Selfless: A Psychologist's Journey through Identity and Social Class

2020 Routledge

Selfless is a memoir, reflecting on identity, social class, mobility, education, and on psychology itself; how psychology as a discipline is conducted, how it prioritises objects of study, how it uncovers psychological truths about the world.

Geoffrey Beattie takes the reader on a journey through his early life in working-class Belfast, his Ph.D. at Trinity College Cambridge and subsequent academic and professional career, to explore fundamental issues within psychology about social class and social identity. Beattie discusses the difficulties inherent in this process of education and change, and how social background affects how you view academic work and the subject matter of one’s discipline. This book movingly details a life and how it is changed by the processes of education, the psychological pressures when abandoning those close to you, the dissonance within and how it feels and operates. The book takes a critical look at psychology from the other side, and examines the process of becoming ‘selfless’, meaning having little sense of self rather than being overly concerned with the wishes and needs of others.

Showing how our early experiences and their influence continues throughout life, Beattie’s emotionally engaging, entertaining, and witty text offers general readers, students, and academics fresh insights into psychology, adaptation and personal change.


‘Identity is at the heart of many conflicts that we see in society today and yet one of the most difficult to discuss rationally. This book brings clarity to this sensitive subject with its powerful mix of psychological research, intellectual rigour and personal insight. I totally loved it!’
Professor Binna Kandola OBE, Business Psychologist, Senior Partner Pearn Kandola.

‘What is the Self? How is it related to consciousness? This dilemma has entertained some of the greatest minds of human history. This book contributes in a significant way to that history, written by one of today’s great thinkers,Geoffrey Beattie. In this unique book, Beattie brings us into his own world of Self-construction. We thus come away understanding what psychology should really be....It is required reading by anyone interested in understanding what consciousness is and how it emerges throughout the life cycle.’
Professor Marcel Danesi, University of Toronto.

‘In Selfless, Beattie has adopted a clearly different approach to psychology than the mainstream practices of writing on the subject, elegantly integrating such crucial topics as identity, education, social class, and mobility in a down-to-earth, unpretentious, yet deeply moving and encouraging, autobiographical narrative. What can be envisioned is that this book has the potential to contribute to relevant fields of inquiry in the same way Oliver Sacks' books did to neurology and the history of science.’
Professor Hongbing Yu, Ryerson University