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Tabachnick, N. (1965). Three Psycho-Analytic Views of Identity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:467-473.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:467-473

Three Psycho-Analytic Views of Identity

Norman Tabachnick


The paradox of self-realization versus social-definition is set forth as an important approach in the construction of theories of human identity. The work of three psycho-analysts whose writings contain significant implications regarding this paradox are examined.

Freud's structural theory of the human mind contained the implication that self-realization was linked to the drive of instincts to find satisfaction and was opposed by social and environmental forces which exerted further pressure through the ego and superego.

Hartmann and other 'ego psychologists', by elaborating the autonomous roles of the ego, have indicated that identity formation need not be thought of as conflict between 'self-realization' and 'social definition'. They have stressed the organizing and synthetic functions of the ego, which could 'put together' biological and social pressures from the viewpoint of the self.

Erikson has postulated the concept of 'mutuality' between biological needs of the individual and the needs of society, and through this formulation posed a solution to the paradox of self-realization and social definition. He has further indicated that pathways to identity could be found in which the principle of mutuality was not at work.

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