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Social Self and Individual Self

Psychological Perspectives

 

Photo provided.

Ken Silvestro, PhD.

As a follow-up to the previous article describing groups and collectives, I want to describe the differences between social Self and individual Self.

A social Self is directly related to groups and collectives. This means that a person's social identity, or Self, is based on group membership. Since groups or collectives have specific values, beliefs, mannerisms, dress styles, languages and more, a member typically adopts most, if not all, of the group's characteristics as her/his social Self.

An individual Self, as presented in previous articles, is considered the central element in a person's unconscious (hidden) psychology. It provides a person with a meaning and direction in life.

A person can begin to identify with a group, or collective, in several ways. If a person, for example, already has beliefs that are similar with a group's beliefs, that person often is motivated to become a member. Someone might simply find a group interesting and decide to become a member.

In both examples, a person soon considers her/his sense of Self as identical to the group's characteristics and qualities. Adopting these characteristics means a person's Self, or social Self, originates from within the group.

Psychologists describe this identification as "group think" because collective members think in a similar way about different issues but identity is more than just thinking. It includes the way we behave, our friends, even the way we dress, which a group provides.

A person, who is not a member of a collective or group, will obviously not develop a social identity from a group but will likely develop a social identity from a culture or society. This person also has an opportunity to develop a relationship with his/her individual Self. This Self, being the center of the unconscious (hidden) psychology, does not include collective characteristics but qualities related to a person's individual meaning and direction in life. In this case, the person's identity originates from within her/his psychology, not from an outside collective.

There are many psychological elements that social and individual identities share. A person's persona, or mask, is one example. A persona, or mask, is how a person behaves and expresses her/himself in different situations and with other people. Since we are involved in, and with, many different groups, situations and people, we have many masks.

As you walk through your day, consider how often you are identified with your social Self versus your individual Self. Knowing the difference can help you to begin to understand who you are.

 

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