Where Is the “Me”?

There is only one core issue for all psychology. Where is the “me”? Where does the “me” begin? Where does the “me” stop? Where does the “other” begin? So observed the late psychologist James Hillman.

This question is fundamental not just for individuals but for the societies they compose. We see lines being drawn every day—between self and other, us and them—in fields as disparate as politics, religion, science, art, music, language, ethics, law, and entertainment. Whether it’s fierce disagreement over building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, recognizing and accommodating transgender people, or the appropriateness of “edgy” humor or “boundary pushing” fashions, we continuously grapple with where to set limits.

What’s considered right or wrong, moral or immoral, understandable or outrageous isn’t defined as much by external authorities as by each one of us based on our personal sense of me/not me. The extent to which that line is fixed or permeable offers a fascinating vantage point on individual differences, as well as differences between contending groups and schools of thought.

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