Thursday, December 8, 2011

psychoanalytic basics- the superego

I'm still surprised by how often the superego is written and talked about as conscience alone and then even just as one form of conscience which men have and women often lack. Freud mentions it in many texts as being based upon ever developing estimations of the parents- not just the father- and to capture those estimations and the ideals they would be tied up with is such an interesting riddle to solve. How did analysts allow psychoanalysis to become so boring?

Nor must it be forgotten that a child has a different estimate of its parents at different periods of its life. At the time at which the Oedipus complex gives place to the super-ego they are something quite magnificent; but later they lose much of this. Identifications then come about with these later parents as well, and indeed they regularly make important contributions to the formation of character; but in that case they only affect the ego, they no longer influence the super-ego, which has been determined by the earliest parental imagos.

I hope you have already formed an impression that the hypothesis of the super-ego really describes a structural relation and is not merely a personification of some such abstraction as that of conscience. One more important function remains to be mentioned which we attribute to this super-ego. It is also the vehicle of the ego ideal by which the ego measures itself, which it emulates, and whose demand for ever greater perfection it strives to fulfil. There is no doubt that this ego ideal is the precipitate of the old picture of the parents, the expression of admiration for the perfection which the child then attributed to them. (New Introductory Lectures, p.64-5)

What's more is that the superego and the development of the mind goes on past Oedipus and Freud would come into convergence with Hegel whose Phenomenology of Spirit is an attempt to capture the post-oedipal development of consciousness.

We have said that it is the heir to the original narcissism in which the childish ego enjoyed self-sufficiency; it gradually gathers up from the influences of the environment the demands which that environment makes upon the ego and which the ego cannot always rise to; so that a man, when he cannot be satisfied with his ego itself, may nevertheless be able to find satisfaction in the ego ideal which has been differentiated out of the ego. In delusions of observation, as we have further shown, the disintegration of this agency has become patent, and has thus revealed its origin in the influence of superior powers, and above all of parents. But we have not forgotten to add that the amount of distance between this ego ideal and the real ego is very variable from one individual to another, and that with many people this differentiation within the ego does not go further than with children (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, p. 110).

For what prompted the subject to form an ego ideal, on whose behalf his conscience acts as watchman, arose from the critical influence of his parents (conveyed to him by the medium of the voice), to whom were added, as time went on, those who trained and taught him and the innumerable and indefinable host of all the other people in his environment—his fellow-men—and public opinion (On Narcissism, p.96).

Sartre and Lacan and the other French theorists would make us all out to be unhappy consciousnesses, as if we've all developed to the same point and from there it becomes a matter of freedom or choice determined from the Real. Jung, Freud, and the earlier writers knew that neurotics were often higher human beings and it is from their more advanced consciousness that they got sick in their lonely towers.

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