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Schecter, D.E. (1961). Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):128-130.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):128-130


David E. Schecter, M.D.

On the day preceding the symposium on which this volume is based I received a gift of a book called, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.1 When I opened the book the first story my eyes fell upon, the “Calling Card,” seemed to capture exquisitely the spirit of Schachtel's “alienated concept of identity”:

Keichu, the great Zen teacher of the Meiji era, was the head of Tofuku, a cathedral in Kyoto. One day the governor of Kyoto called upon him for the first time.

His attendant presented the card of the governor, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.

“I have no business with such a fellow,” said Keichu to his attendant. “Tell him to get out of here.”

The attendant carried the card back with apologies. “That was my error,” said the governor, and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor of Kyoto. “Ask your teacher again.”

“Oh, is that Kitagaki?” exclaimed the teacher when he saw the card. “I want to see that fellow.”

Schachtel's lucid description of alienated concepts of identity poses a real challenge to the understanding of these phenomena in the light of psychoanalytic theory. We have witnessed in recent years a theoretical expansion of Freud's basic framework in order to account for the very phenomena which Schachtel graphically brings to our attention.

Much of what Schachtel refers to as “the structure of the sense of identity” may be subsumed in the psychoanalytic concepts of “identification” and “ego identity.

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