Skip to main content

The Protean Self

Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation

"We are becoming fluid and many-sided. Without quite realizing it, we have been evolving a sense of self appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time. This mode of being differs radically from that of the past, and enables us to engage in continuous exploration and personal experiment. I have named it the 'protean self,' after Proteus, the Greek sea god of many forms."—from The Protean Self

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Psychology: General Psychology


"A fascinating and appealing book. . . . As he revises the psychology of the self, Dr. Lifton is subtle, even profound, in drawing a line between multiplicity and fragmentation. To those who are nostalgic for the age of the unitary ego, his message is that it is better to be fluid, resilient and on the move than to be firm, fixed, self-assured and settled. To those who worry that the post-modern age is an age of shattered selves, dissociative states, multiple personality disorders and identity diffusion, Dr. Lifton brings the good news that discontinuity can be a mirror of reality, and the standard for a reasonable life."

Richard A. Shweder | New York Times

"Lifton has challenged the conventional social-scientific wisdom of the last half century. . . .He has called attention to the emergence of a new form of self and considered it in a bold and imaginative light."

Howard Gardner | Boston Book Review

Table of Contents

1. The Changing Psychological Landscape
2. History and the Self
3. America, the Protean Nation
4. Odd Combinations
5. Sources of Flux and Form
6. Poise and Equipoise
7. Enduring Connections
8. Life Stories
9. The Fundamentalist Self
10. The Dark Side
11. The Protean Path

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press