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Target, M. Mayes, L. Bach, S. (2000). Panel 4: The Pathology of the Self: The Fragmented Self, Disorders of the Self, and the Dissolution of the Self. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 1(3):63-72.

(2000). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 1(3):63-72

Panel 4: The Pathology of the Self: The Fragmented Self, Disorders of the Self, and the Dissolution of the Self

Mary Target, Linda Mayes and Sheldon Bach

Moderated by:
Judy Ann Kaplan

Our panelists will attempt to define the concept of the self and its relevance in our understanding of pathology.

Question Four: What does it mean to have a fragmented sense of self? Are all personality disorders disorders of the self?

Mary Target

The notion of a fragmented self probably first appeared in Pierre Janet's (1989) book L'Automatisme Psychologique. Janet assumed that some kind of “psychological feebleness” dramatically reduced the capacity of the personality to synthesize more than a certain number of emotions and ideas, and therefore personal self-consciousness could not form. Morton Prince (1914), in his book The Unconscious, distinguished two processes involved: dissociation and synthesis. He suggested that fragmentation of the self was simply “an exaggeration of normal mechanisms” (p. 226). Perhaps the words of both Janet and Prince suffer from a tendency to reify personality and its subsystems, encouraging a mechanistic view of dissociation and splitting, as though these were actual spatial, physical phenomena. It is interesting to note Breuer and Freud's (1895) comment in Studies on Hysteria: “It is easy to fall into a habit of thought which assumes that every substantive has substance behind it. We find as time goes on, that we have actually formed an idea which has lost its metaphorical nature, and which we can manipulate easily, as though it were real” (pp. 227-228).

Of course, Freud rejected the deficit theory originally proposed by Janet, and introduced psychic conflict as the cause of fragmentation (Freud 1894).

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