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Eckardt, M.H. (1961). Alienation and the Secret Self: Some Therapeutic Considerations. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):219-226.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):219-226

Alienation and the Secret Self: Some Therapeutic Considerations

Marianne H. Eckardt, M.D.

I sat Down To write this paper long after having established the title. I looked at the title and didn't quite like it. It was the word “alienation” that seemed alien, not quite mine. It had too much the sound of classification, of describing a pathology. It occurred to me that a title like “The Absurd World and the Secret Self” would have been more appropriate. I wished to indicate that it may not be absurd to think of the world as absurd, that we are dealing here with an existential problem and not only with what has been called a neurotic problem. It is a problem of our time and I agree that we, as therapists, are being called upon for help.

I have no objections to the word “alienation” apart from these inflections. It describes well the core problem, which is not that the person is alien to the world, but that the world seems alien to the person. Our source material describing the world of the alienated is particularly rich. We have, of course, the material presented by our patients, although this, as I will show, has to be gathered with a special awareness of their mode of presentation. We also have a particularly rich literature which gives us glimpses of the world of the detached from inside out, a literature which, I feel, tells us more about the detached than any psychiatric textbook ever will. The Stranger by Albert Camus, The Immoralist by Adré Gide, Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky, and The Trial and The Castle by Franz Kafka are just a few of the outstanding examples.

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