The Psychology of Adaptation to Absurdity: Tactics of Make-Believe

By Rhoda L. Fisher; Seymour Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
9
CONJURING UP A SELF

In this chapter, we inspect the "self" as a structure that is ingeniously worked and reworked by individuals as part of their repertoire of defensive makebelieve tactics. We propose, as have others, that the self is an arbitrary creation, a simulacrum that can be stuffed with fictive elements. In probing this matter, we have dutifully trekked through the farrago of papers, chapters, and books on the nature of the self. Never has a concept been so diligently probed and stretched. Even if one considers only statements presented by individuals with scientific credentials, the range of ideas about what the self is and does is marvelous to behold. Although there is a widespread assumption that some sort of cognitive (self) structure exists, which defines who one is and guides one's behavior, only limited agreement exists beyond that point. There are fundamental disagreements about whether the self is a stable "core" structure or more transient and malleable in character (e.g., Gergen, 1982; Swann, 1983). Extensive discussions can be found on whether one should speak of the self or multiple selves (e.g., James, 1910; Markus & Nurius, 1986). Some saw the self as constructed primarily to ward off anxiety ( Becker, 1973; Sullivan, 1953). Others focused on its information-processing functions ( Markus & Sentis, 1982). Real differences exist as to how much of the self is consciously known versus resident at unconscious levels (e.g., Epstein, 1983). One also finds debates about whether self-strategies are directed to selfconsistency or self-enhancement ( Greenwald, 1982; Markus & Wurf, 1987; Swann, 1983), whether self-perception is unique or a special case of personperception ( Olson & Hafer, 1990), and so forth.

Although empirical studies have compiled a good deal of information about the self-realm, a haziness still prevails as to how to organize and

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