Indian Journal of Medical Research

: 2011  |  Volume : 134  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 403--404

Selfhood, identity and personality styles

Kiran Rao 
 Consultant in Mental Health & Human Development, Sampark, Bangalore; Former Professor & Head, Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore 560 029, India

Correspondence Address:
Kiran Rao
Consultant in Mental Health & Human Development, Sampark, Bangalore; Former Professor & Head, Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore 560 029

How to cite this article:
Rao K. Selfhood, identity and personality styles.Indian J Med Res 2011;134:403-404

How to cite this URL:
Rao K. Selfhood, identity and personality styles. Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2011 [cited 2020 Apr 10 ];134:403-404
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Full Text

G. Arciero & G. Bondolfi, editors (S. Wiley-Blackwell, UK) 2009. 278 pages. Price: US$ 125.00

ISBN 978-0-470-51719-2

Understanding the dynamics and evolution of human personality over time has long fascinated mankind, especially philosophers and psychologists. There is a general consensus on the elements that constitute personality, namely temperament and character. However, there is still uncertainty as to how, in the face of constant and dynamic interplay of temperament and character with environment, an individual is able to maintain his /her sense of self and identity. In this book, the authors attempt to provide an understanding of the relationship between the two polarities: multiplicity of one's experience (actions/feelings) and the sense that every experience belongs to oneself (selfhood/identity).

The title of the book reflects three interweaving themes: that of self, identity and development of personality driven by different emotional tendencies. The book is divided into two sections. The first part of the book develops the concept of self anchored in the phenomenological tradition of Heidegger, Husserl, and Merleau Ponty among others seen through the prism of first person and second person experiences. The development of experiential self is guided by early encounters of the child with his/her caregivers, initially through body-to-body relationship and later, with the development of language, the concept of 'I' and self begins to emerge.

The authors then develop a framework for development of the second theme of the book, that is, identity. Identity reflects continuity and permanence in one's life in relation to one's actions and affective engagements with others/ environment. The authors use the term 'οpseity' to refer to the subjective experience of the individual that is the cornerstone of selfhood, and the term 'αlterity' to refer to the interaction of the self with others that influences the shaping of inter-subjective processes. Using a narrative approach, the authors expand on a theory of personality construction driven by emotional tendencies / inclinations. Thus, in contrast to earlier theories of personality development that lay stress on cognitive aspects of experience, the present formulation emphasizes on the emotional tone of personal experience as critical in the ongoing construction of personality and later development of psychopathology.

The second part of the book focuses on the development of personality, based on affectivity/emotional inclinations to psychopathology. The authors have chosen to discuss the link between personality and psychopathology in five different psychiatric conditions: eating disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, hypochondriasis/hysteria, phobia and depression. Each of these chapters is structured using material from clinical vignettes and observations and analysis of characters from literature that are cemented together with findings in contemporary neuroscience. Thus, adopting a multi-disciplinary approach drawn from philosophy, developmental psychology and contemporary neuroscience, the authors embark on an ambitious endeavour to provide fresh insights into the understanding of 'personality types' and its link to various states of psychopathology. This multi-disciplinary approach is to be applauded, for far too often, we have had limited perspectives on psychopathology. However, it does make a tremendous demand on the reader. He/she must have an understanding of philosophical concepts and phenomenology, psychology and the 'new neuroscience'. Although the transition from case vignettes and personal narratives to neuroscience is not always smooth, the descriptions of various characters drawn from literature to illustrate a particular psychopathology are an interesting diversion.

Overall, the book makes for fascinating reading, but is certainly not meant to be read in one sitting. The authors have tried to integrate large amount of information drawn from various sources and this needs to be assimilated slowly. The language is often ponderous in style and one is left with the feeling that a more simple language style would have made the point more effectively. It is unclear as to whom the book is meant for, but it should certainly interest persons in both the behavioural and neurosciences. The authors do not seem to have had specific target readers in mind, but hope that the arguments they put forth serve to initiate a dialogue across various disciplines. Finally, no information is provided regarding the authors' professional background (one presumes they are psychiatrists) so while the book purports to unravel the mysteries of the self and identity, one is left wondering about the identity of the authors themselves.