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Colman, W. (2008). On Being, Knowing and Having a Self. J. Anal. Psychol., 53(3):351-366.

(2008). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53(3):351-366

On Being, Knowing and Having a Self

Warren Colman

This paper takes the distinction between being conscious (‘core consciousness’) and knowing that one is conscious (self-reflexive consciousness) as a starting point for differentiating between three different aspects of the self: 1) the overall process of psychosomatic being which we share with all living creatures and which expresses itself through action (self as totality), 2) the conscious awareness of knowing the self that is a peculiarly human phenomenon consequent on the development of symbolic imagination (sense of self including numinous experiences of the self) and 3) having a self (or soul) as an essential attribute of being human that can only be achieved through being endowed with a self in the mind of others (self-identity leading to the self as the centre of the personality). Some clinical implications of these distinctions are considered including the role of interpretation as fostering integration through the provision of alternative self-images, the loss of self-reflexive consciousness in states of overwhelming affect and the attack on the spontaneous psychosomatic being of the self in states of self-hatred and self-division.

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