Language of self-definition in the disorders of identity

G. Castellini

Psychiatric Unit, Department of Neuroscience; Sexual Medicine and Andrology Unit, Department of Experimental, Clinical and Biomedical Sciences; Florence University School of Medicine, Italy

The present paper takes into consideration the centrality of language for body definition and its relationship with the process of identity construction. Moving from the psychiatric, socio-linguistic and phenomenological perspectives, I focus on the role of the awareness and experience of one’s own body as the original anchors of the developing sense of self. Indeed, two paradigmatic examples are provided as particular clinical conditions to highlight the role of language on the body in shaping one’s identity: the so-called eating and feeding disorders and gender dysphoria. I consider them as two examples of psychopathology of post-modernity, and in some ways as two disorders of self-identity, in which language changes and innovations mirror the fluidity of cultural transformations and their impact on the body. Taking a Sartrean perspective, we might view these disorders as manifestations of a disturbance of lived corporeality, more specifically the predominance of one dimension of embodiment, namely the ‘lived-body-for-others’. Indeed, in both conditions the external reality of the body and the inner subjective perception do not match, preventing a harmonious relationship between the internal representation of the body and the body itself, which results in a consequent feeling of estrangement within oneself.

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