"Self" does not exist apart from society, as "self" functions within society in some form. But, a fully developed "Ego" is the only "human self". Society is formed by collective "selves", but society is not an entity itself, unless one is committed to something other than the "human".
Self-understanding is formed within societal structures. The first being the family and whether it is extended, and/or dysfunctional. "Self-understanding" is first understood within such an intimate "collective". The child learns how to love, be nurtured and what is of value within the family unit.
But, when the family unit is not functioning or functioning improperly, then the developing "Ego" has little to help form his self-understanding. The "getting over" the "Who Am I?" stage might never develop apart from intervention. And this is where society's structures might help the child to form a healthy self -understanding and image.
A child who hasn't learned appropriate behavior, or had good examples of care will develop behavioral problems or mental illness. Society suffers when its children are disadvantaged in this way.
"Self-understanding" in religious communities can be damning if the child sees himself as "evil". or has a personality that would tend to be exasperated, or hindered by such teaching. Such children might "act out" because they can never meet "perfection", or be reticient about thier interests for fear their very interests or passions are detours away from their first allegience. Such "self-understanding" is not healthy, but annihlates "self" altogether. Such messages are "self rejective" messages and are not the foundations to form a healthy and separate identity.
"Self" is where the distinctive person resides. "Self" is identity. The particularity of the "self" might never be known apart from "self"'s ability to free itself from the demands of a overly zealous religious consicence, where "self-denial" or the "culture of death" is applauded and promoted.
"Selves" that have not become "true selves" in their particularities are prone to over-react to threats to their identifying factors, whether it is a fundamentalist religious tradition, "Truth claims", familial identities, or political ideologies. All form a bulwark against "things that would challenge and bring self-reflection instead of promoting the prevailling "self opinion". Change and maturation does not happen when such defensiveness is embraced. Such defensiveness should be understood when "self" is fragile and based on its defensive identification factors. "Self"s very existence is "felt" annilhlated, when, these dependent factors are undermined.
The human person cannot accomplish, grow and expeience his own accomplishments apart from distancing himself from such emblemic self understanding. "Self" must distance and then choose to embrace the chosen goals, values and purposes, for "self's own reasons. It is only then, that "self" has come into its own and become a "human being" and not a human clone or a human doing. It is the understanding of "self's existance apart from society, and then, the embrace of society that forms the adult "self" fully and functionally.
Otherwise, "self" remains only a functon of society and not understood as a being apart from society. "Self's" function must be a chosen one, apart from anyone else's value or goals.
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