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Young-Eisendrath, P. (1990). Correspondence. J. Anal. Psychol., 35(2):219-221.

(1990). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 35(2):219-221


Polly Young-Eisendrath

I Am writing in response to the recent review of The Book of the Self (Young-Eisendrath and Hall, 1987, New York University Press) that appeared in your Journal. I was very disappointed in the parochialism of Dr James Atkinson, whose ‘overall response’ to this broad array of essays on subjectivity was bewilderment with some of the papers almost incomprehensible because of the complex and abstruse language or presentation of ideas (p. 199). Nonetheless, Dr Atkinson made some kind of comparative evaluation by stating that Dr Redfearn's and Dr Fordham's papers were exceptions to this criticism. Because this volume was intended specifically to open dialogue between Jungian and other theorists of subjectivity, I take this opportunity to refute Dr Atkinson's blanket dismissal and to offer a few samples from some the nineteen other essays in this volume.

Among those papers was a straightforward essay by psychoanalyst Donald Spence, who presented a narrative theory of the self entitled Turning happenings into meanings: the central role of the self, the following passage from which Jungians might find of interest, especially in relation to the work of Andrew Samuels:

Part of the frustration in defining the self and part of the failure to reach even an approximate model may stem from the belief that we can discover an underlying regularity under all the confusion. But we may be looking under the wrong lamp post. If the self is in the business of emphasizing sense over reference and if it relies primarily on narrative modes of thought, then, almost by definition, it cannot be reduced to a standard schema or represent one out of many possible templates (p. 147). Contrast this statement with one made by research psychologist Jane Loevinger in her paper, The concept of self or ego when she writes,

… while vividly aware of more or less contradiction and conflict in each of us, I still need a concept of ego or self to account for the stability that is to me the foremost fact about personality … I may have twelve selves at war with one another, but if I do, I will wake tomorrow with the same twelve selves engaged in the same war (p. 92). These two psychological essays are among several that dispute the necessity of developing a theory of self.


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