Biography

In my autobiographical work Between dreaming and recognition seeking (2012), I have sketched some destablizing events in my life and investigated their meaning via the lens of Dialogical Self Theory, with some challenging questions to YOU.

The four Hermans brothers in 2010. From left to right: Math, Hubert, Ruud, and Harry

Hubert Hermans is one of the main theorists in narrative psychology. During his career he has developed several influential methods and theories. One of them is the Self Confrontation Method (SCM) that has led to the establishment of the Association for SCM practitioners that has around 200 members in 2020.  Another is the Dialogical Self Theory that has led to the organization of biennial international conferences, the establishment of the International Society for Dialogical Science. 

Hubert Hermans is an author of around 200 publications, mainly on the Self-Confrontation Method and Dialogical Self Theory. His work is translated into nine languages. He is author of Self-Narratives: The Construction of Meaning in Psychotherapy (with Els Hermans-Jansen) (1995), The Dialogical Self in Psychotherapy (with Giancarlo Dimaggio) (2004), Dialogical Self Theory: Positioning and Counter-Positioning in a Globalizing Society (with Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka) (2010), Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory (with Thorsten Gieser) (2012), Society in the Self: A Theory of Identity in Democracy (2018), and Inner Democracy: Empowering the mind against a polarizing society (2020).  

 

For almost 40 years Hubert Hermans was associated with the Radboud University of Nijmegen, where he studied psychology and became Professor of Psychology. He taught in the Department of Clinical and Personality Psychology at Nijmegen until 2002 when he became professor emeritus.

The Radboud University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, has officially decided to establish a professorial chair titled “Foundations of Dialogical Self Theory (DST).” It is a so-called “special chair” for one day a week. The chair will be located in the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies of the Radboud University (2020). The purpose of this chair is to stimulate research guided by the Theory and to teach its philosophical foundations and implications.

Hubert cooperated with Els Hermans-Jansen with whom he developed the Self-Confronation method. She applied the method in her psychotherapeutic practice for more than 25 years. 

He continues to work together with Agnieszka Konopka in the International Institute for the Dialogical Self as the ‘think tank’ of the Dialogical Self Theory.

  • Click here for the three different phases in Hubert’s 40 year-professional career. 

  • Affiliation: Emeritus-professor of psychology at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

  • Born: Maastricht, the Netherlands, as the oldest son of a local baker who made excellent pies

  • Marriages: In 1961 he married Els Hermans-Jansen with whom he cooperated in the development of the Self-Confrontation Method. From 2008-2013 he was married to Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka with whom he continues to cooperate on the further development of Dialogical Self Theory. Hubert has two children and two grand-children from his first marriage.

  • Education:
    –  Gymnasium alpha (high school), Hendrik van Veldeke College in Maastricht (1951- 1958)
    –  Student of psychology at the University of Nijmegen (1960- 1965)
    –  Doctoral degree at the University of Nijmegen (1967)

  • Professional Career: 
    –  Staff member at the Psychological Laboratory at the University of Nijmegen (1965)
    –  Associate Professor at the University of Nijmegen (1972)
    –  Full Professor at the University of Nijmegen (1980- 2002)
    ​​

 

Career related activities

 

Honors and awards

 

Member of Editorial Board

  • Culture & Psychology

  • European Journal of School Psychology

  • Theory & Psychology

  • The Narrative Study of Lives

  • Journal of Constructivist Psychology

  • Polish Psychological Bulletin

  • Revista de Psicopatologia y Clínica

  • Human Systems: Journal of Therapy

  • Consultation and Training Significant (electronic journal)

My inspiration

Some family members and friends said to me after my retirement “Why do you go always go on? Why don’t you stop?”  Then I asked myself: Why am I doing this work? What is my basic inspiration?

My most spontaneous answer is that it is a “drive,” something which is incessantly pushing me from the inside, I just don't want to stop it, I have to go on. Moreover, it gives me the well-known “pleasure beyond small talk,” like drinking water from a deeper well without precisely knowing what is in there. But it is tasting “well.”

However, there is more, on the content level, which has since a long time my vivid interest. I’m fascinated by the idea that the self of the individual person functions as a “society,” composed of a multiplicity of “members” who are able to address each other as individuals do in the society at large. Therefore, I like C.S. Lewis’ statement: “A person cannot help thinking of himself as, and even feeling himself to be… two people, one of whom can act upon and observe the other. Thus he pities, loves, admires, hates, despises, rebukes, comforts, examines, masters or is mastered by, ‘himself’.” With one difference, I would add: the self is not composed of only two people but consists rather of a multiplicity of people, in Dialogical Self Theory, named as I-positions. Much of my work can be understood when one acknowledges that dialogue can only productively and realistically be studied on the assumption that dialogue takes place between people who are positioned in time and space.

I feel that conceiving the self as a society of mind has the potential of transcending a long-standing separation in the social sciences, between the individual and society, which would suggest that it is possible to understand the existence of an individual as a self-contained identity, as separated from the people with whom they live together and from the society in which they participate. When the self is conceived of as a “society,” at the same time being an intrinsic part of the society at large, we create a conceptual bridge that enables us to link individual and society, psychology and sociology, and psychotherapy and community building.

I’m not only strongly interested in “dialogue” but I also believe that society is in desperate need of it. This need is particularly compelling in an increasingly compressed world society in which people of different historical and cultural backgrounds can no longer avoid to take each other into account. It is as if strangers are brought together in a house and forced to address each other. How to do that? What is that: the other??

This brings me to another point of inspiration. Elaborating on William James’s idea of the “extended self,” the other person is not simply outside the self but an intrinsic part of it. In this way, I think, it is possible to overcome the kind of individualism that is typical of the modern model of the self, which is based on the problematic belief that you are a person just on your own, an autonomous individual that finds the ground of his existence just in themselves. I find this view of the person overly limited because it neglects the fact that our selves are populated by others, including persons we love and those we feel opposed to. In fact, we are never totally alone. Instead, others are welcomed in the house of our self or they are felt as intruders who visit us often at unexpected moments.

I’m very  interested in the relationship between theory and practice, but I do so on the basis of Kurt Lewin’s premise that there is nothing more practical than a good theory.  However, I’m a bit sceptical about purely academic mini-theories that often lead to extensive research on the basis of a very limited number of “variables.” I feel more attracted to invest my effort in a broader, more extensive, and open theory that is constructed in such a way that it leads to not only to the study of the self but also to its enrichment.

In my view, dialogue is one of the most precious capacities of the human mind. I believe in the existence of “good dialogue” that has the power to contribute to the improvement of social relationships in our globalizing world society. However, this improvement can only be realized when external dialogue goes hand in hand with internal dialogue. As humans we have the privilege that we cannot only learn from others but also from ourselves, on the condition that we have the courage to explore and interrogate ourselves as if we are another person.

Finally, inspiration is for me not only an individual but also an interactive process. I’m happy when I can inspire other people and also when I'm inspired by them. When I go, together with a friend or colleague, somewhere to find the space and rest for a discussion, I hear myself saying when going back: “That was a “good dialogue!”

Posted by Hubert Hermans on October-November, 2020. 

 

Hubert Hermans 2020 · This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.