Sunday, July 5, 2020

G.H. Mead The Social Self

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    Posting this lecture about Mead’s Social Self. 1st year sociology.

    It’s not a great lecture but covers Mead’s Social Self reasonably well. Some brief notes for now.

    The “looking glass self” – the role of the “other”

    “I” and “ME” interaction. (Consider in terms of ‘schizophrenia’? How important is this interaction for the individual, and under what conditions might it cause problematic thinking.)

    The significant other and the generalised other. (note in particular the way that significant other is a ‘buffer’ against stigmatisation by generalised others) Thinking here about sense of self and the role of significant other in forced psychiatry. Difference in the level of damage to self if significant other vs generalised other is the agent of intervention?? Lecturer speaks about tripping in second class and how his wife’s view of him restores his sense of self worth etc.

    Self consciousness and self awareness ??

    Development of role of the other goes through 4 stages of development.

    Imitation – Infancy – No sense of “self”

    Play – Toddlers – 1 role/1 situation

    Games – Elementary – Many roles/ 1 situation – Rules

    Generalised other – many roles/ many situations – Culture – at this stage that the “looking glass self” becomes ‘functional’.

    At each of the stages the “I” and “ME” are in association with one another.

    Note, the lecturer does not cover the development of “language” in this.

    Just covering some old ground, and thought I’d post the stuff as I listen to these lectures.


    Lecture from a historian in the use of the Social Self in historical research. 2nd year history.

    0 – History of Mead

    8 – Influences

    13 – Articles, writing

    Concept of “Emergence”

    18 – Elements of the Social Self. The self is generated by the social world.

    1. Selves aren’t necessary (eg animals)
    2. How does self arise (No coverage of Imitation, play, games)
    3. Social life is communication.
    4. “Conversation of Gestures” (No coverage of signs, symbols, order of signification etc)
    5. Assumptions
    a. Entities and environments
    b. Self and subjectivity
    c. Self and body
    d. Self and emotions
    6. Generalised others

    35 – The “I” and the “ME”
    “We may now explicitly raise the question as to the nature of the “I” that is aware of the “ME”.

    38 – “The “I” is the answer which the individual makes to the attitude which others take towards him when he assumes an attitude towards them….The “I” gives the sense of freedom, of initiative…..We are aware of ourselves, and of what the situation is, but exactly how we will act never gets into experience until after the action takes place” (MSS pp177-8)

    50 – Conclusions

    Disappointment with the examination of the interaction between “I” and “ME”. Mead was not clear on these concepts, and at times contradictory. Valuable none the less.


    The lectures above don’t go into Mead’s model in enough depth, but are fairly good introductions. The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of explanation of the “language” component of Mead’s work. How the human mind works with symbols and the importance of this.

    There are some serious flaws with Mead’s model, though I get the feeling he was on to something that has been largely forgotten in the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry.

    The biggest problems I see with his model are;

    1. As identified in the second lecture the interaction between the “I” and “ME” is not clear. And I’m not sure of how this problem could be resolved. What it does do for me is highlight the nature of the internal conversation that occurs in a persons mind. I can’t help but wonder about hearing voices in this interaction. Is it a point where a serious conflict erupts between the “I” and “ME” that the voices become louder and the individual experiences distress as a result? From the limited knowledge I have of this what I have observed is that in some cases it is the “I” voice that becomes a problem. One young man I spoke to who was experiencing auditory hallucinations was hearing voices that were critical of him. I won’t go through what actually occurred with this young man but will say that what was apparent using Mead’s model is that his “I” was putting up no resistance to the negative messages from his “ME” self.

    I may come back to this young man as one particular situation that occurred stands out in this regard.

    2. Mead makes a very clear distinction between the significant other and generalised others. I do not believe that this is correct. I view this as a continuum, and one where dependent on the situation perceived by the individual, the small group of significant others may be completely different.

    For example, my significant others to Mead would most likely be my wife, daughter and parents. And most certainly most of my points of reference would rely on what I believed these individuals thought of me. But if for example in my work situation, my boss and certain co workers may become even more important in this regard. My boss as significant other IN THIS SITUATION is as relevant, if not more so. Change the situation to my sporting activities on the weekend, my boss is no longer a significant other, but my captain and team mates are. So the situation would seem to be a strong determinate of who are and are not significant others at any point in time. I therefore believe that this dichotomy (significant/generalised) presented by Mead is much more fluid than he presents.

    I think the matrix created by the “I/ME” and Significant/Generalised other is a complex one. Add to this the situational variable and the complexity rises exponentially. However, I can’t help but wonder if one begins with the situation, and then works back through a hierarchical significant/generalised other and then to the “I/ME” that the model is quite instructive.

    I attempted to tease apart my difficulties coming to terms with matters in another thread. Mead’s model may be more instructive in this regard.

    3. Mead’s emergence of the Self is based on a developmental stage model and therefore suffers from the same criticisms that Maslow and Erriksons theories do. The bidirectional interaction at each interface creates significant problems when one begins to examine specific situations in any detail. Where does imitation end and play begin? Aren’t games learned through a process of imitation and play?

    This limits the use of the model significantly. However what I find myself wondering is whether the introduction of trauma at each of these developmental stages can have different results for the individual.

    For example, how does the response to a trauma during the ‘games’ stage of development, where a Self has the ability to take on many roles in one situation differ from the response to trauma during the ‘play’ stage of development where the Self has only one role in one situation? Is it the case that an individual become increasingly vulnerable as they develop? Do different types of trauma have differing effects on the development of Self? If what Mead is saying is correct, then this is certainly the case. How does trauma effect the interaction (or conversation) between the “I” and the “ME”?

    I will ponder this and perhaps consider it with reference to my own personal situation. I am also going to speak to some people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and attempt to understand their experience with this in mind.


    Boans – The I and me, is it a question of agency? The I has the agency, the me the effects, right? Me is for others, I is beyond what they can really know except as you relate it? So it’s two sides of self-knowledge, probably, but one agent stuck about which to draw on as most reliable that would give rise to voices, if some horrible tension is behind that, maybe?


    Boans – Quick note on overlaps in our background stories: My personal legal story is pared down much in comparison to yours, the only concern I can address is at the layer of mediation involved in maintaining my will. You know, the last one you are known by? For that, my wife will soon see a fixed amount and no more unlimited % takes. Meanwhile, the lawyer who got my most recent involuntary stay shortened is someone who I would love to consult with, but as much to praise him and offer moral support so that someone else gets to burn their psychiatrist, even just a wee bit, as to see about “truth and reconciliation” for the obvious things. In all of that, there is little hope. Is anyone who care-gives helping us out?
    Down to the forum topic: Mead– I have discussed him with someone (a typically dopey, occasionally insightful, and always spineless and bureaucratically accomodating psychologist named “Larry”) and Larry knew all about him. Also, as you are well aware, in the course of any humanities reading as well as in reference books, breakdowns and interpretations of his work appear frequently. As Mead is mostly praised, and never torn down outright, my chief ongoing to concern has to do with situating him in the intellectual tradition. Easy enough to do by feel. Another big plus is, as you probably know, Szasz loved him. Is that anything to do with your persisting interest in Self and Society? Getting motivated to put a reding of the entire volume behind me is sort of its own project for me, as I can predict wanting to understanding how to comprehend his place within the universe of discourse in the contemporary scene.
    More to the point of your attention to Mead: You are right, I think, to see extrinsic value in getting acquainted with such theoretic takes as he must work up through his sociological approach. (It is that, isn’t it?) Anyway, psychology cannot provide the complete description of any behavior, understanding, attitude or intention, or need all by itself. The AV material here is still secondhand, but is surely going to be a good prompt. Obviously you seem up for another run at Self and Society if it could provide stimulus some further activity and conversations. Let me see if dogsitting lets me get closer to devoting time specifically to Mead and so puttting myself closer than bird’s-eye-view or arm’s-length to committing to study him. Perspective wise, what you indicate is indeed higly relelvant, the working out of theoretic parameters for conceiving of the experienced phenomenal and etiological aspects of psychiatric disorders. And this is what we should have more of in the forums. But you can’t be the lone wolf doing book activism, as it defeats the purpose of trying to get our independent brainstorming and multivarious community reactions to the constant bad news for survivors together into one convergent maelstrom of determined killer resistance, bring it to coalesce with a series of shared understandings and methods for harpooning the mega-psych indcustry in its underbelly. I don’t see how we can do that without reading the books that invite confronting the assumptions of all the official treatments of our various problems. We can and have to make headway with throwing stones, but to the extent that we still sometimes rely or someone we know relies on licensed caregivers, we have to attack disrupt the process over reaming out and discrediting the individuals. When we do have the chance for one of those welcome field days, however, and can pelt the monster in the guise of one person, that still depends on our assemblying where they decided on beaching themselves in order to taunt or discourage us. So, again, we have to know something about the corners of our minds and theirs and so on and on the academics and politics of it all–you see the connection. One step beyond the merely common sense attitude, but not extremely complex. School’s out, but the need for schooling’s here for good.
    I hope you go ahead and post that long rejoinder you mentioned after my feedback above, and anything remotely like such musings, as this is the sort of thing that helps me get out of the blocks and try getting better acquainted with this author Mead that Thomas Szasz loved. Lastly, my own readings are heavy into Sartre for the next year or so. Just two days ago I finished Search for a Method (aka Methods) and let myself be interrupted near the end of The Cambridge Sartre and his early work The Imaginary and a critical compilation called Sartre and Psychology in order to get drawn into the commentary on his early The Transcendence of the Ego. This takes me up to novice acquaintance and out of beginner with his philosophical writings. My ideas for doing this match up, or at least correspond with yours for trying to attract interest in Mead. I have one local opportunity to my advantage, in some basically educated folks calling themselves freethinkers and hanging out now and then to prove it in cafes. So, it’s a place to mention books and drop big names, confess to mental illness and hate psychiatry out loud from time to time. Besides Mum and some much worse off other patients or pseudo-former patients or whatever you call someone who won’t try the survivor mode, I have hang-out opportunities at the local record shop, where all sorts of folks including the owner, are completely wrecked from MDMA. In looking in on them from time to time, as much as seems mutually worth it, and its an older crowd there mostly, I have some help from someone who is not an aborigine, but is a janitor. Maybe that’s a bad joke, maybe just ironic because it shows how easily you can convey facts about people that suggest aspects of race dymanics familiar to most everyone. Yet another thing that counts ridiculously overmuch to the issues of psychiatric oppression because of the stupidity of mental health protocols in the developed world.

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