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В то время был еще жив человек, который подталкивал меня к осуществлению мечты.

{Why not}: В то время был еще жив человек, который подталкивал себя к осуществлению мечты.

The speaker is reminiscing about how much more passionate of a man he used to be. I'm assuming that illeism is in effect here; the omitted subject in front of "был" is not "я", but "он" that refers to the speaker himself, practically acting as "я".

I wonder why the reflexive pronoun "себя" is not used in the subordinate clause despite referring to oneself? Why suddenly drop the illeism and switch to the more personal "меня"?

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    себя is always reflexive, since he refers to past himself in the 3d person (он), себя doesn't fit as a way to designate him present (я) as being the object of the act, it leaves him present unaffected and uninvolved Jun 17 '18 at 18:40
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Себя refers to the last (implied) agent in the clause.

В то время был еще жив человек, который подталкивал себя к осуществлению мечты.

This would mean:

Back then the man was still alive who had been pushing himself towards fulfilling his dreams

The agent in the clause is the "man", hence себя would refer to him as well.

As for why illeism is dropped here, I don't know. Probably the narrator meant to emphasize some kind of split personality they had, so that one side of their personality (which they don't identify with anymore, as it's "dead") was pushing their current "me" (hence меня) towards pursuing their dreams.

Any explanation which would have explained replacing "himself" with "myself" in the English phrase above would work just as well for replacing себя with меня in the Russian phrase.

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  • Hi. So is it about the contrast between the current me and the past me: "Back then there was still a man who had been pushing the current jaded me towards fulfilling his dreams"? Jun 15 '18 at 22:41
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    @Alone-zee this seems like a reasonable explanation. Again, the difference between подталкивал меня and подталкивал себя is exactly the same as between "pushing myself" and "pushing himself" in English, no more, no less.
    – Quassnoi
    Jun 15 '18 at 22:44
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First of all, своего is a possessive pronoun and doesn't fit there at all. You must be thinking of себя.

Secondly, there is nothing omitted in front of был, because the clause has a perfectly normal subject - человек.

Then, if человек was the author himself (that is not obvious without context, and implies an unusual way of telling a story), both себя/меня could be used.

I would explain it this way:

If the author thinks that back then he had different personality, he will use себя as if he is talking about someone else.

But if he wants to show that there was a part of his personality (which is gone now) that helped some other part of his personality (which more or less survived) he may use меня to refer the latter.

But the whole manner of speaking is rather unusual, so without context I can't be sure I got the author's point.

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  • Hi. As to what is the subject of "был", are we looking at the "there was still a man who" construction? Jun 15 '18 at 22:31
  • Hmm... Yes, it is what the sentence means. But I think that the fact that word order inversion appears here both in Russian and in English versions is just a coincidence.
    – AlexVB
    Jun 15 '18 at 22:55
  • +1 for the "one part and another part" of personality being figuratively referred as "him and me".
    – Arioch
    Jun 18 '18 at 9:31
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I think the fact that the man he's talking about is himself is irrelevant from a grammatical point of view. He's simply saying that in the past there was a man who pushed him toward his dream. The fact that the man was actually himself doesn't matter here.

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