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Kelman, H. (1961). Alienation: its Historical and Therapeutic Context. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):198-206.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):198-206

Alienation and Therapy

Alienation: its Historical and Therapeutic Context

Harold Kelman, M.D.

Alienation has a context embedded in its history. Its context determines its definition and that of its zeitgeist of which it is a manifestation. Its definition implies and explicitly points at from what there is alienation and thereby at current philosophies of human nature. Without such awarenesses, therapist and patient can have only an inadequate and inaccurate picture of what is helping and being helped. Some image that has individual, group, cosmic, and tempero-spatial dimensions is essential to contain and define the evolution of the process of alienation and the possible forms of its resolution.

The what from which there is alienation Horney called the “real self.”1 I would define it as a dynamic principle having the attributes of being spontaneous, of affirming and denying, of responding and containing organismal responses, which means being responsible, and of being phasic and flexible—i.e., of being palpitating. It also has the direction of “free, healthy development,”2 of growth with consequent “genuine integration and a sound sense of wholeness, oneness.”1 The process of moving away from the “real self” Horney called “Self-Idealization3 and what was being moved toward the “Idealized Image.”3 All that furthers and maintains self-idealization increases alienation and is at the same time an aspect of alienating, the process.

Science now recognizes the values of analogy for illuminating what has been hidden, while cautioning against being blinded into hasty generalizations.

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