The Confucian idea of self offers a unique opportunity to view a person from three different perspectives, i.e., as an individual, as an integral part of the society and as a non-self, i.e., as a complete absence of self (Tsai, 2001). In his article, Self-Cultivation: Culturally sensitive psychotherapies in Confucian societies, Kwang-Huo Hwang explores the opportunities that the teaching about the relational self opens for psychology, what questions it helps to answer and what problems it can possibly solve.
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Speaking of Hwang’s paper, one must mention that the research offers a detailed analysis of the components of the Confucian idea of self, i.e., the relational self, the authentic self, and the non-self. Hwang analyzes the three elements to consider the ways in which self-cultivation in the context of the Asian culture differs from the process of self-cultivation in European countries.
Since, according to Hwang, the relationships between the society and an individual are especially significant in the Asian countries, the aspect of relational self is discussed especially thoroughly in the article. As for the research result, it is necessary to mention that Hwang proves that the idea of self-cultivation can help psychologists develop a reasonable approach towards the problems concerning people’s social interactions: “In terms of therapy, this teaching role may be partially undertaken by a clinician.
In addition, the students, or in this case the clients, should actually try and live their lives according to these principles rather than solely gaining a cognitive understanding of them” (Hwang, 2009, 1027). Considering the ideas that Hwang offers from the perspective of relational self, one must admit that the author emphasizes the significance of the latter a lot in his work.
Hwang also makes a very important statement concerning the difference between the Asian and the European model of psychological analysis. Hwang makes it clear that the Asian one relies on the analysis of the relational self greatly: “For people living in East Asian societies, the traditional one-on-one model of Western counseling is an unnatural way of communicating and conveying matters of mutual concern” (Hwang, 2009, 1027-1028).
Therefore, the difference between two analytical approaches is drawn with the help of the concept of relational self. Moreover, it is essential that Hwang provides the way to solve the conflicts that can possibly arise between the society and an individual by showing that relational self and self-cultivation are closely related to each other.
According to Hwang, “if an individual confesses or discloses desires, misdeeds, guilt, or psychological disturbances to others in a collectivist or relational society, that individual risks psychosocial imbalance by losing face” (Hwang, 2009, 1028). Based on the given idea, Hwang makes it obvious that self-cultivation must comprise the analysis of one’s individual characteristics and the demands that the society makes.
Therefore, it can be concluded that understanding the teaching of relational self will help sole the complexities that may arise in the course of an individual’s integration into the society. While it is important to keep in mind that the remaining two elements of the Self as Buddhism interprets it are crucial as well, it is the relational self that holds the key to a number of psychological disorders and offers the solutions for developing the required social behavior patterns.
Hwang, K.-K. (2009). Self-Cultivation: Culturally sensitive psychotherapies in Confucian societies. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(7), 1010-1032.
Tsai, D. F.-C. (2001). How should doctors approach patients? A Confucian reflection on personhood. Journal of Medical Ethics, 27, 44-50.