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Kunz, G. (2007). An Analysis of the Psyche Inspired by Emmanuel Levinas. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(4):617-638.
  

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(4):617-638

An Analysis of the Psyche Inspired by Emmanuel Levinas

George Kunz

Emmanuel Levinas, a somewhat abstract philosopher, offers an alternative analysis of the psyche, one that places the self not at its own center but in the Other. From a phenomenological rather than a psychoanalytic perspective, he describes how the self reveals itself as both egocentric and radically responsible for the Other person. For Levinas, the Other has priority over the ego. With this rather extravagant yet compelling insight we can describe psychopathology as the failure to recognize and act on this responsibility. Psychotherapy, then, is aimed at helping the self transcend self-interest and act responsibly. Simplicity, humility, and patience can be described as the styles of this radical responsibility, necessary for both good psychotherapist and good patient.

What is Human about the Human? Ethical Responsibility!

Each human is individually unique yet shares with others immanent vulnerability and miraculous resiliency. Easily torn apart but amazingly recoverable, the fundamental characteristic of the human is its paradoxical identity. The human condition is conflicted, as it is driven by self-interest and responsible for others, simultaneously for-itself and for-the-Other. The psyche seeks its identity filling its needs and yet is identified as the one called out of its fulfillment to serve. This ambiguity is the main source of its malady and its healing. It allows us to understand what makes pathology pathological and therapy therapeutic.

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