on 22 November 2011
I would have loved to give this brilliant book a 5 stars review, but unfortunately, I couldn't.
The main reason for not doing it is the ambiguity and the confusing usage of the word self. If one is not versed with the jungian and the post jungian developmental terminology, this issue would not be apparent.
But let's start with the brilliant part. This is one of the first books that I've read to tackle the issue of the "as if" personality, brought by (in the infant developmental stages) traumatic relationships with the caregiver. Here, the infant (to which Hester Solomon uses the term self, based on the developmental idea of Fordham) develops relationships with internal object (archetypes) that are projected outside on external objects in order to save itself from catastrophic breakdowns from lack of true relationship with the caregiver. This "as if" personalities are extremely intelligent, can cope with life, but at some point in their life will experience a sense of void, an emptiness and a depletion of their energies.
The way Hester Solomon deals with and unites ideas from psychoanalysis and analytical psychology is very refreshing. I would not be surprised to see a unification of this two psychologies in the far future, a much desired unification after the painful split between Freud and Jung. Perhaps I am reaching, but who knows? I also loved the new emergent views of the psyche, something that Jean Knox has already done it in her spectacular book "Archetype, Attachment, Analysis".
And now, to the icky part, the confusing usage of the word self.
As Jung described the concept as the self, designating WHOLENESS, more and more post jungians (specially those into the developmental approach, including Jean Knox) are referring to the self as something similar to the ego, with it's fears, defence mechanisms and schisms.
I understand the need for developmental approach, but the self is now transformed into a pitiful, scared, shadow of what Jung once called the transcendental and irrepresentable.
I think this happened because, prior to the development of the ego (in an infant), no one knows who or what does the reaching towards the world (the deintegration part in Fordham's terms). Fordham argues towards a primary self (a primary wholeness) that does the deintegration and reintegration.
But here is the problem as you will see it in Hester Solomon's own words: "...the shadow has gone underground...taking with it the self's knowledge of its participation in what is deplorable in and to the self." (p.230)
Since she uses the "self" many occasions as to designate the whole person (infant), it is logical to conclude that this "self" she refers to is what Jung meant by wholeness.
First of all, this sounds like a ego tactics.
Second of all, this self that Hester Solomon is referring is not wholeness, since this underground (per Jung's definition) where the shadow is going is meant as the unconscious and hence part of the self or Self, part of wholeness. What the author is saying does not make sense. It seems as if this underground is outside of self (wholeness). It makes sense only if this self she refers to is not wholeness but the early developmental stage prior to the formation of the ego, sort of a primary ego or id in Freudian terms. A stage between wholeness and ego, between the first separation from wholeness and independence of the ego later in life. And if this is so, then this is an unfortunate use of the word "self".
At some point she even states: "the self reaching towards wholeness". As in the self is reaching towards the Self?
Here's a question I put to a lecturer at SAP in England: "How can wholeness feel threaten, since this threat is part of what totality is (in the sense that the threat is something brought about by the self-regulating system of the psyche and already part of wholeness)?". In view of the irrepresentability of what the Self is, even this question is limited, since this means I know something about what the Self is. Obviously this is a difficult question to answer. And to use the term "self" so often in so many confusing ways seems a bit too much.
I know it is painful to define what wholeness is, what totality is, what self is, but I urge the developmental group to clearly define their boundaries regarding jungian terminology, otherwise we run the risk (as Marie-Louise von Franz stated in "Alchemy") of "turning spirit into intellectual concept and losing its original and emotional quality".
A personal thought regarding initial wholeness: once individual traits appear (and this happens in utero), the initial wholeness is already broken. Individual traits imply unconscious one-sidedness and hence a primary ego so to speak. Hence we cannot speak of the self that does the deintegration and reintegration in an infant, but of something else, a precursor of the ego, with the Self compensating and creating defence mechanism for this primary ego, via the self-regulation systems. This primary ego is part of the Self and one might see this and name this as the self.
So the question is? Which Self In Transformation, the Self or the self?