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The origin of the word “person” in a number of European languages goes back to the Latin persona, supposedly derived from an Etrusquan root phersu meaning masked characters in a theatre play. Throughout its long history, the term has been applied to various facets of what today is referred to as “personhood,” denoting an individual with specific capacities or the social status granted to him or her because of those capacities. Just like text, the word “person” belongs to those basic concepts which are commonly used in an indeterminate sense and whose definition is still heavily debated.A quotation from Georges Lantéri-Laura helps us finding a way out of this semantic labyrinth, focusing on the aspect most relevant to the present topic. Lantéri-Laura stresses the “personal,” individual character of each human being. For him, the subjective being of each individual may only be conceived as having a singular, individual character: “Subjectivity consists in being distinct from others; it is personal inasmuch as it reveals an individual history that is at the root of its human action: subjectivity becomes a singular subjectivity”. It is that subjectivity that is simultaneously the vehicle and the object of the creative process.Paul Ricoeur also sees narrative identity as being created through a dynamic mediation between the two poles of personal identity, the pole of “idem” identity (Engl. “sameness,” Fr. mêmeté), understood as a set of innate or acquired attitudes and capacities that enables a spatio-temporal coherence, and the pole of “ipse” identity (Engl. “selfhood,” Fr. “ipséité”) , understood as the most concrete and particular core of a subject that enables initiation of new things. Without both types of identity there is no self. Historical time becomes human time “to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, and narrative attains its full significance when it becomes a condition of temporal existence.” These narratives, unique to each patient, need to be taken into account in the analysis of an individual’s subjective experience, as they are key for a person-centered integrative diagnosis (PID).
Special Section: Conceptual Bases of Psychiatry for the Person