Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Self-Ambivalence and Attachment to Possessions

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Self-Ambivalence and Attachment to Possessions

Article excerpt

Doron and Kyrios (2005) have suggested that self-related constructs may be vulnerability factors for the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and associated cognitions, possibly including compulsive buying, hoarding, and materialism. The present study examined the relationship between self-related constructs (self-ambivalence and attachment uncertainty), compulsive acquisition, hoarding, and materialism. As predicted, self-ambivalence and uncertainty were correlated with materialism, compulsive hoarding, and compulsive buying, while compulsive acquisition of free things was correlated with uncertainty. Furthermore, self-ambivalence accounted for significant variance in all three possession-related variables even after controlling for depression and indecisiveness. Uncertainty accounted for significant variance in the compulsive acquisition of free things. Materialism exhibited high to moderate correlations with compulsive buying but low to moderate correlations with compulsive hoarding and no association with free acquisition. Lack of family warmth failed to correlate with acquisition variables but did correlate with depression. Overall, the findings supported the contribution of self-ambivalence and attachment patterns but not early family environment to the understanding of compulsive acquisition, particularly hoarding and buying problems.

Keywords: self-ambivalence; attachment; hoarding; obsessive-compulsive disorder

Recent theorizing about obsessive compulsive disorders has suggested that studying underlying cognitive-affective structures that leave people vulnerable to the development of psychopathology may improve our understanding and treatment of this disorder (Doron & Kyrios, 2005). One such vulnerability factor involves compromised aspects of self-identity. While numerous terms have been used to describe self-constructs, Campbell (1990) argues that the self-concept involves two components: (a) self-knowledge (or self-description), referring to the profile of beliefs that an individual has about his/her attributes, and (b) self-evaluation (or self-esteem), referring to appraisals about these attributes. Other researchers have emphasized structural qualities of self-concept, such as the organization of such self-beliefs in relation to each other (e.g., the distance of actual and desired images of self; Higgins, Klein, & Strauman, 1985), the number of distinct social identities (e.g., self-complexity; Linville, 1985), and the extent to which self-knowledge is clear and confidently held (e.g., self-clarity, self-certainty, and selfambivalence; Baumgartner, 1990; Campbell, 1990).

In their account of obsessive-compulsive problems, Guidano and Liotti (1983) emphasized the importance of self-ambivalence, which they suggested involved three such features of selfconstruction: the presence of incompatible beliefs about oneself (e.g., I am worthy and I am unworthy), uncertainty about one's self-worth (e.g., I am uncertain about my moral standing, lovability, and self-worth), and a preoccupation with self-worth. Guidano and Liotti argue that individuals prone to obsessionality (including phenomena related to obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] and obsessive-compulsive personality traits) have highly ambivalent beliefs about their self-worth and in particular about their moral virtue and lovability. Having high levels of self-ambivalence does not mean that someone believes they have little worth, a concept more closely related to self-evaluation. Rather, it means that they are not sure whether they are a "worthy" person, and as a result they become vigilant in searching the environment or their own experiences for evidence for or against their worthiness, concepts more closely aligned with notions of self-structure and process.

The concept of self may also have special importance for disorders that involve the acquisition of possessions. For instance, as early as 1918, William James noted the role ownership of possessions plays in conceptions of the self when he argued that "a man's Self is the sum-total of all that he can call his" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.