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Sharpe, E.F. (1925). The Psychology of Self-Consciousness: By Julia Turner, B.A. (Lond.). (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1923. Pp. 243.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 6:78-79.

(1925). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 6:78-79

The Psychology of Self-Consciousness: By Julia Turner, B.A. (Lond.). (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1923. Pp. 243.)

Review by:
Ella Freeman Sharpe

This 'little book', to use the oft-repeated diminutive of the authoress, comprises simple instruction on electricity, innocuous interpretations of 'quaint' phantasies (such as a father with his head in the fire) and 'charming' dreams (the back view of a nude woman), together with an exposition of a new hypothesis of anxiety. There is expression of a debt of gratitude to Professor Freud. For this indebtedness see extracts in the Glossarial Index, II—an indebtedness also to Dr. Jones. But the actual text of the book is free from it. It seems that Professor Freud has overlooked 'the seemingly trifling distinction between consciousness and self-consciousness.' Miss Turner has not overlooked it, and so can apply a key whereby 'dream analysis becomes a means of unlocking many of the problems which have long defied human speculation'.

The 'perceptual' level of consciousness we are told we share in common with animals. On this level sexuality is a fact. That which differentiates us from animals is that we are also self-conscious, i.e. 'conceptual subjects.' 'Reality' for a 'perceptual' subject is a symbol of reality for the 'conceptual subject' (p. 26). Therefore (p. 41), 'sexuality is the first, last, and greatest symbol for the "conceptual" subject'. Likewise 'all sensory dream elements are symbolic … to give the illusion that sexuality and its symbolism are to be taken literally is to undo the work of ages of human experience' (p. 87). The 'dream is the stronghold of ethical life' (p. 151). Dream and conceptual levels concern themselves only with sex as a symbol. The reality of sex belongs only to consciousness (perceptual level). For the writer the symbol is the thing. The reason can be found on page 46: 'Sexuality therefore is feared in every form and guise, even when legitimate'.

The literal problem of sex is thus shelved and the way is clear for a development of a new hypothesis of anxiety. Even here the initial trauma of life (birth) is omitted. It seems that anxiety is the conflict between the power wish (life hunger) and expiation (desire to sacrifice). These conflicting forces in symbols of sexuality represent maleness and femaleness. The way to 'perfecting life' (p. 201) is 'the unification of power and expiation (corresponding to marriage), with the resultant emergence of the soul (rebirth: corresponding to child-bearing)'.

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