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Gammelgaard, J. (2003). Ego, self and otherness. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 26(2):96-108.

(2003). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 26(2):96-108

Ego, self and otherness

Judy Gammelgaard, Dr. Phil.

The concept of self has been introduced as a core concept in several contemporary psychoanalytical theories. This study undertakes a critical examination of the historical and theoretical presuppositions of the concept of self and its corollary, the object. The proposed thesis is that the concept of self on a theoretical level has grown out of ego-psychology and the ambition is to bring consistency into the ambiguous concept of the ego left by Freud. On a clinical level, the concept of self is seen as an attempt to adjust psychoanalytical theory and technique to what, broadly speaking, we call non-neurotic patients. While the concept of self on a theoretical level dates back to Hartmann, it was left to those following the tradition of ego-psychology to work out the implications for our understanding of the pathology of the self and its proper treatment. The work of Heinz Kohut is seen as an exponent for those analysts who have been wrestling with the task of adjusting psychoanalytical theory and technique to our understanding and treatment of non-neurotic patients. A re-reading of the Freudian concept of the ego allows the author to present an alternative to ego-psychology and self psychology. While the concept of the self implies a re-centred theory of subjectivity, the author points to the de-centeredness of classical psychoanalytical thinking. Freud did not find an independent concept of the self necessary. On the contrary, psychoanalytical theory rejected the idea of the psyche as a complete and unified entity. Defining the ego as a representative of the divided psyche encompassing the other, the author suggests that incorporating contributions from French psychoanalytical thinking and the ideas of Winnicott places the self as a concept in accordance with classical psychoanalytical thinking.

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