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The Difference between
Self-analysis and Introspection

By Jean Chiriac

Were one to look in Webster's dictionary, one would find that introspection is "a looking into one's own mind, feelings etc.; observation and analysis of oneself".

That does not look like a very clear definition: what is in fact that "looking into one's own mind"; what is self-analysis after all? We are told nothing in that respect and are therefore forced to resort to the explanations of an author experienced in psychoanalysis. "Introspection" - Roland Jaccard writes in his study on Freud's biography - "lies within a Latin tradition dealing with the clarification of the self through its very own, and originates in the famous conscience analysis represented by St. Augustin's beautiful spiritual autobiography".

Self-analysis belongs to the German tradition of revealing depths "thanks to a method based on conceptual reversals". Or, in a more plastic phrase: introspection gives one the opportunity to notice the shade surrounding the luminous area of conscience whereas self-analysis attempts at discovering the nocturnal side of apparently diurnal semblance.

An even more concise image: following the model of ethical-moral analysis, introspection is aware of opposing thoughts and feelings beyond diurnal conscience; in its psychoanalytical sense, self-analysis is the promise of a revelation of the psychic unconscious, that is of the mental structure that reflection cannot approach directly.

Psychic unconscious that Freud essentially contributed to represents the headquarters of the repressed and lies therefore beyond the reach of direct investigation. Access to the unconscious can be gained through psychoanalytical methods on investigation...(1)

The model of any self-analysis is undoubtedly Freud's own, commencing around the mid-1890s and increased starting with 1897…(2)

Before going to the details of self-analysis techniques, we should first mention that this cannot be carried out thoroughly without some external contribution.

This is what Freud used to say to that respect (1897): "Self-analysis is truly impossible. I can not analyze myself unless I have the support of what I find on the outside (as if I were another). Had it been otherwise, no disease would have been there".

1. See our section on this issue - click
2. About Freud's self-analysis you may find more by reading our paper on this issue - click


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