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Selfhood, Identity and Personality Styles



Selfhood, Identity and Personality Styles

Giampiero Arciero, Guido Bondolfi

ISBN: 978-0-470-67022-4 February 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 284 Pages


Selfhood, Identity and Personality Styles is an interdisciplinary study that describes a new perspective on psychopathology based on the search for the source of personal meaning and identity. The opening section develops a first-person approach to selfhood and personal identity, discussing relevant topics in personality and social psychology, developmental psychology, psychology of emotions and neuroscience. The second part presents five different personality styles distinguished on the basis of their emotional inclinations:  Eating Disorder-prone, Obsessive-Compulsive prone, personalities prone to Hypochondria-Hysteria,  Phobia–prone  and   Depression-prone. The classification based on affectivity makes it possible to illustrate the continuity between the study of personality and that of psychopathology. One distinctive feature of this extraordinary book is a discussion of recently published evidence that functional magnetic resonance imaging can show how brain activity may be related to personality styles.


With a new Foreword by Shaun Gallagher, Professor of Philosophy, University of Central Florida.


Praise for Selfhood, Identity and Personality Styles:


  “This is a scholarly book which will provide the reader with plenty to chew on. This book will make you think, will illuminate how people function and will help you understand how self disordered experience, such as the feeling that one disappears or doesn’t exist when another leaves, occurs. The authors tackle with great sophistication, the big questions of how sameness, changing experience and temporality are woven together by language and narrative. Refusing to be reduced to the simplicity of objectivist account of functioning they offer profound phenomenological views on identity and emotion that show a deep appreciation of the complexity of what it is to be a person. Their analysis of functioning leads to the specification of inward and outward dispositional dimensions and using clinical and literary examples they provide descriptions of different styles of personality along this continuum ranging from eating disorder prone personalities, focused on the other at one end of the continuum and depression prone personalities focused excessively inwardly, at the other end.”

Leslie Greenberg, Professorof Psychology, York University, Canada


“Arciero and Bondolfi have written a timely, thought-provoking and challenging book, providing the reader with a refreshingly new account of Self-identity and its disorders. A cogent and novel contribution to psychiatric thought that wonderfully integrates philosophy, psychopathology and contemporary neuroscience. This book will push psychiatry in new directions. A must read.”

Vittorio Gallese, Professor of Human Physiology, University of Parma, Italy


Selfhood, Identity, and Personality Styles is a highly ambitious work of theoretical synthesis: neuroscience, phenomenology, and social constructionism are joined together with the study of both literature and psychopathology. Arciero and Bondolfi offer sophisticated and intriguing discussions not only of mirror neurons and developmental psychology, but also of ideas from Aristotle, Kant, and Heidegger, of characters from Dostoevsky, Kleist, and Pessoa, and of patients from clinical practice.  A ground-breaking, first attempt to show the relevance of the interdisciplinary study of basic self-experience for our understanding of character styles and personality disorders.”

Louis A. Sass, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Rutgers University


Winner of third prize in the ‘Specialist Readership’ section of the UK Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Awards, 2010.


Introduction 1

Part 1 5

1 Subjectivity and Ipseity 7

1.1 From Kant to cybernetics 9

1.2 The sense of self and the variety of experience 11

1.3 Nonlinear systems and the construction of the self 12

Nonlinear systems 12

Construction of the self 14

1.4 The organization of living systems and constructivism of the self 16

The organization of living systems 17

Constructivism of the self 18

1.5 Robert's self from a systemic perspective 21

1.6 The continuity of the sense of self 22

1.7 The return of the world and the question 'Who?' 23

Returning to the world 24

The question 'Who?' (Die Werfrage) 25

1.8 Finding itself in things and with others 27

1.9 Reflection 28

1.10 Meaning 29

1.11 Inclination 31

2 Ipseity and Language 37

2.1 Traces of the other 37

2.2 Shared meaning 39

2.3 Finding oneself in the world: suggestions from phenomenology 41

2.4 Body-to-body 43

2.5 The significativity of expressions and objects 46

2.6 Referential communication 47

2.7 Oneself in the mirror and in the refraction of language 50

2.8 Recognition of self in the mirror and in language 52

2.9 Affective engagements 55

2.10 Acting and speaking 57

3 Personal Identity 65

3.1 Speaking of the past 67

3.2 Stories of the future 68

3.3 The sense of self in the age of reason 70

3.4 The modes of identity 71

3.5 Inclinations 75

3.6 Situatedness 78

3.7 The body, pain and others 79

4 Emotioning 87

4.1 Embodied emotions and judgements of the body 87

4.2 E-moting 90

4.3 E-moting with others 93

4.4 Emotional inclinations 95

4.5 Constructionist situatedness 97

4.6 The impact of technology 99

4.7 Technological tuning 101

4.8 Mediated affective engagement 102

Part 2 107

5 The Eating Disorder-prone Style of Personality 111

5.1 Co-perceiving the self and other 144

5.2 Disorders

Anorexia nervosa 119

Bulimia nervosa 121

Binge-eating disorder 124

Disorders connected to male body shape 126

Behavioural addictions (compulsive buying, pathological gambling, kleptomania, internet addiction, impulsive-compulsive sexual behaviour, pyromania) 128

6 The Obsessive-Compulsive-prone Style of Personality 133

6.1 Michael Kohlhaas 134

6.2 Mr Prokharchin 137

6.3 Disorders 141

Thematic personality disorders 144

Obsessive-compulsive disorders 150

6.4 Case vignettes 151

Uncertainty about one's own thoughts 151

Uncertainty about one's actions and their consequences 153

Uncertainty about one's sense of self 154

7 Personalities Prone to Hypochondria-Hysteria 157

7.1 The Loser 159

7.2 Disorders 163

Hysteria 165

Hypochondria 171

8 The Phobia-prone Style of Personality 179

8.1 Interoceptive awareness and emotional experience 180

8.2 'The stuffed bird' 182

8.3 Zuccarello the distinguished melodist 183

8.4 Case vignette 186

8.5 Disorders 188

The distortion of personal stability 188

The fear of fear 189

What is the origin of distorted beliefs? 191

Agoraphobia 194

8.6 Case vignettes 195

Specific phobia? 195

Spontaneous panic? 196

9 The Depression-prone Style of Personality 199

9.1 The margins of the problem 199

9.2 Enduring dispositions 203

9.3 The depression-prone style of personality 204

9.4 Disorders 212

9.5 Case vignette 214

9.6 Is depression an adaptation? 215

Message in a Bottle 221

References 223

Index 263