IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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SELF Tri-Regional Entry

Inter-Regional Editorial Board: Gary Schlesinger (North America), Rafael Groisman (Latin America) and Sandra Maestro (Europe) Inter-Regional Coordinating Co-Chair: Eva D. Papiasvili (North America)


According to the philosopher Charles Taylor, the ‘self’ is a modern phenomenon initiated by Western culture (Taylor, 1989. p. 304). He asserts that the usage of the self as person with both autonomous and relational strivings reflects a focus on one’s own subjectivity with its ‘interior’ as well as ‘communitarian’ dimensions. To the degree that psychoanalysis can be viewed as an in-depth study of human subjectivity, the self has been a central albeit elusive, ambiguous and controversial concept. The conceptual heterodoxy is evident in the recent psychoanalytic dictionaries and definitions of the concept all across the three psychoanalytic continents. In North America, Auchincloss and Samberg (2012) note psychoanalysts have used the term “self” to describe phenomena as varied as: 1) a whole person in the external world including one’s body and mind; 2) a subjective experience, organized around the “I”; 3) a representation or set of representations within the ego; 4) a fantasy of the self, featuring the imagining subject in a major role in its various emotional and interactive aspects; and 5) from the perspective of self-psychology, a personal psychic core that governs experience and action. In Europe, Skelton (2006) highlights additionally the aspect of self as the bedrock of psychological wholeness that keeps the psyche from fallings apart, encompassing the totality of the unconscious and conscious systems of Jungian perspective; and self as ‘subject’, ‘object’ and ‘project of being’ of existential metapsychology perspective. In Latin America, where no entry ‘self’ is carried by contemporary regional dictionaries, various categorizations of existing models emerged, such as self as a subsystem of “I”, self as a structure, self-person, and the self model based on the subjective experience (Montero 2005). In addition, original conceptualizations of ‘self-link’ and ‘linked self’, which depict relational aspects of bridging and linking of self and object representations, and which in their expanded version also include the unconscious internal group formation, have been an important part of Latin American psychoanalytic identity (Pichon Rivière 1971; Arbiser 2013; Losso, Setton, Scharff 2017).


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