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Galatzer-Levy, R.M. (1996). The Private Self. : By Arnold Modell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1993. Pp. 250.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:1247-1250.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:1247-1250

The Private Self. : By Arnold Modell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1993. Pp. 250.

Review by:
Robert M. Galatzer-Levy

The Buddha said that a man who searches for the self is like a man who says he loves the most perfect woman but does not know her name, her family, where she lives or how she looks. Since the Second World War psychoanalysts have grown ever more interested in the self. Increasingly, we resemble the Buddha's character, searching for something important without a clear picture of its nature. Many investigators conclude that the search for the stable autonomous entity that people first think of when contemplating the self is unpromising. Instead, they suggest, many interrelated processes contribute to the experiences called self. In varied and divergent ways, most recent studies emphasise the origins of these entities in object relations (in a broad sense) and how object relations shape the self.

In The Private Self, Arnold Modell argues that this is a mistaken direction. He believes that an essentially private core of personal being is of central psychological importance. He integrates ideas from clinical psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic theory, biographical studies, developmental psychology, contemporary philosophy and neuroscience to explore the ‘private self’.

Modell adopts a variant of William James's concept of self as an agency that selectively directs attention to that which has personal meaning. The Jamesian self has three aspects, the bodily (or empirical) self, the social self and the spiritual self. The spiritual self is the core of the person, a ‘palpitating inward life, a central nucleus’, which is the fountainhead of personal morality, will power and creative appreciation of the world. Modell equates the ‘private self’ with James's spiritual self.

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