The “I” Image (Part I)
Understanding “Who am I?” and “Why do I do what I do?”
The Big Five theory of personality identifies five distinct factors as central to personality: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Being one of the most complex concepts within the field of psychology, personality theory provides deep understanding of these dimensions that are central to the character of individuals. Nevertheless, the theory does not give an explanation of “why” man (as in humankind) does what he does.
The further development of theoretical and empirical studies seeks approaches not only to describe but also to explain individual behaviors.
Explanation in the psychology of people takes an explanatory approach of humankind by seeing man as an active agent, able not only to respond to immediate realities, but also to predict next course of actions, set goals, change situations and act as manifested in its unified whole.
A key factor in the psychology of personality is the understanding of causality (interconnections) (Bandura, 1999), perceived as a shared causality consisting of cognitive, affective, and biological events, and behaviors, which together act as interrelated determinants while they influence each other.
Furthermore, it is necessary to seek explanations that rely on social cognition. Under which we understand subjective images, ideas as thought processes, verbally formulated ideas and expectations. Cognitions are not distinctive formations, but have a social origin and are based on language, culture, and social practice and sharing of common understandings. Social cognitions are formed and developed in the process of ontogenesis through which flows permanent socialization of the individual. The cognitive approach begins from the following premises:
- It is the existence of persistent internal structural and regulatory processes, which attract explanation of observed social behaviors.
- The internal structures exist in a latent state and are activated only under certain conditions; they are not global traits but cognitions and dispositions to certain content and functions.
- Situations actively influence confidence.
- The subjective conditions have three elements — cognitions, emotions, and behaviors.
- Studies give priorities to quantitative assessments and the use of qualitative experimental methods.
These basic ideas of cognitive paradigm allow analytical approach to the study of personality and one’s self worth.
Moreover, in order for one to arrive at an explanation of certain behaviors, one needs to overcome many conditions along the way.
The beginning starts with a description of individual subsystems of personality and their basic content.
Furthermore, one must reveal the functional interactions between the components of each subsystem.
The third step is the outlining of processes by which one carries out these relationships, and separately, by which the subsystem adjusts independently or in interaction.
Thus a meaningful analysis should be inseparable from functional and procedural construction of one’s own personality.
Also, one must take into account the dynamic nature of psychological regulations, which passes the processes of the external environment and one must assess the situation and the context in which they appear.
Furthermore, we will look at general points of building one’s personality and self-worth.
Inevitably, it begins from the first precondition — main regulatory structure of the personality. In this capacity, personality can direct different researchers to various substantive areas.
Undoubtedly, the central place in the structure of a personality is the self-image of oneself. If we remain persistent with the principles below, the first step is to outline the content of our image. The “I” image can be presented in three areas:
The “I” image is an inclusive center of all cognitions and emotional experiences associated with the “I.” Its content includes the sense of separateness and differentiation from the surrounding outer world. Awareness of oneself includes tendency of one to feel special, significant and essential.
This trend is supported by asymmetrical shifting of emotional balance and diversion in the direction of the predominance of positive emotions and rejection of negative experiences whenever events affect one’s existence.
This suggests protection of personal safety. The sense of its own significance varies in degree of confidence in its authenticity and this variation can be connected in non-optimal ways of flow of emotional life and personal behavior.
Man lives in social and physical environments that have individual rules and requirements imposed on the individual. Therefore, in order to maintain a positive balance of emotions, an individual of self-worth must integrate global “I” image with the realities and conditions of its existence.
The process of physical and social environment develops a set of competencies, which help to change available resources and direct the course of future events according to its own requirements. These competences are part of the image of the self and become important and significant.
As a social being, one cannot exclude him or herself from society. The care received in early childhood, language and competencies acquired cannot be integrated and maintained, if one is not part of a social grouping. In this social setting, one can be protected and supported. This requires an involvement of a particular group, community and in wider aspect — certain culture.
Furthermore, inside the community one feels possibilities and has his or her own uniqueness and importance of diversity in the social world.
All this makes the ego-identity an important and integral part of the content of the “I” image.
Confirmation of one’s own importance and uniqueness in the objective conditions of social existence implies recognition of one’s self from others. The forms of expression of this recognition become part of personal values.
To sum up, one can say that the content of “I” image is based on egocentric core of primitive assumptions and miscellaneous emotional selfishness. Of these, at the meeting of the objective reality, it is born complexity and richness of content image of one self, which assimilates and adapts to the objective needs and requirements of one’s own worth.
To continue reading, please go to Part II.
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About The Author
Dr. Kachovska is an internationally known Change Catalyst. She teaches individuals and organizations about awareness, connection and the need for change — personally, socially, and professionally.