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Waddell, M. (1989). Gender Identity - Fifty Years on from Freud. Brit. J. Psychother., 5(3):381-389.

(1989). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(3):381-389

Gender Identity - Fifty Years on from Freud Related Papers

Margot Waddell

The issue of gender identity confronts us with the problem of self-knowledge - how we may understand the landscape of our souls. The psychoanalytic process allows insight into the fundamental distinction between the secrets of femininity or masculinity, of womanhood or manhood in their descriptive and socially available attributes, and their mysteries, in terms of the internal meanings. The distinction denotes different modes of thought, different mentalities, related to the geography of mental spaces and the relationships between them. It can roughly be designated as that between intrusive or voyeuristic curiosity on the one hand, and a thirst for knowledge, knowledge that is of the inner self, on the other: between the superficial contours without and the unmapped country within.

These discriminations are rooted in different kinds of identification process, the nature and functioning of which have preoccupied, indeed almost characterised, psychoanalytic thinking during the last fifty years. This relationship between secrets and mysteries and their penumbra of meanings has also, as Meg Harris Williams has pointed out, been ‘continuously analysed and exorcised by creative writers. Shakespeare dramatised it through Polonius, who sets off to “find/Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed/Within the centre” and Hamlet condemns the hermetic procedures of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who try to “pluck out the heart of my mystery”. Milton imaged it in the little devils who “Rifled the bowels of their mother earth/For treasures better hid”’ (1986).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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