The Never-Ending Story: A Terror Management Perspective on the Psychological Function of Self Continuity
A fter the Enlightenment, the ancient Greek conception of self as an autono-mous essence lost some appeal as scholars discovered that the self develops and operates in a rich ecology of contextual influences, including internal conflicts (Freud, 1917/1966), material possessions (James, 1890), social relations and the appraisals we receive from others (Sullivan, 1953), and the broader cultural and historical milieu (Geertz, 1984). Additionally, William James’s (1890) observation that the self is situated in time challenged earlier notions that self exists in the immediate present (Descartes, 1641/1984) or evaporates in the flux of passing sensations (Hume, 1739/1988). For James, although we do not experience ourselves as exactly the same person over time, subjective experience does unfold in a cumulative and systematic fashion. The self is thus temporally extended-symbolically reaching backward and forward in time-and maintains unity and continuity by linking past with present experiences in the anticipation of future states.