Lost Possible Selves as the Presence of the Past in the Present



Lost possible selves are a relatively new concept developed within the framework of the Pos- sible Selves proposed by H. Markus and P. Nurius. Lost possible selves were studied in young adults aged 20 to 42 (N = 59). The purpose was to clarify the content of the concept of “Lost Possible Selves”, as well as to describe the forms of their representation in connection with cognitive strategies for constructing identity. We used the method based on the methodology of K. Hooker, the questionnaire of identity styles by M. Berzonsky (ISI-5), the methodology for assessing five-year intervals by A. A. Kronik, E. I. Golovakha. Lost possible selves were conven- tional in nature and concerned with the main tasks of early adulthood: primarily the areas of career, relationships and education. Lost selves were neutral or pessimistic in tone, descriptive, and less often narrative. Three types of temporal orientation of lost possible selves have been identified: with a focus on the present; focus on returning to the “good” past or changing the “bad” past; timeless orientation. The frequency of appealing to the lost self is related neither to the ability for its realization nor to the probability of its realization, but it is connected with the emotional attitude (regret, difficulty of refusal, importance). The neutral tone of the story about the lost self was associated with the normative identity construction style: the more the respondents adhered to socially desirable norms, family traditions, the more neutrally they described the lost possible selves. People with a normative style of identity construction and people who feel their past is less saturated were more confident that in the future they could realize the lost self. The ability to realize the lost self, therefore, has the largest number of rela- tionships compared to its other characteristics.

General Information

Keywords: lost possible selves, identity construction style, temporal orientation, subjective realization

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu16.2022.208

Funding. The study was supported by the Russian Science Foundation grant no. 22-28-00871.

Received: 20.02.2022


For citation: Avanesyan M.O., Denisenko K.G. Lost Possible Selves as the Presence of the Past in the Present. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 204–218. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2022.208. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Athens, L. (1995). Dramatic self-change. The Sociological Quarterly, 36 (3), 571–586.

Information About the Authors

Marina O. Avanesyan, PhD in Psychology, St. Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail: m.avanesyan@spbu.ru

Ksenia G. Denisenko, MA in Psychology, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail: kgdenisenko@gmail.com



Total: 140
Previous month: 4
Current month: 2


Total: 163
Previous month: 17
Current month: 17