"The Life of the Self: toward a new Psychology"
by Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. (New York: Touchstone Books, 1976)


"In much of my work I have expressed ideas that, from the standpoint of prevailing views in psychoanalysis, could be said to be heretical. But there comes a moment when we can no longer speak of heresy, when both dogma and opposition to it are dwarfed by the larger demands of a major historical turning point. At such a moment it is no less arrogant to insist upon one's paricular heresy than upon the eternal truth of one's paricular dogma. One does better to build and connect, to weave the threads of heresy into a pattern that reaches back to the spirit behind the dogma and forward to the consciousness struggling to take shape." -- p. 13

"... image, like all expressions of the psyche, is subject to the principle of Heraclitus: [the same] you cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are constantly flowing in." Those "waters" include all currents that influence the mind seeking to remember the dream. In that sense one can never precisely "interpret" a dream or any other constellation of images; one can merely get in touch with their flow. That formative principle, of getting in touch with the flow" of structure and meaning, can be utilized not only in direct psychological observation but in examining the contesting claims -- symbolic forms -- of competing schools of psychological thought. it is the means by which one can move beyond Freudian and neo-Freudian entrenchments and evolve desperately needed new concepts, even as one reconnects with the vitality of the master." pp. 15-16

"... I seek the beginnings of a theoretical structure that is sufficiently integrated to provide a base to build from, and sufficiently open-ended for that further construction to occur." p. 18

"... man lives not merely in a broader reality -- he lives, so to speak, in a new dimension of reality. [Note: see John Dewey] p. 19

"A second meaning of death has to do with a psychological equivalent -- the idea of "death in life," of loss of vitality of feeling, or what I speak of as psychic numbing. This is what Kurt Vonnegut has in mind when he associates much of the trouble in the world with that fact that too many people in high places are "stone cold dead." Death becomes a model for life, life an immitation of death. Here death is a negative symbol for stasis, severed connection, disintegration." p. 20

"A third aspect of death is perhaps the most neglected: death as a formative or constitutive symbol, an element of creativitiy and renewal. Death then symbolizes the human capacity to confront in some waythe most fearful aspects of experience and emerge with deepened sensibility and extended vitality and reach. This is what Heinrich Boll had in mind when he said

Chapter 1
The Paradigm in Psychological Science

Chapter 2
On Death and Continuity

Chapter 3
The Basic Pscychological Process: From Analysis to Formation

Chapter 4
History and Imagination

Chapter 5
Survivor as Creator

"In groping toward an understanding of the survivor's struggle for form, one turns naturally to the experience of the artist, and to what I shall broadly term the literature of survival. The artist is a prophet of forms. ..." p. 113

     "Exactly what mankind -- and Herzog -- may have learned remains ambiguous. But whatever it is the survivor "knows," that knowledge is bound up with the dialectic between life and death, with "dying" and being "reborn." p. 113

"The fifth pattern is fundamental to all survivor psychology, and encompasses the other four. This is the struggle towarard inner form or formulation, the quest for significance in one's death encounter and remaining life experience. ... rapid social change makes survivors of us all." p. 115

"... The hard-won "knowledge" of death that both defines and plagues the experience of survival tends to be fragmentary at best and half articulate. Yet that knowledge is precious in the extreme. It takes shape from the struggle to grasp the death encounter and render it significant. Only by coming to such knowledge can the survivor cease to be immobilized by the death imprint, death guilt, and psychic numbing. That is, in struggling to reorder his or her own experience, the survivor can conribute to the general historical reordering so widely craved. And these psychological emanations — from past holocausts and their survivors, from anticipated holocausts and their imagined survivors — reach everyone. The painful wisdom of the survivor can, at least potentially, become universal wisdom." p. 115

     "What I am suggesting is that to "touch death" and then rejoin the living can be a source of insight and power. This is true not only for those exposed to holocaust, or the the death of a parent or lover or friend, but also for those who have permitted themselves to experience fully the "end of an era." personal or historical." p. 115

"Camus saw the "task" of his generation — or what we would call his survivor mission — that of "keeping the world from destroying itself." ... and of his and his generation's struggle to construct "an art of living in times of catastrophe in order to be reborn by fighting openly against the death instinct at work in our history."

Chapter 6
Forms of Revitalization

Chapter 7
Advocacy: The Person in the Paradigm

"In looking at the professions one does well to hold to the old religious distinction between the ministerial and the prophetic. ... There are ministerial and prophetic elements in both the healing professions and the sciences." p. 151