Mick Cooper
University of Brighton, School of Applied Social Sciences, UK

E-mail:m.b.cooper@brighton.ac.uk

 

FROM I-THOU TO I-I:
EXTRAPOLATING BUBER'S INTERPERSONAL ATTITUDES TO THE CLIENT'S INTRAPERSONAL WORLD

 

Hermans' polyphonic model of the self proposes that dialogical relationships can be established between multiple I-positions (e.g. Hermans, 2001). There have been few attempts, however, to explicitly characterize the forms that these intrapersonal relationships may take. Drawing on Buber's (1958) distinction between the 'I-Thou' and 'I-It' attitude, it is proposed that intrapersonal relationships can take one of two forms: an 'I-I' form, in which one I-position encounters and confirms another I-position in its uniqueness and wholeness; and an 'I-Me' form, in which one I-position experiences another I-position in a detached and objectifying way. It is argued that this I-Me form of intrapersonal relating is associated with psychological distress for a number of reasons, most notably because an individual who objectifies and subjugates a certain I-position can not reconnect with more central I-positions when dominance reversal (Hermans, 2001) takes place. On this basis, it is suggested that a key role of the therapeutic process is to help clients become more able to experience moments of I-I intrapersonal encounter, and it is argued that this requires the therapist to both confirm the client as a whole, and in terms of each of his or her different voices.

 

Hermans, H. J. M. (2001a). The dialogical self: towards a theory of personal and cultural positioning. Culture and Psychology, 7(3), 243-281. Buber, M. (1958) I and Thou (2nd ed., R. G. Smith, Trans.). T&T Clark Ltd.: Edinburgh. (Originally published in 1923).