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'I-I' and 'I-me': Transposing Buber's interpersonal attitudes to the intrapersonal plane

Cooper, Mick (2003) 'I-I' and 'I-me': Transposing Buber's interpersonal attitudes to the intrapersonal plane. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 16 (2). pp. 131-153. ISSN 1072-0537

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Abstract

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.