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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #26 of 52: The Human Personality and its Disorders | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #28 of 52: Unified Versus Separated Self »

April 03, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #27 of 52: The Self Concept and the Self Image

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- Each human being has a self concept and a self image. The self concept is the individual’s concepts, ideas of who he thinks that he is. The idea of the self is translated into a mental image, a self image and seen as if it is real.

The self concept is conceptual, ideational, yet it is transformed into a pictorial form and treated as if it is tangible.

The individual employs the various ego defense mechanisms to defend his self concept and self image, and in defending them, make them seem real in his awareness. (The various ego defense mechanisms are repression, suppression, dissociation, denial, displacement, projection, rationalization, intellectualization, minimization, fear, anger, pride shame, fantasy, avoidance, reaction formation, sublimation, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia etc.)

Beginning from birth, the human child uses his inherited biological constitution and social experiences to construct a self concept for him. (See George Kelly, Personality as a Self Construct.)

By age twelve, the self concept, also called personality, is, more or less, in place. Once established, it becomes stable and is difficult to change. The individual at age sixty three is pretty much who he was at age thirteen. That is to say that the self concept and personality is stable over time. It is trauma to the brain, accidents, organic disease issues and religious conversion or conversion to a political ideology, such as socialism, that changes people’s basic personality types.

Once established, the self concept can be studied and understood and where there are dysfunctional aspects to it, efforts can be made to change it.

The self concept is exactly that, a concept, an idea held in mind and defended with the various ego defenses; that idea of the self is rooted in the individual’s inherited body and social experiences, two variables he cannot change. Therefore, he cannot totally change his self concept, unless, of course, he can change his body and society (the science of genetics and genetic engineering, no doubt, will effect this change in the future).

Consider the person who inherited a weak body and feels physically weak and sickly. He may have developed a self concept that says that he is weak and ask other people to help him, to guide him, hence have a dependent personality disorder. While he still has his weak body, he can only change his self concept only so much. He can study his self concept, understand it and modify it, within reason, but he cannot necessarily change it entirely, unless he changes his body.

Secular psychotherapy aims at helping the individual to understrand his self concept, and where there is problem change it.

Spiritual psychotherapy aims at teaching people that they have separated self concepts, aka ego, and that they need to change them, that they need to return to unified self concepts, aka Christ self, a loving self.

The separated ego self seeks self interests at the expense of other selves, whereas the unified self, the Christ works for social and common interests. When the self concept is changed from selfish to social serving, the individual tends to contribute to social welfare hence feels good about himself.

I will not indulge in spiritual psychology here, for if you have followed these essay series, so far, you probably have a good understanding of my spiritual psychology.

Suffice it to say that human beings must change their self concepts, from separated to unified, from selfish to social centered and learn to work for social interests. The reward for working for social good is peace and joy.

We must make no mistake about it. It is very difficult to change the self concept. As already pointed out, the self concept is reached in childhood, before age twelve, and is influenced by the individual’s inherited genes and early childhood social experiences. Society and its culture heavily influence the self concept and since the individual really cannot go back and change his genes and society, he cannot totally change his self concept. We must, therefore, not hope for a perfect self concept and self image.

The best that we can aim at is a self concept that gets along with most people in ones society.

(We must move from ego based self concept to Christ based self concept, from selfishness to social serving; and, ultimately, we must relinquish the separated self concept and embrace our real self, unified self. Salvation is first change of the self concept, from ego to Christ, and, ultimately, the letting go of all conceptual selves and the acceptance of our one shared self and one shared mind, a return to formless unified self.)

ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at April 3, 2006 11:21 PM

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