CULTURE, PSYCHOPATHOLOGY, AND THE DIALOGICAL SELF

 

'Self' is a theoretical construct but it is also a concept which is distributed in ordinary language. There it highlights the fact that a person is both a source of action and unique focus of experience (e.g. 'I', 'myself' in English), and an object of the socially structured experience of other people, or reflexively of one's own ('me' in English). These aspects of ordinary language self resources need not to be thought of as representations of hidden psychological realities, which stand apart from the rest of the world, but instead as pragmatic resources which a culture provides for one to manage participation in social activities. The contributions to this symposium see self as situated in interactions, practices and culture in general and investigate contingencies between self, interaction and culture as it is embodied in narratives. Both aspects of what it means to be a person - the agentive and objective ones - can go awry in psychopathologies. A person may for instance come to feel that her ordinary actions, speech and thoughts are not her own, and vest their agency in others; in psychiatry these will count as 'passivity experiences', 'verbal hallucinations' and 'inserted thoughts' respectively and are explained as dysfunctions of self. Psychiatry and clinical psychology both postulate cognitive mechanisms which maintain boundaries between 'self' and the 'world' and break down in, for instance, psychoses and dissociative disorders, and assume that these mechanisms are natural and transcend culture. Dialogical and situated conceptions of self do not rely on this assumption and instead investigate how people mainain themselves as persons, or fail to do so, often using very similar resources in both cases, and how the experience of boundaries between self and the rest of the world may become inter-subjectively dislocated. All the contributions to the symposium are relevant to these themes. Ole Dreier illustrates how diverse resources of personal self-understandings are used in therapy; Louis Sass discusses the dialogical structure of the delusional world of Daniel Paul Schreber, the famous paranoid schizophrenic patient; Rae Story investigates the ontological divisions in and dialogical structure of the creative life world of William Blake; Hanne Haavind explores the dialogical self approach in boys with oppositional defiant behavior; and finally Ivan Leudar reports on his investigations of pragmatics of auditory/verbal hallucinations and the use of cultural resources to make them comprehensible in situ.

 

Ivan Leudar, University of Manchester, UK
Voices and self in history

 

Ole Dreier, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Troubles and self-understandings across places

 

Rae Story, University of Manchester, UK
William Blake: Vision, self and contr
aries

 

Hanne Haavind, University of Oslo, Norway
Searching for the dialogical selves of young boys with defiant behavior

 

Louis Sass, Rutgers University, USA
Nerves and rays: Dialogical psychology and the Schreber case