The Empty Self

Definition of the “Empty Self”: “…By this I mean that our terrain has shaped a self that experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning. It experiences these social absences and their consequences “interiorly” as a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger….
…It is a self that seeks the experience of being continually filled up by consuming goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathic therapists in an attempt to combat the growing alienation and fragmentation of its era…” page 600
“…We are witnessing an important shift in the content of the bounded, masterful self of the 20th century, a shift from a sexually restricted to an empty self. At the same time there has been a shift from a savings to a debtor economy. The dual shift has not been a coincidence. It is a consequence of how the modern nation state must currently regulate its economy and control its populace: not through direct physical coercion, but rather through the construction of the empty self and the manipulation of its needs to consume and ingest. Three beneficiaries of this narcissistic dynamic are the modem state, the advertising industry, and the self-improvement industries (including psychotherapy). All three perpetuate the ideology of the empty self, and all three profit from it….” page 608

Found in:

Cushman, Philip (1990) Why the Self is Empty: Toward a Historically Situated Psychology. California School of Professional Psychology. Berkeley/Alameda


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