Playing Pygmalion: How People Create One Another

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Like Pygmalion with his Galatea, we create the characters of people in our lives. Although others appear to us to be just who they "are," there are complicated psychological processes, outside of our awareness, that lead us to experience people in ways that we ourselves construct. Psychoanalytic theory offers a wealth of understanding of how people unconsciously create what they both need and dread. But these processes are not well understood by most therapists. Too often, therapists join their patients in overlooking their own role in creating the relationships in their lives, such that it seems that patients were simply unfortunate to "have" an ungiving mother or to "find" an unloving spouse. Because processes of creation in relationships are largely unconscious, they are much harder to see. As a result, most theorists of relationships acknowledge that they exist, but offer little language or explication for how they unfold or manifest themselves. Playing Pygmalion is an effort to trace in psychological terms the subtle interplay by which people create each other.

About the Author:
Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at the Fielding Graduate University

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Editorial Reviews

The dramatic relational stories, rendered in this book's pages with compassion and wisdom by Josselson, demonstrate that we cannot help but create one another as we struggle with being bound inextricably together
— Jefferson A. Singer
Irvin D. Yalom
With astonishing lucidity and compassion, this insightful and engrossing book is a must-read for people who want to understand how people create their own reality in relationships. In clear, evocative prose, with carefully analyzed case studies, this book demonstrates the dynamic processes by which people construct one another. Therapists will see their patients differently after reading this book—and people will think differently about their own relationships.
Terri Apter
Ruthellen Josselson is able to see and articulate the minute mental moves by which we build our interpersonal world. No psychologist is better at describing how we come to know ourselves in interaction with others and the role we play in both finding and creating people around us. Whether we are considering a lover, a daughter, or a friend, we bring other people and ourselves to life within relationships. In Playing Pygmalion, Josselson extends her important work in identifying the unexpected dimensions of human relationships.
PsycCRITIQUES - Jefferson A. Singer
The dramatic relational stories, rendered in this book's pages with compassion and wisdom by Josselson, demonstrate that we cannot help but create one another as we struggle with being bound inextricably together
Annie G. Rogers
Playing Pygmalion is a lucid, timely, and engaging book about the play of unconscious processes in relationships, a book of great value to therapists and clients, and to anyone who is intrigued by the question of how the human mind invents the world of relationships in which we each take our place. Josselson illuminates how, in our original families and in our current relationships, impressions of others, and others' impressions of us, shape our emotional responses. As she clarifies the psychological processes at work in imagining one another, Josselson creates a window into some of the most puzzling and repetitive aspects of human relationships. She writes of truth in a new register, beyond the "accuracy" of this or that story about a person, event, or memory, to the emotional truths at stake in the way we invent and reinvent key relationships in our lives. In case after case Josselson shows us how people may be imagined as an answer to our deepest yearnings, or how they might become a cast-off of our own guilt or anxiety. To complicate matters, Josselson shows how their versions of us may harmonize with our own version of self, or not. As we construe and misconstrue one another in our most lasting, intimate relationships, we can compel someone in the present to live as a ghost of an unacknowledged past. Beyond a careful exploration of the complex, human process of constructing one another, this book challenges us to question deeply held illusions that can undermine love, and ignites a desire to understand one another more fully by seeing what illusions we've imposed, and what irreducible mystery in each human being remains.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765704887
  • Publisher: Aronson, Jason Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/18/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 166
  • Sales rank: 831,724
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D. is professor of psychology at The Fielding Graduate University and was formerly professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as at Harvard University. Recipient of the Henry A. Murray Award from the American Psychological Association and a Fulbright Fellowship, she is also a practicing psychotherapist. Her research interests focus on the use of narrative to understand people's life histories and she has authored several books on relationships and on women's identity. She has also co-edited the series The Narrative Study of Lives.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Foreword Chapter 2 Creating one another Chapter 3 Recreating the other in memory Chapter 4 You are what I can't bear in myself: Donna and Roberta Chapter 5 No feelings allowed on the stage: Mark and Joan Chapter 6 A daughter is a daughter: Mary and Lavinia Chapter 7 Secure Knots: Tom and Kathy Chapter 8 Pygmalion and Galatea Chapter 9 References

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