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Wenkart, A. (1961). Regaining Identity through Relatedness. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):227-233.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):227-233

Regaining Identity through Relatedness

Antonia Wenkart, M.D.

Our Symposium on “Alienation and the Search for Identity” encompasses not only the whole range of mental illness, but the all-pervasive tragedy of man, especially present-day man. “Each turbid turn of the world,” cries Rilke, “has such disinherited children”1—such alienated people who have lost their identity. I should like to point the way the therapist can help the patient regain his lost identity.

By identity I mean the self in the process of living and acting, the natural fruition of growth, not growth itself or the essence or the real self. What is self? How is self experienced? Buber asks poetically, “What is it when I say I?” Herbert Read2 says, “one's immediate sense of oneself stems from self-identity.” Erikson3 believes that “ego identity in its subjective aspects is awareness that there is a sameness and continuity to the ego's synthesizing methods and that these methods are effective in safeguarding the sameness and continuity of one's meaning for others.” The self and identity affect each other.

The inner experience of I is built up and maintained on the basis of sameness within and without the individual. Throughout life there persists a feeling of continuity. It is my joy, my pain, because it always refers to the same I who went through it.

Despite the variety and disparity of experience, the I maintains its coherence, permanence, and stability. The inner experience of being set off as an individual identity, over against others, is predicated on the feeling of difference within and without, as contrasted with the self's perception of others.

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