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Spero, M.H. (1986). Aspects of Identity Development Among Nouveaux Religious Patients. Psychoanal. St. Child, 41:379-416.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 41:379-416

Aspects of Identity Development Among Nouveaux Religious Patients

Moshe Halevi Spero, M.S.


The sense of absence of past is one aspect of the complex phenomenology and dynamics of religious identity development,

serving both as a motive and a normative but potentially complicating aspect of religious change. The sense of absence of past highlights the need during identity change to transform time and memory patterns as these impact upon transformations in object relationships and interests. This will allow restoration of the sense of continuity initially broken as an outgrowth of change in religiosity and the radical reevaluation of former loyalties, interests, and identifications. These concepts were illustrated with three Jewish nouveaux religionists who were analytic patients, where the role of absence of past and the psychodynamic function of religious legend, ritual, and sociotemporal patterns were readily apparent. Even when psychological disorder is not present, the consolidation of an optimally functioning religious identity requires an apprenticeship with new time perspectives and experimentation with new idealizations—including the ability to oscillate between former and present self-perceptions, the ability to align past and present psychic structures which have become modified in the course of new identifications, and adequate time to synthesize inner needs and their parallel expression in both the mundane and religious realities.

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