HomePersonalDemocratic PeaceDemocide20th C. DemocideMegamurderersLesser MurderersWhy DemocideDimensionsConflictMethodsTheoryPolicyLinks

Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 28

The Self As A Power*

By R.J. Rummel

Self is the only person whom we know anything about.
---- Disraeli, Viv. Grey Lix, 1826


My thoughts change, my emotions fluctuate, my body grows older. Yet I am conscious of a me transcending these changes, embodying this becoming and still somehow above it all, timeless; a me comprehending the intuitions of my ten-year-old daughter, "I can't believe I will die and there will no longer be a me." Nonetheless, there is a me that others perceive or refer to, solidified in documents by name, which remains through loss of limbs, change of circumstances, or passage of time. There is a conscious me that I perceive and an ideal I want to be; a me that appears as a first cause of all I do and yet a process of feeling-thinking-doing.

Clearly, each person may have many different selves. There may be Descartes's intuitive, I think, therefore I am" self; Alfred Adler's creative self making its own future; Carl Rogers's self as a psychic process or Gestalt; Freud's self as ego, Jung's self as total psyche or personality; or Mead's social self. And, of course, self may be an illusion, a joke on the consciousness, which disappears in Humian fashion under the analytical-empiricist knife.

Rather than specify in detail the variety of possible selves and then compare them in respect to our tetradic structure, I will move directly to the question of whether something like a self exists (within my framework) and then, presupposing a positive answer, to synthesizing the views of Jung and Rogers, with the multivariate psychological findings summarized by Cattell and Gorsuch.

Recall from previous chapters that we are a dynamic field of situations, personality, behavioral dispositions, and expectations; that the dynamic locus lies in a variety of needs (one of which is self-assertion) from which springs a lattice comprising attitudes, interests, sentiments, and roles. Moreover, the interests (power) of an attitude or sentiment depends on an ego and superego, which function to integrate the dynamic field through the self and superego sentiments. This tetradic structure already consists of the following "selves": (1) there is the self focused on by the self-assertive need, a social self dependent on social status and achievement; (2) there is the executive or operating self defined by the ego; (3) there is the principled moral self (one's conscience) comprising the superego; (4) there is the self-image called the self-sentiment; and (5) there is the ideal self, brought into focus through a person's central intentions, his superordinate goal. We thus find that the tetradic structure of the dynamic field encompasses many possible selves. Are any one of these the self, the I or me, of our consciousness?


 In approaching an answer, let me first consider Jung's1 and Rogers's views. Jung, like Adler, was a member of Freud's circle and subsequently broke with him to found his own school of psychoanalysis. He rejected Freud's childhood-based, sexual causation of neuroses, believing that our current problems were far more relevant, and that the libido was more a function of a win to live than of sex. Like Freud, however, Jung believed movement and balance among systems of energy provided a basic explanation of psychic processes. In an ideal state, the psychic energies tend toward an even (a balanced) distribution of energy; if uneven, as manifested in an uneven development of the personality, psychic conflict and tension (à la Freud) are produced. Jung departed from Freud's causality, however, in claiming our personality to be Janus faced; it is subject to our past experiences and thus to Freudian causality in part, but it is also forward-looking and partly determined by our future. For Jung, causality and teleology were combined in us, and in this belief he lies midway between Freud and the total teleology of Adler.

What is our forward movement? It is toward a self-realization,2 which comprises both the greatest differentiation and the greatest unity of our personality. Indeed, Jung sees all evolution as the movement toward such realization.

In this view, the self is central. It is the hub of our psychology and the midpoint of our personality. The self is what unites and synthesizes the personality; it is the center of balance and the integrator; it provides stability; it is what motivates us to seek wholeness and unity in life, such as through religion. The self is thus a transcendent unifier of the personality, at once both the total personality and the major dynamic force of that personality.

Compare this conception of the self with that of Carl Rogers, the leader of a new phenomenological-Gestalt, client-oriented movement in psychoanalysis.3 Rogers sees (consistent with the whole generation of subjective psychologists like Adler and Lewin) that we are best understood within our own subjective perspective. From this viewpoint we initiate our own behavior in order to maintain, develop, or enhance ourselves as an experiencing organism; to accomplish something; to use our abilities; to affect or influence the world. This is our central motive, which Rogers calls the self-actualizing tendency; it provides the forward movement--the teleology--of everyone's life. The self expresses this forward movement as one behaves consistently with self-regard and the self's potential in a holistic and organized fashion. The self is the dynamic Gestalt of self-perception, of what we would like to be, and how others perceive us. It is a self-conception in process of continuous formation, a "self as process," and subject to radical reorganization based on experience.4


 Turning now to multivariate psychology, Cattell and Gorsuch have tried to determine whether multivariate research has uncovered and defined the self.5 They begin by discriminating between the experiences or felt self known through introspection, the cognitive self concept an individual has of himself, and the structural, acting self seen by an observer. Considering the felt self to be a private affair unavailable to outside observers, they then focus on the cognitive and acting selfs.

The cognitive self, they argue, is more a self concept plexus than a simple cognitive idea. It is a major self-sentiment, and thus the focus of many powerful attitudes, and has been found in a variety of motivational data by different investigators. The self-sentiment concerns the maintenance and advancement of the whole personality as well as its physical preservation and functioning. It is the clearinghouse for the needs and overrides their satisfaction consistent with the self concept. This self-sentiment is similar to that which I defined in Chapter 21 and is a central aspect of the dynamic field.

Cattell and Gorsuch point out that the self has another meaning, as that peculiarly responsible for and involved in control and coordination functions of the total personality. They then show that empirically such a self has been delineated in observed behavior and involves emotional stability, assured competitiveness, independence of judgment, speed control, fatigability, per- ceptual processes, low anxiety, respect for reality, good morals, low rigidity, moderation in judgments, and so on, as well as strong status and education correlations. This pattern well represents the psychoanalytic ego and can be understood as the acting, coordinating self seen by others.

Finally, Cattell and Gorsuch show that a third kind of structure--a superego--has also been defined by multivariate research. This is the locus of the self's morality and normative judgments; it is a sentiment found in the motivational domain, a clustering of attitudes through which the various needs are moderated. The superego is similar to that described in Chapter 21, except where I define an integrated self as a cooperative interaction between superego and the self-sentiment in the dynamic attitudinal lattice, Cattell and Gorsuch place the self-sentiment by itself as the coordinator of needs and situational stimuli, with the superego operating as another sentiment (like religion and sports) between the self-sentiment and one's needs. The self-sentiment as the cognitive self, the ego as the structural, acting self, and the superego are structures that research shows to be consistently independent of each other. For example, a person whose self-esteem is an all-consuming center of his life may be little regulated by his superego, while another may swing a similar passion around a rigid moral axis. In the same person, these three structures function together: the superego as the moral ruler; the ego as the coordinator of the person with reality; the self-sentiment as one's self and ideal image.


 Cattell and Gorsuch, as well as Jung and Rogers, view the self in ways consistent with the perspective on humanity that I have so far developed. It only remains now to define more specifically the self within this perspective. As mentioned, the self manifests numerous faces: the self-sentiment, ego, integrated self, superego, self-assertion. In addition, other motivations and temperaments are part of the self and reflect "me" in the manner, style, and mood through which I achieve my goals. Although separated in concept for analysis, these various selves form an organic unity, an integrated whole, a Gestalt, which is my one continuous and flowing, feeling-thinking-acting self.

This Gestalt is but a momentary balance among the various selves, as though different frames in a moving picture. Each frame has its own unity, but as the picture alters from one frame to another the unity undergoes gradual transformation. New equilibria are gradually formed among the elements in the pictures, only to be themselves transformed to yet a new balance, Gestalt. This very process of change is within a higher Gestalt in time, one transverse to those momentarily forming within each frame. This higher Gestalt is what provides the continuity, the theme, or what we would term in a movie, a plot, that pervades the whole and gives each frame its significance. This theme is the future to which the self is striving, the superordinate sentiment which organizes the timeless self;6 it is the striving for self-actualization, for self-esteem.

Thus, our self is known through:

(1)a structure comprising the total personality, including its motivations and temperament;

(2)a process, a future-oriented movement, toward self-actualization and the maintenance and enhancement of self-esteem;

(3)a Gestalt, unifying structure and process, and ego, superego, and self-sentiment; a whole transcending these facets and forming a moving equilibrium.

Thus, through structure, process, and Gestalt, the self is known, as an effect illuminates a cause, for structure, process, and Gestalt are outcomes of an underlying generative power that is the self, the singular me. The self is psychic power, a dynamic agency underlying the psychological field. This power is the feeling-thinking-doing me. This power, my self, is what makes indeterminate psychophysical potentials determinable and specifiable; it is what transforms determinables--dispositions--into actuality.

Power confronts power. And it is in this confrontation, between our outward-directed power meeting with resistance and opposition from the powers of physical nature and the powers we know of as other selves, that we define our selves, that we know our selves.7 Our selves become delimited as we meet with resistance in trying to actualize our potentials and as we are able to oppose the attempts by physical nature and other selves to bring us within their power. As potentials lie within our power to actualize them, they become part of us, an extension of our power, an aspect of our structure, process, Gestalt. A car which once frustrated our powers as we tried to overcome its intricacies in learning how to drive becomes after decades of driving totally in our power. The car becomes an extension of our self, part of our feeling-thinking-doing. In this lies our peculiar frustration when a car refuses to start, for we suddenly lose power over it; we lose a part of our self. The pen with which I write is a part of me, an ingredient in the process of self-actualization as I make determinable on paper the flowing, diffuse, feeling-thinking-valuing Gestalt comprising my perspective on the self. I am unconscious of the pen, as I am of my effects of this power, and only recognize its presence when I lose power over it, when it runs out of ink.

Self as power makes understandable why we develop identity and definition through effort, resistance, and opposition. Moreover, it makes clear the inward feeling of me as a dynamic agency, controlling, coordinating, feeling, doing, thinking, and so on. We are conscious of ourselves as active, not passive, as dynamic and alive. Our selves are vibrant in a felt way, not captured alone by a specific structure-process-Gestalt, which is but a picture frame in movement through space-time.8 This is because the source of this movement, the potency underlying the structure-process-Gestalt is the self.

For this reason, those who emphasize the self as a process and Gestalt like Frondizi9 and Rogers, as specific structures like Cattell and Gorsuch, or as a total personality (as total unity) like Jung, are confusing effects with cause, are mistaking potentials, determinables, and manifestations for the underlying generative agency transforming potential to determinable and determinable to actuality. The self as power is the self we know; it is that of which we are conscious; it is the most basic datum of personal experience; and it constitutes proof against solipsism.10


 How, more specifically, do the various aspects of our tetradic structure relate to the self-as-power, that is, to the self. The ego coordinates and controls mental activity, and is thus a particular power, a facet of the self. The self-sentiment (with its goal emphasis on self-actualization and self-esteem) provides the perspective within which the self actualizes one's dispositions and potentials.11 We see and do things as our hopes focus our futures. The superego generates the rules guiding the self. As a loose metaphor, consider life as a chess game against nature. The goal of the game is to win in a way that enhances our self-esteem and actualizes our selves as defined by the self-sentiment. This aim provides the perspective within which the rules of chess then comprise our superego and operate to bound our potential moves. Our ego is then the power to coordinate our transformation of the game's potentials to actual moves or dispositions (threats).

Keeping to this metaphor, our basic needs (ergs) then are powers which may or may not be absorbed by the self. Hunger may be felt as a separate compulsion (power) distracting us from the game, but if we are at a crucial point in the game (our future is at stake as during a Ph.D. comprehensive examination) our selves may overpower hunger, forcing this compulsion into the background and focusing on our current effort. On the other hand, upon stimulation the need for self-assertion may be a power added to those of the self, helping it to focus energy on winning the game.

Besides motivations, there are temperamental components, abilities, and moods and states. Temperaments define the style in which the self plays the game. That is, these components are behavioral dispositions which the self customarily actualizes in particular circumstances. Abilities, however, are powers in themselves and constitute facets of the self. Intelligence, perceptual speed, numerical ability, and memory are powers within the self and circumscribe how well the self plays the game against nature. Moods and states are ephemeral, highly volatile, subjective actualizations, such as happiness, depression, elation, and anger. They are the effects of powers different from the self and lying within our physiology and subconscious. As subjective feelings, they can momentarily frustrate or enhance and facilitate the self in pursuing the game. The subconscious and physiological powers which underlie these moods and states may be directly fought by the self, as when we control our anger in a public place. The self is thus the central psychic power, but it does not monopolize power. Alternative physiological and subconscious powers manifested in needs and moods and states exist and may contribute to or oppose the self, as we all know.

Although the central power and ultimately the internal master, the self must accommodate to its needs and moods and states, and with those outside powers that resist and oppose it. The balance that is struck in the dynamic psychological field is the whole, the Gestalt of Frondizi and Rogers, the manifest equilibrium comprising our feeling-thinking-doing. This balance is the face we turn toward the world. 


* Scanned from Chapter 28 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. Contributions to Analytical Psychology (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1928); Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1928); Integration of the Personality (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1939). See also Edward Glover, Freud or Jung (New York: Meridian Books, 1956); E. A. Bennet, C. G. Jung (London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1961).

2. In contrast to the utter lack of consensus in the literature on the self, will, and freedom existing, the unanimity (aside from details) among psychologists and psychoanalysts about our superordinate goal is impressive. The similarity in meaning among such central goals as self-esteem, self-actualization, self-realization, perfection, fulfillment, and so on is far greater in significance than the differences. For this reason I feel a certain intellectual comfort in having proposed self-esteem as central, feeling that the "margin of error" is small.

3. "A Theory of Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships, as Developed in the Client-Centered Framework," in S. Koch (ed.), Psychology: A Study of a Science, vol. 2 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959); Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1961).

4. Rogers's view of the self is similar to the philosophical self Risieri Frondizi (The Nature of the Self, London: Feffer & Simons, 195 3) arrives at in his compromise between the classical, substantial self, and the wrecking operation on this view initiated by Descartes, advanced by Locke, and completed by Hume. Frondizi concludes that the self is immanent in experiences but transcends the totality of experiences as a Gestalt is greater than the sum of its parts; it is an organized integrated whole, a structure, within which experiences are given meaning; it is a process of intellectual, emotive, and volitive experiences; it is a creative will plotting its own course and a potentiality.

According to Rogers, the well-developed personality maintains a congruence between the structure of the self and experiences; psychosomatic problems are created as discrepancy between self and experience increases. The psychoanalytic task, therefore, is for the analyst to enter into the disturbed person's perspective in a cooperative, nonthreatening manner to help him perceive and eliminate this discrepancy. We should come to know ourselves as we are and be able to assess realistically the phenomenological world in the light of this intuition.

5. Raymond B. Cattell and Richard L. Gorsuch, "Personality and Socio-Ethical Values: The Structure of Self and Superego," in Cattell (ed.) "Handbook of Modern Personality Theory," unpublished manuscript, Chapter 30. I am indebted to Professor Cattell for allowing me to read this chapter in draft form.

6. The self is timeless in the sense that thoughts and images are not time specific, but can move without friction between a determinate past and an imagined and hoped for future.

7. In this lies the truth of Mead's social self. See George H. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934).

8. The self is a continuous process of expansion or contraction in space and time. When a blind man breaks his cane, his self, which is in part the cane, becomes more limited in space. When a person gives up a long-range goal to actualize more rewarding short-term aims, this is a retraction of the self in time.

9. Frondizi, op. cit.

10. Because our power is defined by the opposition and resistance it meets, there must be something to oppose our power; therefore, something besides our selves must exist for us to know our selves and solipsism is refuted. At the level of power and in this manner is one way to take this philosophical citadel.

11. Powers operate within perspectives. For example, the Mona Lisa's power to evoke certain human emotions is an agency only within certain artistic perspectives. Some who view this masterpiece feel nothing except perhaps curiosity about its fame.

You are the visitor since 11/28/02

Go to top of document