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.
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