Monday, June 10, 2013

Ego Ideal- "demands for perfection" vs. "self-regard"

In previous posts I've separated two functions of the ego ideal but I haven't been very clear about their difference.

I've recently found a passage in which Freud makes the difference explicit. Those who lack a high ego ideal or powerful demands for perfection are those who have a high self-regard which means they take on leader positions:

the individual gives up his ego ideal and substitutes for it the group ideal as embodied in the leader… In many individuals the separation between the ego and the ego ideal is not very far advanced; the two still coincide readily; the ego has often preserved its earlier narcissistic self-complacency. The selection of the leader is very much facilitated by this circumstance. He need often only possess the typical qualities of the individuals concerned in a particularly clearly marked and pure form, and need only give an impression of greater force and of more freedom of libido; and in that case the need for a strong chief will often meet him half-way and invest him with a predominance to which he would otherwise perhaps have had no claim. The other members of the group, whose ego ideal would not, apart from this, have become embodied in his person without some correction, are then carried away with the rest by ‘suggestion’, that is to say, by means of identification (group psych, p. 129-30).

I believe that Freud’s point is best spelled out here by saying that where others have a high ego ideal in terms of defusion at the phallic-oedipal leading to proto or polyphallic stage Herculean labors, those who become leaders or ‘personalities’ have taken back some of their transference and increased their own self-regard. In other words, the people who get into positions of power are seldom those who are the most hard-working, the most intelligent or skilled, but they usually feel entitled to be in those positions and can inspire others to have a similar confidence in them. They "give the impression of greater force" but it's because the paternal imago has been split and they can stimulate it in others who haven't split it. The phallic-narcissist of the deutero stage can be differentiated from the workaholic of the proto/polyphallic stage because the former is more familiar with authorities and interested in the image of potency instead of actually mastering a skill, field of knowledge, etc. 

This phallic-narcissistic or phallic deutero position of high self-regard has been examined in previous posts but the mother's phallic image, which is generated from the split paternal imago, shouldn't be confused with a high ego ideal that demands perfection that can't be fulfilled (in defusion). 

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