Psychological Self-Help

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values and meaning were dictated by the community ("do what you
are told to do"). Today, modern "self" theory says each person is
expected to decide what is right (almost by magic and without much
reliance on the accumulated wisdom of the culture) and to know
him/herself well enough to determine what courses of action "feel
right." In short, we must know ourselves, so we can set our life goals
and self-actualize. The cultures of 1200 and 2000 are two very
different worlds. 
Today, our self-concept, i.e. our knowledge, assumptions, and
feelings about ourselves, is central to most of the mental processes
mentioned in the last paragraph. This self-awareness is one of the
most important concepts in psychology. We know that each person's
self-concept is different from all others. But, surprisingly, there is no
general agreement about the general structure or content of the self-
concept. Some adages suggest that you have one true self or
authentic self, such as in the saying "just be yourself." The true self
may be similar to your preferred identity or your best self. This tidy,
unified, relatively stable positive description of the self doesn't fit the
reality most of us experience. We seem to have a self with many
parts, some we like and some we don't. 
Freud described three parts of our personality; Berne thought
there were six parts; other theorists proposed other parts (see chapter
9). They are very different but all recognizable parts. More recently,
several researchers suggest that humans are best understood by
accepting that we have many selves. For instance, we are not only
aware of many current traits, but we have selves leftover from the
past (our "former" selves) and we have potential future selves, such
as "hoped for" selves, "ideal" selves, "successful" selves, "rich" selves,
and also "feared" selves, "incompetent" selves, "drop-out" selves,
"unemployed" selves, "angry" selves, etc. Most psychological tests
only ask about the current selves and neglect the future and past
selves, although what you want to become and what you fear
becoming powerfully affect your behavior. 
Some aspects of our self-concept are stable for years; other
aspects change almost moment to moment. For instance, most of us
immediately feel "stupid" after failing a test or making a foolish
comment. We may feel attractive at one time and unattractive a little
later. Each of us also has public selves (several may be used to
manage one's image as presented to others) and private selves. One
may love him/herself in some ways and hate him/herself in others
(Denzin, 1987). One's self-concept may mostly mirror other people's
opinions or only one's self-evaluation. Your self-concept may largely
reflect the dictates of a culture, religious teachings, family tradition, or
you can create a unique personality based on your own ideals. The
self-concept is probably primarily learned or acquired, but basic
tendencies, such as to like or dislike others or one's self, might be
inherited as well. The self-concept may have conscious and
unconscious facets; it is a safe bet that the former is more socially
acceptable than the latter. Surely very few of us would consider even
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