Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Conceiving the Self: Presence and Absence in Psychoanalytic Theory

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Conceiving the Self: Presence and Absence in Psychoanalytic Theory

Article excerpt

BARBARA J. SOCOR: Conceiving the Self Presence and Absence in Psychoanalytic Theory. International Universities Press, Inc., Madison, CT, 1997, 296 pp., $47.50, ISBN 0-8236-1030-6.

Conceiving the Self traces the development of the concept of self from Freud to Hartmann through Kernberg, Kohut, Lacan, Guntrip, Stern, and others. As a theoretical academic text the book achieves what it sets out to do, which is compare, contrast, explain, and elaborate on the concept of presence and absence as a unifying theme to explain the concept of the self through the last century. The basic thesis of this journey is that in the last century the concept of self following Freud and as elaborated by Hartmann has resided as a "representation within the ego," (p. 48) and one of the many familiar productions of the ego. Within the French school it evolved to a concept of an image of self which is a deception reflecting the Lacanian idea that conceiving the self is the result of absence rather than presence. The infant child that sees itself in the mirror as stronger, more autonomous "bears little or no resemblance to the child's psychological reality" (p. 191). In the American and British schools of thought, object constancy is a most important determinant of a "fulfilled self." Self is a function of presence, i.e., "making the outside inside" (p. 135). The meaningful relationship, as Guntrip has elaborated, means that the origin of the self may be largely "attributable to the idiosyncratic procedures of the infant's particular mother" (p. …

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