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The dialetcial self in Buddhism and relational psychoanalysis

24 July 1999


In this dissertation a comparison is made between the view of the self offered by Buddhist psychology and relational psychoanalysis. In both of these traditions the self has three pairs of characteristics that are in dialectical relationship with one another, (a) impermanence and form, (b) suffering and liberation, and (c) non-substantiality and distinctiveness. Using the distinctions suggested by William James, the subjective self is proposed to have characteristics of one of each of these three pairs of the Buddhist laksanas: of impermanence, suffering, and non-substantiality. On the other hand James's concept of the objective self has the characteristics of form, liberation, and distinctiveness. From a psychoanalytic perspective the objective self is defined as the objective, self reflective self-other schemas construed about ourselves and our relations with others, where as the subjective self is defined as pure experience without the narrative, meaning making, or self reflective component. In the proposed clinical model psychopathology occurs if there is clinging, attachment, or avoidance of either the subjective or objective aspects of self (or the above mentioned dialectical characteristics of impermanence and form, suffering and liberation, and non-substantiality and distinction). Psychopathology is also conceived as conflict between an individual's restrictive objective self schema and their ongoing subjective experience. A theory of psychopathology and psychoanalytically based treatment is presented along with a clinical example.


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