This article addresses the unresolved question of the existence of a private core autochthonous self, as it has been described by Winnicott, Modell, and others. The postmodern version of the self has eliminated this concept entirely, relegating the self to a changing and unstable display, or regarding it as totally chaotic, or even an illusion. The question is raised whether by returning to the origins of this notion of a private self and then tracing its apparent dissolution it might be possible to discover some evidence that it still exists. The methodology used is that of obtaining knowledge directly through the arts and the claim is made that because empirical science has clamored to be the only source of knowledge, we have lost what could be obtained by direct intuitive seeing and experiencing the works of creative geniuses. To explore the rise of the autochthonous self this article provides an examination of the shift from Gothic art to Italian Renaissance art, a time which engendered the origin of “man” with his or her elusive private individual self that then became expressed in changing works of art. As this spread north, Shakespeare appeared and similarly invented and illustrated in his characters the private individual self, a concept not appreciated or recognized before the Renaissance. But as science arose and Western civilization began to decline, a corresponding disillusionment with “man” took place. The self began to be viewed as solely a social construction with no core except perhaps a genetic endowment. This was accompanied by a reduction in the concept of the human as a valuable and precious living being and was replaced by regarding the human as an object of control and exploitation. After the Second World War a movement in contemporary United States psychoanalysis gradually replaced the ideas of Freud and his emphasis on the “I” in the psychoanalytic process, with forms of relational therapy, assuming that the self was ab initio intersubjectively formed and could be altered fundamentally by focus on intersubjective processes. The author contends that this attitude makes it less likely for the psychoanalyst to focus on the regressive transferences from which derivatives of the private self arise and to grasp the phenomenological whole of the patient (p. 625).
Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry – Guilford Press
Published: Jun 1, 2011