Psychologists who study the process of self knowledge examine how people approach the question: “Who am I?” We think of the “self” as having several components. There is the actual self, the ideal self, the ought self, and the feared self as described below:
- Actual Self: who you are now, your personality, your physical self, your skills, your emotional and psychological habits and characteristics
- Ideal Self: who you would like to be – in the best of all possible worlds
- Ought Self: who you think you should be; who you believe others want or expect you to be
- Feared Self: who you fear you may become
You may feel that chronic pain challenges who you are. Since your pain began, you may have not felt like yourself, wondered who you are becoming, and worried about how you may treat or appear to others. This is not uncommon. Researchers have found that people with chronic pain are often very concerned about letting others down and about deterioration of physical, psychological, or emotional functioning. According to “Self Discrepancy Theory”, the more that you focus on discrepancies between the “actual” and the “ideal” and “ought” selves or dwell on the feared self, the worse you will feel.
Today I want to talk about the idea of the “feared self“. The feared self can cause a lot of trouble – lo
oming vaguely but menacingly in the future, a disaster waiting to strike. It is often useful to take a good look at the feared self that you may have created in your mind – without really being aware of it. To get started, it helps to think about how you might describe yourself now, with pain, across a number of basic characteristics. Then, take some time to try to put into words the person you fear you may become if your pain continues. I have shown an example below.
Click here to open and print the Goalistics “Feared Self” Worksheet. Once you have identified the features of your feared self, it is often helpful to ask yourself the following questions about each aspect of your feared self:
- What is the evidence that I will actually become this way?
- What is the evidence that I will NOT become this way?
- Would the people who know me best agree that I am likely to become this way?
- What is a more realistic way to think about my future?
I hope this exercise will help you to identify any unrealistic fears that you may have created.