"This model will allow us to look at a human being in a new way, by describing the intricate connections between each of us and the world around us, so that we can clearly understand our reactions and our feelings."

In Western society, people are conditioned to think that when something bothers them—when they feel discomfort or depression—something is wrong with them. One is taught to seek medicinal cures for emotional torrents before turning to therapeutic intervention or exploration of one's inner world. However, in Gillingham's model of the self, she urges the normalization of these inconsistent feelings in order to come to understand our shared humanity and ever-evolving emotions. Once we are conscious of and accept these fluctuations as part of being human, she states, we can also come to accept ourselves as we are. In this philosophical theory consisting of four levels—the spirit, the mind, the social self, and the material self—the author helps dissect the intricacies of becoming self-aware and, ultimately, healed.

Gillingham particularly addresses the sensation of having lost fragments of oneself after trauma. However, she goes beyond offering up yet another repetition of the well-known stages of grief. By effectively modernizing William James' model of the self, she explains that there are several natures within each person. Just as we are each a part of a complete and continually changing society, so are the four levels within each individual forming a whole identity. Gillingham helpfully includes research by great psychologists, theorists, and thinkers, such as Abraham Maslow and Lawrence Kohlberg, as well as useful diagrams and case studies that display the potential for healing through analysis and storytelling. While her educational insights may benefit the average reader, the target audience appears to be primarily academics and scholars. In this intriguing model of the self, Gillingham offers a tether to hold onto when one is in the midst of loss, allowing the discovery or recollection of who one truly is beneath the pain.

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