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An animal just like me: The importance of preserving the identities of companion-animal owners in disaster contexts
journal contributionposted on 13.09.2018, 00:00 by Joshua Trigg, Kirrilly Thompson, Bradley Smith, P Bennett
The widespread tendency of modern-day pet owners to self-identify with their companion animals psychologically, symbolically and relationally demonstrates how the constructed identities of animal and owner are strongly linked. This becomes particularly apparent during natural disasters. In this review, the new concept of the pet-owning self is discussed in relation to three self-psychology perspectives: self-extension, symbolic interactionism and selfobject relations. We purposefully depart from the realm of attachment theory to argue that these three epistemological approaches to self-identity, although related, warrant closer examination. Although we discuss them in relation to disaster contexts, the concept of the pet-owning self remains widely applicable. We argue for the importance of acknowledging the powerful intersubjectivity inherent to pet keeping, the inseparability of perceived pet identity from owners' experiences of the self and that preserving the cohesion of the two is an essential consideration for owners' psychological wellbeing when managing the integrated pet/owner in the face of risks posed by disaster and other hazards. Future research opportunities and implications are then discussed in the context of social identity theory.