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Jordan, J. V., Kaplan, A. G., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I. P. and Surrey, J. L. (1991). Women's growth in connection. Writings from the Stone Center. New York: Guilford Press.

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Mac Freeman, Ph.D.

Mac Freeman is Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


In the Introduction to their 1991 book, Women's Growth in Connection, Writings from the Stone Centre, the five women authors, while acknowledging that they cannot speak for all women, pose this fundamental challenge:

We know that the shift we are suggesting from a psychology of "The Self to one emphasizing relationships does not apply to women's psychology only. It points to the need for a rethinking of our study of all people. . . . Psychological theory, like any other cultural institution, reflects the larger Western patriarchal culture in the unexamined assumption that the white, middle class, heterosexual "paradigm man" defines not just his own reality but human reality. (p. 7)

From Chapter 1, by Dr. Jean Baker Miller, Director of Education at the Stone Centre, Wellesley College, comes this:

The concept of the self has been prominent in psychological theory, perhaps because it has been one of the central ideas in Western thought. While various writers use different definitions, the essential idea of a "self seems to underlie the historical development of many Western notions about such vast issues as the "good life", justice and freedom. Indeed, it seems entwined in the roots of several delineations of fundamental human motives or the highest form of existence, as in Maslow's self-actualizing character.

As we have inherited it, the notion of a "self does not appear to fit women's experience. . . . A question then arises, Do only men, and not women, have a self? In working with women the question is quite puzzling, but our examination of the very puzzle itself may cast new light on certain long-standing assumptions. Modern American theorists of early psychological development and, indeed, of the entire life span, from Erik Erikson (1950) to Daniel Levinson (1978), tend to see all of development as a process of separating oneself out from the matrix of others-"becoming one's own man", in Levinson's words. Development of the self presumably is attained via a series of painful crises by which the individual accomplishes a sequence of allegedly essential separations from others, thereby achieving an inner sense of separated individuation. Few men ever attain such self-sufficiency, as every woman knows. They are usually supported by wives, mistresses, mothers, daughters, secretaries, nurses, and other women (as well as other men who are lower than they in the socioeconomic hierarchy). Thus, there is reason to question whether this model accurately reflects men's lives. Its goals, however, are held out for all, and are seen as the preconditions for mental health.

. . ..Thus, the prevailing models may not describe well what occurs in men: in addition, there is a question about the value of these models even if it were possible to fulfil their requirements. . . . It is very important to note, however, that the prevalent models are powerful because they have become prescriptions about what should happen. They accept men: they determine the actions of mental health professionals. They have affected women adversely in one way in the past. They are affecting women in another way now, if women seek "equal access" to them. Therefore, we need to examine them carefully. It is important not to embrace them because they are the only models available. (pp. 11-12)

Jordan, Judith V., Kaplan, Alexandra G., Miller, Jean Baker, Stiver, Irene P. and Surrey, Janet L. (1991). Women's Growth in Connection. Writings from the Stone Centre, New York: Guilford Press.