Dimensions of the self in emotion and psychopathology: Consequences for self-management in anxiety and depression


In the emerging literature on self-management within psychiatry the role of emotion is still hardly addressed. This article describes a conceptual framework that elucidates how emotions can inform strategies for improving self-management. The first section describes four different ways of speaking about the self in psychopathology: in terms of self-relatedness, self-referentiality, self-awareness, and self-interpretation. The following section focuses on emotion by addressing its self-referential features. These features play a pivotal role in self-management. The next section argues that the evaluation of emotion appeals to an implicit normative framework, which enables us to distinguish between realistic and non-realistic references to the self and the situation. What follows is a section devoted to the layeredness of emotions in the context of psychopathology. It will be argued that a further distinction is needed to make sense of this layeredness, i.e. between primary self-referentiality (immediate referring to an aspect of the self); secondary self-referentiality (implicit self-referring in the way the patient deals with her emotions and moods); and tertiary self-referentiality (self-referring in the way the relation to these emotions and moods has become internalized). Insights into the interplay between these forms of self-referentiality can be put to use in strategies of self-management.