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Lack of Self-understanding

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    Base on what have learned in this course, your textbook and any reference books that you may have read, what are the problems that the main character has? What possible solutions would you suggest to solve the problems?

    After my in-depth study of Sammy’s case, I think Sammy has three main problems and each of them will produce some negative consequences at the same time. In this essay, I will try to point out the three problems in details. Then, I will suggest some possible solutions to solve those problems.


    1.Lack of Self-understanding

    According to Erikson’s (1963) eight psychosocial stages, Sammy is in stage five and she needs to develop her personal identity. However, it seems that she fails to complete this developmental task because her self-concept is weak, such as she does not know what she likes and dislikes and she is confused who she is. In long term, it is difficult for her to achieve happiness and she may feel depressed easily due to lack of self-knowledge and she seems to rely too much on external source like television and Internet. Also, Prof. Charles Tart claims that if people do not answer the question “Who am I”, they may never be able to distinguish between what your essential self wants and what others manipulate them to want (Tart, n.d.).

    And the decision of whether to continue study is the example in this case. From psychological perspective, James Marcia believes that identity in the period from puberty to adolescence; depends on two factors, including sense of crisis and sense of commitment (Marcia, 1980). The former one means the urge of exploration to meaningful life and new experience. The latter one means the clear directions of life goals and values. Unfortunately, the two factors are absent in Sammy’s case which further prove that she has poor self-concept.

    2.Low self-esteem
    These are many symptoms show that Sammy’s self-esteem is low. First of all, studies have found a significant positive correlation between academic performance and self-esteem (Baker, Beer, and Beer, 1991). Her unsatisfactory public examination result and unable to be admitted to a university had affected her self-esteem to a certain extent. Basically, she fails to build up self-esteem through four source identified by Baron (1990). Especially for the social comparison, she often compares herself with her classmates, friends and siblings on the basis of talent and appearance. And she perceives herself worse than everyone around her, which leads her to low self-esteem and low motivation to change and deal with her problems. Besides, she is in a depressive position in life position, as Sammy’s feeling about self and others is “I am not OK, You are OK (Harris, 1969). Thus, low self-esteem and worthlessness could be the causes of her situations.

    3.Poor family relationship and communications

    Obviously, Sammy’s parents are typical authoritarian parents as they are highly demanding but not responsive (Baumrind, 1991). They think adult views are allowed to take precedence over child desires. For example, they want Sammy to further study without considering her preference. Also, they are not willing to spend time on communication with Sammy. When they are free at home, they prefer closed style communication by giving criticism and complaint to Sammy rather than open style to understand Sammy’s feeling and thinking. Therefore, lack of communication skills and poor expression method of Sammy will be resulted and it is related to those inappropriate responses to criticism such as keeping silence and banging the door in order to express her helpless feelings and depressed mood.


    As the problems mentioned above are facing deterioration, regardless of Sammy, her parents and her elder sister and cousin, both have obligation and responsibility to help in solving those problems.

    For her elder sister and cousin
    As Sammy’s elder sister and cousin are at similar age with her, it will be easier for her to disclose her in-depth feelings. But they have to be a positive listener to Sammy without interruption and encourage her self-disclosure. During the self-disclosing process, not only self-understanding can be developed, but self-esteem can also be built. When self-esteem is low, it is difficult to see that change is possible. Hence, her elder sister and cousin can accompany her to look at different areas of her life such as life pattern, communication, friendship and see which areas she might want to change (NHS’s A Self Help Guide, n.d.). It may help her to find her life goals and try new things.

    For her parents
    The first thing for Sammy’s parent to do is to improve family relationship. In this case, they need to focus on some positive parenting behaviors like spending quality time with children, demonstrating warmth and affection, modeling and managing conflict successfully so as to improve their relationship with Sammy (Hanna, Suggett, and Radtke, 2010). With enhanced parent-child relationship, they can take up parents’ responsibility in building self-esteem of Sammy. In order to do so, they should know her well and then realistically encourage her to develop skills and talent with freedom. For example, understanding her difficulties of study, giving positive feedback and encourage her to attend activities that promote cooperation, which are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. More importantly, they should reduce the quantities of criticism and avoid destructive language styles that are harmful to her self-esteem(Hanna, Suggett, and Radtke, 2010).

    For herself
    It seems that she fails to come up with a clear self-concept after her self-reflection or self-talk, so I would suggest her to consider seeking for professional help from social workers, therapists and counselors instead of getting into a dead end. These professionals can help to identify some coping strategies to deal with her problems, in ways that make her feel better (KidsHealth, 2012). Moreover, therapy can help her to learn viewing herself and the world more realistically and developing confidence in problem solving that will strengthen her self-esteem at the same time. Conclusion:

    With the limited information of Sammy’s case, I have come up with the above solutions. But I think the most important thing is that Sammy has the courage and motivation to take the first step for change. And family usually plays a significant supporting role for the change to happen in adolescent life stage. (973 words)


    Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton. Tart, C. (n.d.) Marcia, J.E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (pp. 159-187). New York: Wiley. Baker, K., Beer, J., and Beer, J. (1991). Self-esteem, alcoholism, sensation seeking, GPA, and differential apti-tude test scores of high school students in an honor society. Psychological Reports (pp. 69, 1147-1150). Baron, R. A. (1990). Understanding human relations: A practical guide to people at work. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Harris, T. (1969). I’m ok, you’re ok. New York: Harper & Row Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence (pp. 62). NHS’s A Self Help Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2012, from Hanna, S.L., Suggett, R., & Radtke, D. (2010). Person to Person: Positive relationships don’t just happen (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall KidsHealth. (2012, March). Retrieved from

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