Art as Therapy — Personality Theory And The Three Self’s

In our last installment, we discussed the early development of the self and how your upbringing can affect your adult self. In this article, we will consider the basic components of the self, including the three self’s:

  • Past self
  • Present self
  • Future self

Personality Theory

The psychologist Carl Rogers was known for his theory of personality development, and he concluded that the self consisted of three basic components:

  • Self-worth – How we feel about ourself; self-esteem
  • Self-image – The internal perception of how ugly, beautiful, good, or bad we are
  • Ideal self – The person we wish we were and attain to be

Your personality is a collection of individual personality traits. 

Personalities are considered to be more-or-less stable across your lifespan. However, major life events and trauma can have major impacts on your core beliefs and how you see yourself.

Past, Present, And Future Self’s

The past, present, and future self’s make up who you are right now:

  • Past Self: Think of the past self as who you have “always been.” The past self is comprised of important things, such as your identity, core self, and interpersonal relationships.  If you have been dancing or playing an instrument since you were young, or over the course of many years, it will begin to form part of your identity. The core self reflects your inner dreams and desires, which may be at odds with social expectations. Perhaps, you’ve always wanted to be an artist, but you know your family would disapprove; this can make for potential embarrassment and ridicule. 
  • Present Self: The present self reflects our perception of who we are right now. This perception is created from our past memories and experiences. The present self is decided by your current beliefs in that your mindset — as of this moment — decides how you view your past memories and experiences. Depending on your current beliefs, you may be prone to self-criticism. 
  • Future Self: The future self represents where you see your life going. IT is typically a reflection of your current self. While most people will see their future self as an improved representation of their current self’s, some people experiencing depression may see their future self as the same or even worse.  The future self is constructed by self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-worth.

Using Art Therapy to Explore the Different Aspects of The Self

Utilizing different exercises, art therapy can be used to more positively relate to your past self, increase your acceptance of your current self, process emotions in connection with tragic experiences and big life changes, explore beliefs regarding your intrinsic value or self-worth, and more.

In the next installment, we will consider some art therapy exercises that might be of benefit to people struggling with their identity or self-esteem.

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