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"I-I" AND "I-ME": TRANSPOSING BUBER's INTERPERSONAL ATTITUDES TO THE INTRAPERSONAL PLANE

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Hermans' polyphonic model of the self proposes that dialogical relationships can be established between multiple I-positions1 (e.g., Hermans, 2001a). 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. This article argues that this I-Me form of intrapersonal relating is associated with psychological distress, and that this is so for a number of reasons: Most notably, because an individual who objectifies and subjugates certain I-position cannot reconnect with more central I-positions when dominance reversal (Hermans, 2001a) 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 confirm the client both as a whole and in terms of each of his or her different voices.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Counselling Unit, Department of Educational Studies, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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