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January 1966

Left, Right, and Identity

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse, NY. Dr. Hirsch is now at the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1966;14(1):84-88. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1966.01730070086011

GREENACRE1 perceptively suggested that "only young children, philosophers, artists, and certain sick individuals concern themselves constantly with questions of their own identity." The last group, in seeking to come to terms with their anxiety, may appraise their actual identity as worthless and totally repudiate it. They may then try to substitute for it a delusional identity which asserts, through idiosyncratic symbolism, their right to be whomever they choose to be.

But there are other, less totalistic ways to resolve the intolerable confusion. Here we shall be concerned with that form of psychotic self-division, experienced in physical terms, represented by the polarities "left" and "right." This dichotomy, we shall propose, symbolizes in the language of primary process, the bisexual unconscious core fantasy which has never really been abandoned. The ego, under the threat of anxiety of psychotic proportions, may revert to this earlier relationship between sexuality, body image, and identity,

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