José Antonio Marina wrote in Praise and refutation of wit (1996) that words have their own unconscious and, therefore, can be psychoanalyzed. That is why when a word increases its presence from the statistical point of view we can think that a collective psychological phenomenon is taking place.
This is the case with the increasing use and abuse in the public language (perhaps also in the private one) of the Greek element auto-: “by oneself”; that proliferates at this time of there you compose them and from I do what I want, two faces of the same trend.
In its first facet, that of there you compose them, the prefix makes its way more easily in the times of “self-medication”, of “self-care of the skin”, of “self-liquidation”, of “self-restrictions”.
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This incitement towards individual solutions is amplified as a result of the inattention thrown to the public in some services. Further progress is made with a self-appointment, self-analysis or self-tests triumph, with which self-diagnosis is reached, it is necessary to resort to self-tracking and perhaps to self-confinement.
Today hotel rooms are managed online by self-booking; beginning writers who want to publish their work must self-publish, even if it is a self-fiction book. And rare will be the gas station that does not force you to fill yourself with fuel, to check the pressure of the wheels yourself or to clean the car in the car wash. Instead of “service stations” they will end up being called “self-service”.
The importance that each one gives to their own being grows, then, with the need to face alone situations that not long ago were solved with help.
And so much like the element auto-, that sometimes becomes superfluous, as it would be in “self-combing”. Thus, “you self-test” (you do the antigen test), as I read recently; or “he protects himself”, or “he defends himself”, or he needs to “convince himself”. It seems that the reflective ones were not enough: we must now demonstrate the required ability to fend for oneself in one’s own self-absorbed self.
True: some verbs require this element; for example, “self-harm”, so that the origin of the action is well understood; but in other cases the context makes them excessive. It is hardly said “I suggested myself”, but rather “I autosuggested myself”; nor did I “convince myself”, but rather “I convinced myself”; nor did I “relax”, but rather “I self-relaxed.” This great presence of auto- is the new exaltation of the me.
In the second facet, that of I do what I want, the proliferation of auto- suggests a tendency to individualism: individual freedom not to be vaccinated, to neglect the mask; communism or freedom, one’s own me before the community, free will against the common good. The addition of this element to previously lonely words can therefore be related to today’s egocentricity, increasingly promoted. “Selfie”, “self-exposure”, “self-concept”, “self-esteem”, “self-learning”. This new prestige of auto- he bathes many of the words he touches in gold: in the word “self-determination”, the first element exhibits more value than the second.
So much abundance invites, therefore, social psychoanalysis to ask ourselves if the idea of ”I first, and then the others” is not being accentuated. Because in this time self-assertion progresses, and the number of people who always see themselves as having the right to do whatever they want increases, perhaps because life pushes many of them to solve almost everything on their own.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.