Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

The Relational Self of a Destitute: A Narrative Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

The Relational Self of a Destitute: A Narrative Analysis

Article excerpt


In Indian culture and philosophical scriptures 'Self' has been described in relation to 'Braham' as said "Aham Brahammasmi", the whole world exists in me. The self has been considered as a core of personality in eastern, as well as, western perspective. The relational nature of self has been a topic of interest for self theorist. The role played by significant others in the formation of self which is fundamentally relational i.e. relational self, also has been recognized by many contemporary theorist (Aron & Aron, 1996; Baldwin,1992; Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Gergen & Gergen, 1988; Greenwald & Pratkanis, 1984; Higgins, 1989; Markus & Cross, 1990; Mc Adams, 1980; Ogilvie & Ashmore, 1991), as well as, early self theorist (e.g., Cooley, 1902; James, 1890; Mead, 1934; Rogers 1951; Sullivan, 1940; 1953).

James's (1890) view point of self as fundamentally interpersonal has not only withstood the test of the time but has also served as the basis of the concept of the relational self (Anderson, Chen & Miranda, 2002). In relational self, knowledge about the self is linked with knowledge about significant others. This view of relational self upholds the premise of self primarily in relation with significant others. It has its implication not only for construing, evaluating and regulating self but at a broader level also for personality functioning influencing the interpersonal life of a person.

What is of crucial importance is that one's sense of self is decided by the relations one has in his/her life. Relationship may be seen as the oxygen that people breath hence the overwhelming influence of the self - other (significant others) relation serves as the central representation in one's life through the process of transference. In Indian culture significantly, people are living in relational roles rather than the transference. In Indian philosophy self is always seen in the context of spiritual interiority and social duty (Bharti, 1985; Saskena, 1967).

Especially in the case of females, the notion of relational self becomes of crucial importance. As the perceived relational self is the result of one's significant other's perception about one. The relational self tends to influence the extent of happiness and satisfaction in one's life. Whatever feedback is given by significant others, contributes in the development of interpersonal script which is again decided by attachment with loved ones (Baldwin, Fehr, Keedian, Scidel & Thompson, 1993) and contributes to build trust or mistrust about world along with building up self esteem. On the contrary, as described by sociometric theory (e.g. Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995) positive feeling about self result from feeling that one is accepted and valued by others.

In the case of destitution where people are abandoned by their family and significant others are not with them, their relational self is a product of their memory which is occupied with images of significant others not present in their physical world. The self is thus shaped with relationship with others whether they are present physically or only symbolically (e.g. Baldwin, Correll & Lopez, 1990).

While attempting to understand the relational self of a woman who is destitute, abandoned by her family, it is important to use an apt method which could explore in depth information about her. For fulfilling the purpose narrative analysis was found to be a suitable method. In the study of Parikh and Garg (1989) with 2000 women it was found that women mostly describe themselves in their relations with others rather than their own selves. Their self is reflected in social roles, responsibility and connection with others. In the words of Anderson (1997) "self (and other) is a created concept, a created narrative, linguistically constructed and existing in dialogue and in relationship.... In this view the self is a dialogical narrative self." The work of Mc Namee and Gergen (1992) and Gergen (1994) also emphasize on communal structuring of social world and relations reflected through language and expression of relational self in those narratives. …

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