The self as an object

In a counseling or therapy setting, we are encouraged to objectify the self, or to create a self and then talk about it. Even in casual conversation, if someone asks you how you’re doing, you are asked to objectify yourself–to fabricate a self to talk about. When you say “I’m fine” or “I’m not fine,” who is the I? We project an I and then assess its wellbeing. How is this I feeling today? A person might feel just fine, but when asked how she is doing, she might not feel so fine anymore. We are encouraged to almost constantly observe this objectified self. This process might be called introspection or self-reflection–and it is highly valued in environments that demand that people (or “personnel”) constantly improve or innovate or attain some goal. If we’re asked to engage in self-reflection, or even write up a self-reflection as part of a job, we create some concept of a self and then describe it.

It’s like being a tourist and observing architecture. Some people might actually live or work in those interesting buildings, but as a tourist we stand outside and observe the building, appreciating its architectural features. In this way, we stand outside our own moment-to-moment experience and describe some objectified self. The lived experience only occurs in the here and how, while the objectified self lives in some conceptual world, and it has a kind of history–and probably a future as well. If I write an autobiography or just talk about my past, I am talking about this object. There is a subject describing an object.

Do you think of yourself as a successful person, a failure, a person who wasted his potential? You are thinking about an object that has no existence apart from your own thoughts.

The objectified self is a memory or a projection into the future; it doesn’t live in the here and now. There is no subject/object split in the moment-to-moment experience. In this case, the past and future don’t mean anything.

This is what Jean Klein talks about.

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