1970s, an acquaintance to whom I am forever grateful (Peter Gruen) recommended two books: Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia: An introduction to the sociology of knowledge and Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. The sociology of knowledge – the idea that… Read more

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Anxiety, mysticism, and reality

Please see the previous post, where I explain that this is something I originally published in 1981. The chapter title, Present Shock, was probably meant to contrast with the idea of Future Shock, a book by Alvin Toffler that was quite popular in the 1970s. Present Shock As long as anxiety has an identifiable object… Read more

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Something I wrote a long time ago

I once wrote an essay – actually it was a chapter in a book I wrote — where I described my childhood reality shock as “anxiety in its purest form, an awareness of the gap between the self and the world it has come to know and depend on.” I’ve reproduced that (rather long) chapter… Read more

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Reality shock

When I was eleven, I had what I later decided to call a “reality shock.” The world suddenly seemed unreal, as if I were having a dream. I remember going up the street to the home of a friend and standing with her in the backyard by the swing set. I kept asking her: Is… Read more

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The self-conscious blogger

Blogging makes me uncomfortable, but it’s a discomfort that interests me. It’s not the discomfort itself I find interesting (especially my own), but the experience of being a self in a public space, the self-consciousness that engenders, and the reflection that provokes on what it’s like to be a conscious self. When I first started… Read more

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Why the self?

As I mentioned in the last post, it was my personal experience of healthism that motivated me to start a previous blog. When I now ask myself why I want to start a blog on the self, I find multiple motivations. I decided to write a few initial posts where I talk about this. I’m… Read more

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Starting a new blog

When I started the Health Culture blog in 2008, I was interested in the question Why was there such an increase in health consciousness (healthism) in the last quarter of the 20th century? I had a personal interest in that question because, in retrospect, I could see that healthism had had an impact on my… Read more

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