The Self and Symbolic Death

The Self and Symbolic Death—one view of the self has to do with what William James termed, subjective self-identity , previously referred to, in part, as an “untethered self.” James’ version of subjective identity provides a person’s internal and visceral (“gut level”) view of self as a unique, but also as an anchored person, associated with significant others in a life world, but also as standing out as an exclusive person sui generis —or in and of one’s self.

 

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Importantly, as subjective selves, we create a cycle of self-conception to which we habitually refer—so that our particular definitions of our unique being become apparently objective, or real in our own eyes and the imagined eyes of others.

 

When this subjective self-identity becomes threatened, challenged, or even contradicted by hostile data regarding who we are in real-life situations, we can experience the virtual reality of self-death—which begins with a negation of our perceived image (owing to various circumstances), and replaced by a different version that answers the question, “Who am I?”

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