Basically, what Heidegger is getting at is a distinction between what we typically depict as the subject or self which, in his view, are constructs that derive from a more fundamental way in which we exist in the world primordially. Hence “I” exist in the world first and foremost as a being of the world from which I cannot extricate myself very easily. The person I take myself to be is essentially an invention that I have a hand in creating, but the greater part of my self’s authorship derives from what others make of me. In fact, I am so obsessed with what others think of me and how they see me that I want to make myself into the person they expect me to be and, to a significant degree, that is who I am. The closest approximation to this aspect of my being in psychoanalytic parlance is Freud’s conception of the superego, which was revised by Melanie Klein to account for her thesis of the infant’s capacity for internalizing and projecting part-objects as a way of managing anxiety. But Heidegger’s portrayal of how I internalize much of who I take myself to be is more pervasive than either of those formulations because it would also explain the nature of the psychoanalytic conception of the ego (or the self, as it is employed by Winnicott and Kohut). Moreover, who I take myself to be is not just rooted in the past; “I” am also constantly in the making, every waking moment of my life. In Heidegger’s view, we never really overcome this state of affairs and are consequently always looking to “them” to tell us what we should do and whom we must become in order to be loved and, above all, accepted. Thus my ambitions play an essential role in the person I take myself to be, because I am always striving to become someone who will be able to escape the dreadful feeling of never really being accepted by others, no matter how hard I try.
This doesn’t suggest that Heidegger ignores the past; it is just as crucial to him as it was to Freud, but for Heidegger the past is co-existent with the future to which I aim because I am always trying to correct my perceived inefficiencies from my past life with the possibilities I perceive ahead of me. In the main, I feel, to varying degrees “thrown” into a maelstrom of competing notions and ambitions for and about my “self.” Others are not everybody else but me, a totality from which I stand apart. Instead, they are amongst whom I am also, but from whom I customarily do not distinguish myself, despite my experience to the contrary. Dasein — this matrix in which I constantly dwell without necessarily ever knowing it — is something that can be, and usually is, others. Yet in everyday experience we do not ordinarily experience our “selves,” nor do we ordinarily experience “others” — in fact, we are for the most part incapable of telling the difference between the two.