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Gordon, R. (1985). Big Self and Little Self: Some Reflections. J. Anal. Psychol., 30(3):261-271.

(1985). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 30(3):261-271

Big Self and Little Self: Some Reflections

Rosemary Gordon, Ph.D.

At The End of a conference on ‘The Self and Narcissism’, which I attended in Paris in 1979, several members of the Société Française de Psychologic Analytique (S.F.P.A.) asked me to join a workshop on the self in order to help them to reflect more deeply about it, and so shed some light on both theory and clinical practice. This paper is the outcome of those meetings and of some of the ideas that have emerged, thanks to the encounter between my own ideas and those of the other members of the group. It remains for the reader to decide if this cross-fertilisation has resulted in the birth of a viable and worthwhile progeny.

The Jungian concept of the self is of enormous ambiguity and complexity. And the fact that the word ‘self’. is part of every-day language, as well as part of the Freudian vocabulary, increases the difficulties still more.

In this paper I shall describe and discuss only my own reflections and interpretation of the meaning of the ‘self’. But to reassure and console myself for my lack of confidence and certitude, I shall refer to the philosopher Karl Popper, who affirms that a theory can never be accorded more than provisional acceptance, and that falsification, not verification, is the appropriate object of observational and experimental procedures of science (POPPER 5). Consequently, in order to ensure the permanent evolution of our knowledge, it is essential that we dispense with illusionary certainty and accept all scientific theory as only provisional.

Any study of the concept of the self demands that we recognise the distinction between conception and abstraction; that is, theory on the one hand, and on the other, descriptions of subjective experiences, that is, descriptions of sensations, perceptions, feelings, in other words of lived experience, of le vécu.

I

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