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Unformulated Experience by Donnel B. Stern

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8 The Problem of the Private Self

Unformulated Experience, the Interpersonal Field, and Multiplicity

As Harry Stack Sullivan was the first to see, the smallest meaningful unit of human experience is not the individual human being, but the interpersonal field. In arguing to reject the traditional notion of a unitary, interior, unique self, Sullivan portrayed the psychic life of the individual as a collection of what today we might very well call multiple and discontinuous selves or states of self. A number of today's theorists of the multiple self (e.g., Mitchell, 1991, 1993; Bromberg, 1993, 1994, 1996a, b) acknowledge Sullivan's work as an important inspiration. Even among those multiple-self theorists who do not embed their ideas in the interpersonal ...

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