The Psychologized Self: A Brief Analysis of Sources

The readings and a video of this week discuss the problem of self and related issues, such as identity, individuality, and their relation to the modern world. Baumeister (1987) offers a historical perspective on examining the evolution of the concept of self. The author states that in the late medieval period, the unit of a human life was recognized, while between 1500 and 1800, philosophers came to consider the distinction between the outer and inner selves. The further rise of self-consciousness in the Victorian era and the 20th century lead to revealing the following problems: self-knowing, self-creation, self-understanding, and the relation of self to society (Baumeister, 1987). It seems that the recognition of one’s potential and its fulfillment is one of the main challenges that are faced by every person. Beginning with the Christian values and morals, the notion of fulfillment becomes closely associated with one’s individuality. As stated by Bekerman, and Zembylas (2018) in chapter 5, “people are not people anymore, they are individuals” (p. 42). While individuality is perceived as something unique, it is inalienable from society, meaning that it is recognized as different from others.

The theme of individuality is also explored by Adam Curtis in “The Century of the Self” documentary, where the expansion of psychoanalysis is applied to business and marketing. Based on the theory by Freud, Bernays promoted the creation of the so-called Me Generation that focused on self-help movements in the US (JustAdamCurtis, 2002). The expressive self was taken into account by corporations as an attractive opportunity to link the needs of customers with their products. Most importantly, corporations greatly encouraged the desire of individuals to express their uniqueness, which resulted in consumerism and overproduction. In other words, the ideas of Freud were reconsidered and adjusted to understand the inner self of customers and stimulate their desires and expectations.

In chapter 6, Bekerman, and Zembylas (2018) study the self from the point of descriptive adjectives, such as hidden, authentic, and material. For example, while speaking of a child, people often say that she or he has a hidden potential, and they use the “why” question to uncover it. However, little attention is paid to the “how” question that refers to the way of thinking and acting, failing to develop the authentic self and working with what is available. It is also exciting to note that Bekerman, and Zembylas (2018) provide real-life examples to illustrate their ideas. When one kid hits the other one and says “I am sorry; I didn’t do it on purpose”, does it mean that the first kid’s inner and outer selves were expressed? In fact, the kid’s body and mind interacted and led to this situation, the discussion of which raises some more issues.

In chapter 7, the authors investigate the concept of identity, suggesting that there are categories of age, race, ethnicity, occupation, religion, and others, which allow for exploring the differences between people (Bekerman, & Zembylas, 2018). Regarding education, many teachers tend to use these social identity categories to mark that the members of one group have similar characteristics, such as all Muslims or all Whites. Such an approach limits the borders of groups, which refers to power relationships. The government can use it, for example, to consolidate the people and strengthen their sense of belongingness to the nation. However, it creates an abstract perception of identity, while it is important to shift to recognizing identity as a co-participant in a complex, social, and political environment.


Baumeister, R. F. (1987). How the self became a problem: A psychological review of historical research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 163-176.

Bekerman, Z., & Zembylas, M. (2018). Psychologized language in education: Denaturalizing a regime of truth. Palgrave Macmillan.

JustAdamCurtis. (2002). The Century of the Self – Part 3: “There is a policeman inside all our heads; he must be destroyed” [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "The Psychologized Self: A Brief Analysis of Sources." February 3, 2022.