IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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As a matter of style of this entry, ‘self’ sometimes appears as ‘Self, and sometimes as ‘self’, depending on the context, preserving a particular author’s or regional terminology


Often, divergences in conceptualizations of ‘self’ reflect different frames of reference, different levels of discourse, and divergent translations between languages, stemming from different socio-cultural heritage. In colloquial usage, the reference to self, in many cases not directly translatable, is used while talking phenomenologically about self-reflection, self-awareness or self-criticism. In addition, many languages have, also specific ‘reflective’ or composite word forms concerning self care, self-assertion, self-expansion, stressing uniqueness of one’s own subjective voice, agency and intention. German ‘Selbst’ and English ‘Self’ imply illusory substantiveness , which has no exact equivalent in Roman (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) languages. However, all Indo- European languages employ other means to express reflexivity, reflection, and sameness, the essential parts of the vocabulary of selfhood : a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive and or reflective action. For instance, French ‘meme’, Italian ‘stesso’, Spanish ‘mismo’ form compounds of selfhood: moi-meme, toi-meme, soi-meme (myself, yourself, him/herself); me stesso, se stesso (myself, him/herself); yo mismo (myself), etc. In addition, all languages give voice to reflectivity in the grammatical structure of the sentence, which assigns agency/voice/intention to the speaking subject. On the other end of the broad spectrum are abstract constructs from philosophy, various humanistic disciplines, literature, academic and developmental psychology, and neuroscience. In the area of psychoanalysis the range covers wide spectrum from experience-near phenomenological conceptualizations all the way to the highly abstract metapsychological constructs of different psychoanalytic frameworks. Perhaps more than any other psychoanalytic concept, ‘self’ reflects the ambiguities and dilemmas of the history of human thought, articulated in philosophical and scientific inquiries as much as in literature, popular culture and language. Divergent philosophical and cultural patrimony, designating, in different, often contradictory ways, that a person-self exists in varying relationships within a total social, linguistic and cultural environment, includes Plato and Socrates, Aristotle, Sophocles, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hegel,


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