by Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka

According to many authors emotions involve and change the self (Morgan & Averill, 1992), they are considered to be a key factor of self-organization (Greenberg, 2002). In research made during my dissertation (Hermans-Konopka & Hermans, 2009), I discovered that emotions can dramatically change the way a person experience him- or herself. I discovered that emotions can dramatically change the way a person experience him- or herself. Participants were asked to describe the influence of 14 emotions on their selves by using verbs like e.g.imprisoning, warming or liberating. It appeared that love, joy, self-esteem and tenderness led to the most positively experienced changes in the self. On the other hand inferiority, anxiety, weakness and loneliness provoked the most negatively experienced changes in the self.

Within the group of negative emotions, anger led to the most positive changes in the self like e.g. strengthening , and at the same time evoked the most negative action tendencies, like e.g. forcing, using violence.The results showed that the self can be transformed by emotions. This can be a temporary change, because a person can feel very hard and strong towards another when expressing anger, but then, after having access to his or her love, can become soft and tender. There is also empirical evidence that emotions can reorganize the self on a long term. Magai and McFadden (1995) discovered that episodes connected with strong emotional experiences can even lead to permanent personality changes and lead to be turning points in personal stories. For example, a sense of a weak self can be build up by unresolved experience of anxiety or the perception of oneself as being open can result from a loving relationship which has deeply influenced the self in the past.

Emotions can dramatically change the self and, as a consequence, the way we perceive the world and others is changed. As Anis Nin ones said: “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are”. Especially under influence of a strong emotion, our attention becomes restricted to selected aspects of the world, whereas other (relevant) aspects remain simply unseen. One of our clients who experienced a lot of anxiety saw the world as threatening in a highly generalizing way. She became aware that there is in her always a hidden expectation that something terrible can happen. “There can be always a hidden threat” she said; she functioned many years in that way, not being aware that she was dictated permanently by the voice of her anxiety. She even did not feel this anxiety clearly, but only as a vague tension which was always there. She experienced herself as weak and the world as threatening and this was one of the main obstacles in taking free actions, including taking calculated risks which were needed in order to develop her own business. People may be not aware how emotions influence the way they perceive themselves and the world. Sometimes we experienced ourselves as weak but we do not know that it is a way in which emotions changed us. We can see the world as threatening not being aware that it is just a result of our anxiety.

A very important step in emotional coaching is to become aware how our emotions define ourselves and our relations with other and the world. {quotes}A very important step in emotional coaching is to become aware how our emotions define ourselves and our relations with other and the world.{/quotes}In this way using the Self Confrontation Method (SCM; Hermans & Hermans-Janssen, 1995) and emotional coaching can go well together. The SCM as a way to discover the affective patterns of valuations and emotional coaching as a way to work on emotions as significant parts of these patterns can be a promising, effective and theoretically coherent combination. Research on counseling shows that emotions play a central role in processes of change, regardless the therapeutic approach (Whelton, 2004). As Honos-Webb, Surko, Stiles and Greenberg pointed out, change in psychotherapy occurs by replacing a dominant, maladaptive, emotionally based voice by a more adaptive one (1999). We need to take into account that emotions are forces of transformation of the self and they need to be used and taken seriously into account if we want to stimulate a deeper change in the client.

At the same time we need to remember that emotions are not isolated phenomena’s that function as “natural phenomena” like weather fluctuations. It would also be a misunderstanding to see the person as being hopelessly subjected to the influence of emotions without being able to give a response. Emotions influence the self and the self can influence emotions and in a sense they function as part of a highly dynamic interaction. The final quality of emotions is always a result of bidirectional interaction between the self and emotions.


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Dialogical Self Conferences are organized every 2 years and  are held in different countries and continents. So far the conferences were organized in: Nijmegen, Netherlands (2000),Ghent, Belgium (2002), Warsaw, Poland (2004),Braga, Portugal (2006), Cambridge, United Kingdom (2008), Athens, Greece (2010) and the 7th International Conference on the Dialogical Self (ICDS-7) took place October 25-28, 2012 at the University of Georgia (USA).Eighth International Conference on the Dialogical Self took place 19-22 August 2014, The Hague University, The Hague, The Netherlands


Dialogical Self Practice Network is a global network of practitioners, scientists-practitioners, managers and artists who are involved in the application of methods based on Dialogical Self Theory.

Read more: Dialogical Practice Network


-          From its first publication in the American Psychologist (Hermans, Kempen, & Van Loon, 1992), Dialogical Self Theory (DST) has attracted an increasing number of theorists, researchers and practitioners in the social sciences and other disciplines.


-          Discussions around the dialogical self are greatly stimulated by the bi-annual International Conferences on the Dialogical Self as they are successively organized in different countries:  Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2000), Ghent, Belgium (2002), Warsaw, Poland (2004), Braga, Portugal (2006), Cambridge, UK (2008), Athens, Greece (2010), Georgia, USA (2012). The next conference is scheduled in 2014 in The Hague, The Netherlands. The conference in Cambridge attracted 302 colleagues from 43 countries.


-            Theory, research and practical implications of the dialogical self have been spread in a variety of scientific journals. Main journals as the American Psychologist (Hermans, Kempen, & Van Loon, 1992; Hermans & Kempen, 1998) and Psychological Bulletin (Hermans, 1996) published the first psychological articles on the dialogical self.


-          The interest in Dialogical Self Theory is further reflected by the fact that the target article on Dialogical Self Theory in the special issue in Culture & Psychology (Hermans, 2001) is recorded as the most cited article since the first edition of this journal in 1995. A chapter on the dialogical self has been published in 2011 as part of the Oxford Handbook on the Self (edited by philosopher Shaun Gallagher). The theory is also included in the last version of the Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and in Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology.  Also Wikipedia devotes an extensive article to the dialogical self.


-          In a recent book Dialogical Self Theory: Positioning and Counter-Positioning in a Globalizing Society (2010), authored by Hubert Hermans and Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka, published by Cambridge University Press, most of the scientific developments around DST of the past two decades are brought together in an integrative theoretical framework, including such diverse topics as globalization, localization, history of the self, in-depth treatment of DST, individual development, emotions and practical implications (e.g.,motivation, leadership, conflict resolution, organizational development). In a review of this book, Jeffrey Arnett (Clark University) said: "The 'dialogical self' is among the most important and original theories in the social sciences in the past 20 years..." New developments referring to dialogical coaching (emotional coaching, composition work, and Personal Position Repertoire methodology) are included in this book.


-          In the past decade a series of special issues appeared in scientific journals, in which discussions and applications of DST were presented in a diversity of fields.


1. Culture and Psychology, 2001,vol. 7, nr 3, 243-408.

2. Theory and Psychology, 2002, vol.12, nr 2, 147-280.

3. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 2003, vol. 16, nr 2, 89-213.

4. Identity. An international Journal of Theory and    Research, 2004, vol.4, nr 4, 298-405.

5. Counselling Psychology Quarterly,2006, vol.19, nr 1, 1-  120.

6. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 2008, vol. 21, nr. 3, 185-        269.

7. Studia Psychologica, 2008, vol. 6, nr. 8, 5-253.

8. Theory & Psychology, 2010, vol. 20, nr. 3, 299-360.

9. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2012, nr.     137, 1-77.

10. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 2013, vol. 26, nr.         2, 79-136.


-          A Dialogical Practice Network (DPN) was established as a global network in which colleagues are invited to discuss and share with each other the practical applications of DST.  ( The DPN has a forum in which participants can publish their experiences and ideas and discuss them with other members of the network. Presently, the network has brought together members from 31 countries.


-          The International Institute on the Dialogical Self (IIDS) was established  (2008), in which Agnieszka Konopka, Hubert Hermans cooperate in order to develop DST-based methods and programs which can be applied in coaching, therapy, counseling and training. The IIDS is the creator of the Dialogical Practice Network.


-          In 2002 the International Society for Dialogical Science (ISDS) ( was created in order to stimulate scientific writing and discussion on dialogical science. The main idea behind the ISDS is that the study of dialogical processes is of unprecedented importance in an era in which dialogical relationships, between and within people, are at the heart of living together in a globalizing world community. This consideration has led researchers to establish an organization with the aim of facilitating communication on an international basis. Against this background the ISDS was founded in June 2002. The Society was formally constituted under Dutch law in June 2002.One of the main objectives of the Society is construction and further development of DST and other theories which deal directly with the relationship between self and dialogue. The Society has 82 members.


-          Methods based on the Dialogical Self Theory have been applied in a variety of fields and publishes in international journals, e.g.: personal Position Repertoire (Hermans, 2001) and Composition Work (Hermans-Konopka, 2012, Konopka & van Beers, 2013)



-          In 2006 a new on-line journal was created: the International Journal for Dialogical Science (IJDS)( The Journal is international and multidisciplinary in scope and provides a forum for theorists, researchers, and practitioners around the globe to share their ideas and findings. Membership of the ISDS is based on quality: acceptance of an article in the Journal leads automatically to membership.


-          The activities around DST are closely connected with developments around the Self-Confrontation Method (SCM), in its first version created by Hubert Hermans in the 1970’s.  which has led to the establishment of the Vereniging voor ZKM-beoefenaars (VvZB) (Association for SCM-practitioners). This association has in 2013 over 250 members.


-          DST has been used in the formation of the government in the Netherlands in 2006 (on the basis of Hermans’  book “Dialoog en misverstand” (Soest: Nelissen, 2005).


-          In 2012 the first Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory (edited by Hubert Hermans and Thorsten Gieser) was published by Cambridge University Press. It contains 29 chapters written by authors from 15 countries, with an epilogue by philosopher Shaun Gallagher. The book has parts on theoretical extensions, methods, and applications.


-          Hubert Hermans (creator of the DST) received a decoration in the name of the Queen of the Netherlands for exceptional personal scientific achievements in the service of society (2002): Knight in the Society of the Netherlands Lion (Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw).

In summary, DST is a recent scientific development that has a strong appeal to scientists and practitioners in countries all over the world. It has led to a diversity of organizations that have in common that they are inspired by DST. The further development of the theory and its applications is a common enterprise of an increasing number of colleagues who find this theory relevant to their thinking, understanding and practical work as related to the development of the self in a globalizing society.


Hubert Hermans and Agnieszka Konopka

28 May, 2013