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Horner, A.J. (1994). The Project. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(3):265-266.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(3):265-266

Visions of the Self

The Project

Althea J. Horner, Ph.D.

Beginning with the idea of a series entitled “Visions of the Self,” a number of possibilities came to mind. As with any signifier, its meaning was not universally shared. Instead, separate and differing associations were evoked—some intellectual and some experiential, some theoretical and some personal.

The very word self has come to prominence in theoretical psychoanalysis only in the past thirty years or so. Before that, as a concept it was primarily claimed by humanistic and existential thinkers—psychologists as well as philosophers. The experiential vision of self, or “sense of self,” has been addressed by Bonime (1989) and by Bromberg (1993) as a major factor in resistance to change in psychoanalytic treatment. This “sense of self,” which can be shattered by trauma, is not the same as the cognitive structure referred to as the self-representation that evolves through a sequence of developmental stages in the earliest years of life. How does one affect the other? How does our vision of self account for clinical differences between early developmental failure of later emotional trauma? Or does it?

And how do Kleinians, Sullivanians, Horneyans, Kohutians, Object Relations theorists, Jungians, or Poststructuralists conceive of a Vision of the Self? (Was self merely a reflexive pronoun for Freud?) Is there a common thread? Is there one or are there several organizing principles that may lead eventually to a system for classifying Visions of the Self?

As with any journey of discovery, it is best to allow for some degree of ambiguity, lest preformed notions rather than the data determine the outcome. It is with some excitement that we begin our series with the first paper by Richard Chessick. In The Dead Self, Chessick, from an experiential perspective, poetically conveys the annihilating impact on the sense of self inflicted by life-threatening illness. And he illustrates the role of the structural self-representation, the nuclear self laid down in early development, in the recovery process.

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