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|Imitatio Christi and Violence to the Self: Winnicott’s True/False Self and Possible Health Risks of (Mis)Reading Paul
Heath J. Imitatio Christi and Violence to the Self: Winnicott’s True/False Self and Possible Health Risks of (Mis)Reading Paul,Journal of Disability and Religion 27 2
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|New Testament teaching on imitatio Christi has often been exegeted in ways that sound like a programme of violence to the self, particularly when focused on Christ’s crucifixion or kenosis. This essay explores the concept of ‘violence to the self’ and problematizes the role that pain plays in its definition. As an example of contemporary interpretation of ‘violence to the self’, I take the case of the ‘false self’ as defined by Winnicott (1960). Some psychiatrists observe a link between false self-behavior and religious commitment. This essay considers how Paul’s letters could encourage this kind of ‘violence to the self’. Often Paul’s vocabulary and concepts are similar to those in the psychoanalytic discussion. I argue that a fundamental difference, which prevents Paul from developing or suffering from a ‘false self’, lies in his sense of vocation. In a close study of 1 Cor 9-11, the essay argues that Paul’s ‘I’ is constituted both by the task laid upon him, and his awareness of his response to that task, through which his relationship to the Corinthians is also constructed. A coda takes a similar approach to Gal 2:19-20, which has been prominent in recent discussion of Pauline theology, anthropology, and exegesis. © 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.