This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of psychological space. This space has turned out to be so rich and important in explaining behaviour and in determining what it is like to be a particular person — her ‘subjectivity’ — that there has been a tendency in psychoanalysis to lose sight of the fact that we are animals in a real, physical world, equipped to deal with and to register what endangers us there and what helps us thrive. It is argued that any discussion of what it is to be a human ‘self’ or ‘subject’ must acknowledge four ideas that are central to psychoanalysis: (i) much mental functioning is unconscious, not necessarily through repression; (ii) memory takes different forms, which carry with them different degrees of conscious awareness; (iii) the degree of consciousness is often dictated by unconscious, defensive processes, summoned into play against pain and anxiety; and (iv) the past informs the present, often in ways of which we are unaware and over which we lack direct control. An overview of the chapters included in this volume is presented.
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