Abstract This article considers some of the implications of the critical standpoint in ‘general’ psychology in view of Jungian assumptions about the development of the self. The first part introduces the critical standpoint, which encompasses a spectrum of postmodern psychologies sharing a critique of the discipline's ‘mainstream’ positivist approach, an interest in human lives as existing in culture and historical time, and sensitivity to the dialogical unfolding of the self. Social constructionism and specifically the theory of positioning, which posits the self as a discursive production, are described. The second part illustrates the contrast between the social constructionist and Jungian viewpoints with two possible interpretations of a four-year-old boy's fantasies. Although these viewpoints are diametrically opposed, the possibility of a conceptual ‘middle ground’ between them is indicated here with particular reference to Bakhtin's understanding of the dialogical act.