The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life; Kenneth J. Gergen, Pt. 2

February 11, 2009 at 7:09 pm 2 comments

Pg 73 – Has a little anecdote of feeling overwhelmed because there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them. “This syndrome may be termed multiphrenia, generally referring to the splitting (74) of the individual into a multiplicity of self-investments. This condition is partly an outcome of self-population, but partly a result of the populated self’s efforts to exploit the potentials of the technologies of relationship. In this sense, there is a cyclical spiraling toward a state of multiphrenia. As one’s potentials are expanded by the technologies, so one increasingly employs the technologies for self-expression; yet, as the technologies are further utilized, so do they add to the repertoire of potentials. It would be a mistake to view this multiphrenic condition as a form of illness, for it is often suffused with a sense of expansiveness and adventure. Someday there may indeed be nothing to distinguish multiphrenia from simply “normal living.”

~ So multiphrenia is the name for the condition of having many possible selves and self-representations that conflict. So, basically, everyone has multiphrenia to some degree, some just have more of it. If it becomes too overwhelming that is when people have mental breakdowns and succumb to it. I think the day of not distinguishing multiphrenia from “normal living” has come.

Pg 76 – “Normal development leaves most people with a rich range of “goals for a good life,” and with sufficient resources to achieve a sense of personal well-being by fulfilling these goals.” Goes on to talk about how social saturation affects this by giving us too many goals that conflict and cause us stress. “Each moment is enveloped in the guilt born of all that was possible but now foreclosed.”

~ I’m beginning to think of social saturation and the possible self saturation. If one has too many possible selves it creates an inflow of cognitive dissonance that cannot be managed and causes the individual to be overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough left to understand or choose what to do. I think this is the point one reaches before they redistribute of deconstruct an identity(s). IMPORTANT!

Pg 79 – “Increasingly the criteria of rationality does not, then, move one to a clear and univocal judgment of candidates. Rather, the degree of complexity is increased until a rationally coherent stand is impossible. In effect, as social saturation steadily expands the population of the self, a choice of candidates approaches the arbitrary…We approach a condition in which the very idea of “rational choice” becomes meaningless.”

~ If we have too much to judge we can no longer be rational, because there are too many rational choices to make a truly rational choice. Instead, we do the irrational by picking one rational option over another rational option.

Pg 79 – “So we find a profound sea change taking place in the character of social life during the twentieth century. Through an array of newly emerging technologies the world of relationships becomes increasingly saturated. We engage in greater numbers of relationships, in a greater variety of forms, and with greater intensities than ever before. With the multiplication of relationships also comes a transformation in the social capacities of the individual – both in knowing how and knowing that. The relatively coherent and unified sense of self inherent in a traditional culture gives way to manifold and competing potentials. A multiphrenic condition emerges in which one swims in ever-shifting, concatenating, and contentious currents of being. One bears the burden of an increasing array of oughts, of self-doubts and irrationalities. The possibility for committed romanticism or strong and single-minded modernism recedes, and the way is opened for the postmodern being.”

~ Explains increasing social capacities of people. Good summary of the information up to here.

Pg 83 – “Increasingly we emerge as the possessors of many voices. Each self contains a multiplicity of others, singling different melodies, different verses, and with different rhythms. Nor do these many voices necessarily harmonize. At times they join together, at time they fail to listen one to another, and at times they creates a jarring discord.”

~ I like this metaphor of choir. I wonder if one of a band would work, too. Each area (brass, winds, etc.) would be like a culture and the various instruments in it would be the possible selves and self-representations inside that area. The audience would be like the social environment. The conductor would be the complete self. The music would be the experience, and the recording of prior experiences would be the personal heritage.

Pg 86 – Erosion of being assured of one identity breaks down due to two things in technology. 1. An increase in communication and distance due to things like telephones, internet, etc. and, 2. New voices being heard, like minorities and those who were uneducated before.

~ I think this explains why multiphrenia is more of a new phenomenon, because these things did not occur in earlier years and could not influence people as much.

Pg 97 – Talks about how Western culture typically values individual self-determination and the person who resists pressure from others and does it his or her way. The problem with this is that it makes people seem isolated from their surroundings and puts the individual before all others.

~ I think this is a good sum-up of my mention of rugged individualism where it mentions intravidualism above.

Pg 104 – “The problems with these assumptions begin with a consideration of the audience – reader or listener. To make sense of another’s words or actions, the audience must proceed form some perspective. Others’ words do not come with labels indicating how they must be interpreted, and such interpretation must thus be based ona a set of assumptions, or a perspective – concerning, for example, what people “have on their minds,” how they are motivated, and so on. The German theorist Hans-Georg Gadamer proposes that people approach a text (or any other verbal expression) with a forestructure of understandings that form the basis for interpretation. However, this forestructure is open to change through time. The horizon of understanding, as he puts it, is continuously changing over the course of history, favoring interpretations in one period that would seem woolly-minded or absurd in another.”

~ In order for us to gauge a situation and have the working self-concept make decisions on what to do we draw information from our personal heritage and similar past experiences. This would be the forestructure. The forestructure changes with time because the personal heritage changes with every new experience.

Pg  111 – “The increasing awareness of multiplicity in perspective undermines attempts to justify any transcendent criterion of the correct. Concepts of truth, honesty, and authenticity now turn strange. Not only do attempts at characterizing the actual person – the workings of the mind, the human spirit, or the biological individual – become suspect. The very concept of an internal core – an intentional, rational agent – (112) also begins to fray.”

~ I understand that it’s hard to think of anything as rational and stable if everything is constantly changing.

Pg 114 – “The emphasis on multiplicity of voice is captured for the postmodern architect by the concepts of double or multiple coding.”

~ Double/multiple coding is also how we view situations that we make sense of. We seek to understand it in forms of many self-representations and possible selves, thus it takes on many different meanings. It also takes on many different meanings for the various people involved in the same situation.

Pg 118 – “Increasingly, then, the traditional categories of cultural life become blurred, the edges indistinct.”

~ I see this being true, especially with self-representations and possible selves. We all feel connected to so many cultures that certain cultures can blend together and almost seem like the same one. In fact, sometimes we make presumptions that two different cultures are one in the same.

Pg 118 – “When the distinction between subject and object ceases to compel, and category boundaries lost their edges, we become less and less able to distinguish me and mine from you and yours.”

~ As cultures and those in cultures collide we see more similarities between people. We have to see the differences to understand our own individuality.

Pg 121 – “Deconstruction theorists propose that words gain their meaning through their reference to other words; literary works gain their significance by the way they are related to other writings. Thus language does not derive its character from reality, but form other language. Now consider the media – newspapers, television, the movies, radio. For Baudrillard, media portrayals of the world are driven not by the way the world “is,” but by the steadily emerging histories of portrayal itself. As these histories unfold, each new lamination is influenced by the preceding, accounts are layered upon accounts, and reality is transformed into a hyperreality.”

~ Nothing is important without its relation to something else. The more related it is the more “real” it becomes. Therefore, something that seems really related becomes hyperreal. This explains why certain things carry more weight in their form of possible self or self-representation or place in personal heritage. If it is an experience or situation that is hyperreal it will carry more significance than other experiences.


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The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life; Kenneth J. Gergen, Pt. 1 The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life; Kenneth J. Gergen, Pt. 3

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