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Schafer, R. (1973). Concepts of Self and Identity and the Experience of Separation-Individuation in Adolescence. Psychoanal Q., 42:42-59.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:42-59

Concepts of Self and Identity and the Experience of Separation-Individuation in Adolescence

Roy Schafer, Ph.D.

SUMMARY

The terms self and identity are quite ambiguous owing to their having been used variously by different authors. Nevertheless, these two terms now play a large role in general theoretical discussions of object relations and self-representations, and in specific discussions of separation-individuation. In these discussions, rather than their being viewed as types of representations, self and identity are commonly treated as motivational-structural entities on the order of 'the ego', in which regard they suffer the same reification as all structural concepts. Thus, self and identity have been spoken of as though they are spaces, places, substances, agencies, independent minds, forces, and so forth.

In connection with separation-individuation during adolescence—what Freud called detachment from parental authority—and with the help of a clinical example, it is argued that adolescents think about self and identity, and the emotions and relationships they imply, in infantile concretistic, substantialized, or primary process forms. To some extent under the heading of self or identity, psychoanalysts have imported archaic experiential reports into their general theory to the detriment of not only their explanatory propositions but their descriptive or phenomenological endeavors as well. On the basis of recent psychoanalytic enthusiasm for self and identity concepts, it is

contended that more and more the particular natural science model of traditional psychoanalytic theorizing seems to be inadequate to deal with contemporary theoretical and empirical concerns; other models are beginning to be developed in its stead. The current usage of self and identity concepts marks a transitional phase in the development of psychoanalytic conceptualization.

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