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Yerushalmi, H. (2001). Self-States and Personal Growth in Analysis. Contemp. Psychoanal., 37(3):471-488.

(2001). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 37(3):471-488

Self-States and Personal Growth in Analysis

Hanoch Yerushalmi, Ph.D.

Until Recently, the self has been referred to in psychoanalytic literature as a supraordinate and total comprehensive entity. It has been viewed as the center of initiative, the embodiment of self-conscious subjectivity, and the core of being (Cushman, 1994; Holland, 1981; Kohut, 1977; Noy, 1979; Rangell, 1985). Such a perspective has led to the understanding that personal growth involves increased self-recognition, identification of self-needs, self-acceptance, and coming to terms with one's core sense of self. These dimensions have been seen as integral to the makeup of the optimal individual, one who has an integrated psychic structure and is perceived by others to be relatively stable and consistent (Kernberg, 1984). In accordance with this perspective, the objectives of psychoanalysis have been to expand self-awareness and self-knowledge, and to strive for a stable and integrative sense of self. This is to be achieved through the exploration of patients' fantasies, wishes, memories, and interpersonal encounters, particularly those manifested in the transference-countertransference framework. I would like to point out, however, that there appear to be two modifications in the theory that have implications for this traditional and widely consensual concept of personal growth.

The first modification in the theory is a shift in psychoanalytic perceptions regarding the unity of the self. Increasingly, the self has come to be seen as decentralized and as consisting of a number of relatively discrete psychic networks. This philosophical approach has grown out of serious deliberation about the nature and attributes of interpersonal reality, the various means by which it is perceived and processed, and the ways in which it influences mental processes. Initially, fundamental questions were raised about the existence of any reality beyond belief. It was suggested, in this context, that the individual's perceptions of relational reality are no more than beliefs shared by a given community about the world they share.

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