- learn about the conceptual framework Hodges' model. A tool that can help integrate HEALTH and SOCIAL CARE, INFORMATICS and EDUCATION. The model is situated, facilitates person-centredness, integrated - holistic care and reflective practice. A new site using Drupal is an ongoing aim - the creation of a reflective workbench. Email: h2cmng @ yahoo.co.uk Welcome

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Book review: "Selfhood"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SELFHOOD-Emotional-Wellbeing-Prevention-Psychology/dp/1908561009/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318237775&sr=1-1The vertical axis of Hodges' model denotes the individual and hence the self, the person and the group, the populous. As such when I came across Dr Terry Lynch's book Selfhood it was ideal as a book review candidate.

The book declares itself as a self-help book and clearly and quickly qualifies in this through its content. Section two of the book from page 51 through to page 272 (of 281 in total) is devoted to raising an individual's level of selfhood.

At first I wondered if this was going to be a fuzzy read that might also prove repetitious. I'll explain the latter shortly. The former does not apply, even though the 'self' is a very fuzzy concept especially in the hands of philosophers. Some of the content in section two may well overlap, but amongst self-awareness, self-talk, self-care, self-contact – these contributing components to selfhood are clearly explained.  The book utilises diagrams throughout, from page 3; and these support the text and are used to cross reference material.

Section one on basic principles and concepts fosters a sense of self-regulation for the self-help that the intended readership will pursue. The need to take one’s time with recovery of selfhood is stressed initially, the reader reminded of this through the actions, minimising the perception and occurrence of failure. There is no crash program and pacing is vital, small steps, return to some actions if necessary we are told early on. While not stated explicitly section one helps to foster hope. Although this is a self-help book, resort to a good therapist is mentioned on a couple of occasions. The central risk to the self of suicide is also examined and given due regard in terms of safety.

There is little new in a technical sense for a mental health professional, but the way the ideas are explained is very informative. The diagrams and the metaphors that are sometimes employed are very useful as teaching aids. If you are at the latter stages of your career then self-actualisation (p.258), as ever, and  creativity provides hope. I did wonder about the reading-grammar level and how this might exclude some people. Could this be another project? I enjoyed reading of the need to create a life-long solid level of selfhood (p.40), which also emphasizes the general need for life-long learning. Relating selfhood to overall 'health literacy' might be informative. You will not find assessment and methods here, which is liberating. Assessment is integral to the reflective process but not explicit and process bound as it is in mental health services. This may in itself provide a benchmark for the future progress of 'selfhood' and health literacy?

One thing I am still reflecting upon - is distinguishing between being able to have an overview of the route to selfhood and having a ‘big picture’ – holistic - perspective of ones situation (p.42). This concern resurfaced in the risk of being overwhelmed by the ‘big picture’ (p.45) and here am I wondering about the therapeutic uses of the big picture – as a summariser - ready reckoner for health, social care and recovery. 

As a champion for Hodges’ model I can also identify with the call for a flexible balance between the two poles of self and others and the call to reflect carefully. Action as harmony of action (p.54) amid the frequent chaos of our lives and health care systems is a very helpful definition. If you seek another perspective on self-efficacy there's a lead here. I was struck by the first case study about Craig and his initial wish for self-admission to hospital. I smiled somewhat ruefully at this, considering the changes in the number of NHS beds (-1700 HSJ) even in the brief years since Lynch’s book was written and published in 2011. This stresses the need for self-care and supports the advent of the 'recovery' movement in mental health. 

My previous note regards the literacy level of readers, is obviously a factor as users are encouraged to reflect upon each selfhood component and also write a diary/journal. The spatial definitions of selfhood also engaged me, given my preoccupation with cognitive spaces. This discussion of physical space, self, personal space and self-centredness and the notion of polluted environment in the context of emotions and feelings prompted much reflection.

At the end the reader is invited to read through the text again. I can see how a second pass and one that uses the book as a self-help manual could pay dividends. The self-help quality of the book is clear as after each attribute is described several actions are outlined. There are affirmations for the reader to utilise that are also listed in an appendix. The case histories should assist readers, who seeking to improve or recover their level of selfhood, may identify with at least one of several. The thought about repetition is not surprising as this is self-soup so to speak. There are just short of sixty instances of self-'  ' in the very helpful index.

Ultimately, this is not so much a statement about the book but perhaps the mental health challenge that faces the self in dealing with the other and the world at large. Overall the books 281 pages reveal the rich complexity of a vital concept and contributor to mental health and wellbeing. This is a very practical book which is to say it is an excellent self-help book.

Lynch, T. (2011) SELFHOOD, Limerick, Mental Health Publishing.

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