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Gilligan, C. (2004). Recovering Psyche: Reflections on Life-History and History. Ann. Psychoanal., 32:131-147.

(2004). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 32:131-147

Recovering Psyche: Reflections on Life-History and History

Carol Gilligan

I have always been drawn more to psychoanalysis than to academic psychology. Coming to graduate school in clinical psychology after spending my undergraduate years studying literature, I dealt with my sense of culture shock by reading Freud as well as Chekhov and Ibsen to retrieve a more nuanced and complex rendering of human experience than I found in the articles we were assigned from the journals in which we were expected to publish our research. After finishing my degree, I fled. I spent my days with my children, as part of an international community of mothers living in married student housing; I joined a modern dance group at a performing arts center in Cleveland's African-American community where I also did voter registration. I was living in worlds remote from the world of academic psychology. When we moved to Chicago for a year, I taught a section of the University of Chicago's famous Sociology 2 course, Introduction to the Modern Social Sciences, which reminded me why I had been drawn to the human sciences.

But my return more specifically to psychology was spurred by the opportunity to teach with Erik Erikson in his Harvard undergraduate course on the human life cycle. Erikson's way of seeing inspired me. His artistic sensibility combined a clinician's eye and ear with an acute awareness of the interplay between life-history and history. “You cannot take a life out of history,” he would say, and I carried this phrase with me, coming to see it in retrospect as one of the seeds of my subsequent work.

When I then taught with Lawrence Kohlberg in his course on moral and political choice and assisted his research, I was impressed by his insistence that, following the Holocaust, it was essential to talk about values in the human sciences.

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