A content analysis of ideal, ought, and feared selves in patients with chronic low back pain.

H. Kindermans*, M.E.J.B. Goossens, M. Roelofs, J. Huijnen, A.M.C.F. Verbunt, S. Morley, J.W.S. Vlaeyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Patients with chronic pain are not only faced with disabilities but are also challenged to maintain a valued sense of self. This sense of self is in part determined by the extent to which patients can accomplish their identity-related goals. The present study explores the content of three domains of the self, namely the ideal, ought and feared self and examines how the content relates to disability and depression. The ideal, ought and feared attributes of 80 chronic low back pain patients were analyzed and categorized in eight general goal-domains: interpersonal attributes, personal abilities, physical, emotional and psychological well-being, close interpersonal relationships, self-expression abilities, achievement-related attributes, physical appearance, and religion. Results showed that most of the attributes that patients generated involved interpersonal attributes. Comparisons between the self-guides revealed that ideal attributes were more intrapersonally focused while ought and feared attributes were interpersonally focused. The content appeared to be related to disability but not to depression. More specifically, the more disabled patients were, the more they listed well-being related attributes as part of their ought self. None of the other goal-domains was related to disability or depression. The present study provides additional insight into the goals of patients with chronic pain at the level of identity and has shown that these are, at least in part, related to the level of functional disability. These results might be useful for future studies incorporating the role of identity in chronic pain, such as psychological interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-653
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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