Who Wants to Be Understood? The Desire for Social Affirmation and the Existential Challenge of Self-Understanding

  • Fredrik Westerlund


The guiding thesis of this chapter is that self-understanding is centrally an existential challenge. In particular, the chapter aims to lay bare the massive potential of our desire for social affirmation to influence and distort our self-understanding, mostly in a covert and unacknowledged fashion. To the extent that we are driven by this desire, we are primarily concerned with assessing, in an emotionally charged and self-deceptive manner, the social worth of our self, whereas we lack the will and ability to understand ourselves in an open and unqualified manner. Ultimately, it is argued that whatever the cognitive demands of self-understanding and our ability to meet these demands may be, we can never know more about ourselves than we are existentially willing to face and acknowledge.


Self-understanding Affirmation Recognition Self-deception Repression 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fredrik Westerlund
    • 1
  1. 1.University of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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