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Michael, M.T. (2019). Self-insight. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(4):693-710.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(4):693-710

Interdisciplinary Studies


Michael T. Michael

Insight is an important notion in psychoanalysis, as it is regarded as the main mediator of psychic change in therapy. In this article I provide an account of a specific kind of insight, which I call self-insight. Self-insight is that which lies at the roots of what Bell and Leite (Bell, D., and A. Leite. 2016. “Experiential self-understanding.” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 97 (2): 305–332) describe as experiential self-understanding, a process of increasing articulate awareness of one’s psychic life. So conceived, self-insight has four key characteristics: (1) it is distinct from merely intellectual self-knowledge, (2) it arises directly out of first-person experience, (3) it encompasses a lived perspective, and (4) it often requires the overcoming of resistance. My account of self-insight makes use of the notion of construal, a mental state that is constitutive of emotion and plays an important role in motivation. Specifically, I propose that one gains self-insight when one becomes insightfully conscious of a previously unconscious construal, which involves construing one’s construal as the construal it is. This account of self-insight shows how it exhibits the key characteristics described above.

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