Authenticity & Alienation

In Jungian and psychoanalytic work there is a tension between authenticity and alienation and a lot of the work done in therapy is about leaving behind a state of alienation, acquired in a neglected or abused childhood.

What do we mean by these terms and how do these concepts figure in Jungian and psychoanalytic work? I'll try to throw some light on this.

Within Jungian and psychoanalytic theory, authenticity is often referred to as ego-syntonic or the true self and alienation / inauthenticity is often referred to as ego-dystonic or false self.

What is alienation and how can it be remedied?

Winnicott offers a theoretical approach to the false self. He describes a child who has a neglectful or abusive parent - a non-facilitating environment - resulting in the child spending a lot of their time monitoring the parent's mood and modifying themselves to fit in with the parent's mood. He argues that this leads to the child having a false or caretaker self, with the true self being consigned to a hidden place within the person.

A psychoanalytic example of alienating defence strategy is Freud’s concept of the defensive strategy is, identification with the aggressor. A girl, for example, is sexually abused and subsequently, as an adult, finds masochism erotic - in other words, she is refusing to mourn for the losses of childhood and prefers to see herself through the eyes of the abusive parent and later, through the eyes of the abusive partner. This is clearly ego-dystonic and is very unfortunate for her. In order to remedy this, she would need to, with great difficulty, have therapy or work on herself in some way, mourning for the terrible things which happened to her and potentially establishing a relationship of mutual respect with a partner, thereby becoming more ego-syntonic - more authentic.

What is an authentic person and how do we know when we are being authentic?

There is no reliable criteria of authenticity for us to have a touch stone of truth on what is not alienation. What is the real oak tree - with or without droughts, storms and bonsai gardeners? Is a human being authentic in being true to genetics - even with a genetic malfunction? Is syphilis authentic because it's natural? What is a good enough facilitating environment? How can we know whether we are being damaged by bad genetics, by our family or by a partner? Usually such things are difficult to spot.

No method is infallible, but by working on ourselves in therapy or by other means of personal development, to try to honestly get to know ourselves, we can increase the possibilities of becoming more authentic.

For further information or to book a session, please feel free to contact me at:

t. 01297 625006 m. 07989 000088

11 Wessiters, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2PW

Providing Counselling, Psycholology, Psychoanalysis, Jungian Analysis, Couple & Marriage Therapy and Supervision for people in and around:

Seaton, Axminster, Chard, Yarcombe, Dunkeswell, Cullompton, Payhembury, Honiton, Dalwood, FenitonWhimple, Exeter, Ottery St Mary, Kilmington, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Branscombe, Axmouth, Rousdon, Lyme Regis, Uplyme, Charmouth, Seatown Bridport, Beaminster, Tiverton, Ilminster, South Petherton, Taunton and Crewkerne.