Psychopathology and the self: Human actors, agents, and authors

Dan P. McAdams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The articles included within this special issue of the Journal of Personality all conceptualize psychopathology as the result of problems in human selfhood. As such, they implicate a wide assortment of self-related constructs, from self-objectification to self-esteem, in the etiology and maintenance of psychopathology, and they point to interventions designed to alter these self-processes in order to alleviate suffering. In this commentary, I reinterpret and reorganize many of the ideas presented in the articles from the standpoint of a tripartite perspective on the reflexive human self. The self is first and foremost an inherent duality of I and Me. Psychologically speaking, the I/Me dynamic plays out in three different guises—the self as (1) social actor, (2) motivated agent, and (3) autobiographical author. Problems in human selfhood as they pertain to psychopathology may be profitably reconceived in terms of the corresponding performative styles expressed by social actors, the motivational agendas of values and goals that energize human striving and determine self-esteem, and the internalized life stories that human beings, as authors of the self, fashion and narrate to make sense of the reconstructed past and imagined future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • narrative identity
  • personality traits
  • psychopathology
  • self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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