The superego is composed of imagos. On one hand the imagos will be inputs for others that will act as parental substitutes and on the other hand there is the general domain that the parental substitute emerges from. I’ve called this domain an ontology and have stressed that it emerges from the social nature or species-being of humans in Freud’s work.
The central example for Freud is the phallic-oedipal:
[w]e have already traced the change of that content from loss of the mother as an object to castration. The next change is caused by the power of the super-ego. With the depersonalization of the parental agency from which castration was feared, the danger becomes less defined. Castration anxiety develops into moral anxiety—social anxiety—and it is not so easy now to know what the anxiety is about. The formula, ‘separation and expulsion from the horde’ [in the father complex], only applies to that later portion of the super-ego which has been formed on the basis of social prototypes, not to the nucleus of the super-ego, which corresponds to the introjected parental agency (Freud, ‘ISA’, p. 139, emphasis mine)
[t]his state of mind is called a ‘bad conscience’; but actually it does not deserve this name, for at this stage the sense of guilt is clearly only a fear of loss of love, ‘social’ anxiety. In small children it can never be anything else, but in many adults, too, it has only changed to the extent that the place of the father or the two parents is taken by the larger human community. Consequently, such people habitually allow themselves to do any bad thing which promises them enjoyment, so long as they are sure that the authority will not know anything about it or cannot blame them for it; they are afraid only of being found out (ibid., p.124-5).
Freud writes that in “the Oedipus complex… [the parent’s] personal significance for the superego recedes into the background” and “the imagos they leave behind… link [to] the influences of teachers and authorities… (Economic Problem, p. 167-8). These people are put into the ego ideal/imago and one works towards taking on their knowledge, skill, or wisdom and traverses the symbolic network of status and prestige. As mentioned, the domain of these father-substitutes is “the larger human community”, the place where they care about their image and reputation and “are afraid of being found” both bad in a moral sense and bad in a sense of weak, pathetic, or impotent.
I’ve been working on earlier social ontologies and before there is differentiation between the ego and object in what I call the part-object form of the oral trito, Freud gives an example of depersonalization concerning oceanic oneness. Freud defines it as
“a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole…. originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Our present ego-feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive—indeed, an all-embracing—feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world about it. If we may assume that there are many people in whose mental life this primary ego-feeling has persisted to a greater or less degree, it would exist in them side by side with the narrower and more sharply demarcated ego-feeling of maturity, like a kind of counterpart to it. In that case, the ideational contents appropriate to it would be precisely those of limitlessness and of a bond with the universe—the same ideas with which my friend elucidated the ‘oceanic’ feeling…. the oceanic feeling, which might seek something like the restoration of limitless narcissism” (Civilization, p. 65,68,72).
Just as someone is connected to their image, their reputation, their ‘good name’ at the phallic-oedipal level and will take father-substitutes there, Freud’s oceanic oneness is a similar domain or ontology. Mythologically, there are nymphs and spirits of trees, lakes, and elemental forces that intimate the double sided figure and ground of the imago. Many people’s dreams take up the defusion to the father-figure by expressing problems with the ground in natural disasters or other dangerous forces in nature.
The limitless narcissism that is enjoyed here is because the differentiation between ego and object isn’t complete. The ego and object become fully differentiated at the phallic-oedipal (although I can understand someone might argue that the phallic trito or genital stage is the stage of full differentiation). Between the appearance of ego and object and the full differentiation at the phallic-oedipal the important post is the emergence of the ego ideal as measuring- ‘demanding perfection’- by some objective criteria. I’ve written that this is provided by observing one’s social relationships: how people react in one’s presence, the power dynamics that occur in groups and whether one has a leadership role, whether or not other people are thinking positively about one, (etc.).
In Civilization Freud gives another example of the social ontology of ‘all people’ in his example of the saint:
A small minority are enabled by their constitution to find happiness, in spite of everything, along the path of love. But far-reaching mental changes in the function of love are necessary before this can happen. These people make themselves independent of their object's acquiescence by displacing what they mainly value from being loved on to loving; they protect themselves against the loss of the object by directing their love, not to single objects but to all men alike; and they avoid the uncertainties and disappointments of genital love by turning away from its sexual aims and transforming the instinct into an impulse with an inhibited aim. What they bring about in themselves in this way is a state of evenly suspended, steadfast, affectionate feeling, which has little external resemblance any more to the stormy agitations of genital love, from which it is nevertheless derived. Perhaps St. Francis of Assisi went furthest in thus exploiting love for the benefit of an inner feeling of happiness. Moreover, what we have recognized as one of the techniques for fulfilling the pleasure principle has often been brought into connection with religion; this connection may lie in the remote regions where the distinction between the ego and objects or between objects themselves is neglected (Civilization, p. 101-2, emphasis mine).
The phallic level with its image or interest ego, which allows the individual to appear based upon his reputation or the esteem that others hold or don’t hold him, in is also the place of individual love. Freud notes that love can also be a problem for the social body in that it can two lovers find enough satisfaction with each other that they might not care about their reputation. Additionally, where the altruistic Saint returns from individual love to anal love of ‘all people’ Freud points out that the egoistic and sensual current could mean a shameless sexuality that forgets about individual love and is concerned only about sensuality in relation to ‘all people’.
Two people coming together for the purpose of sexual satisfaction, in so far as they seek for solitude, are making a demonstration against the herd instinct, the group feeling. The more they are in love, the more completely they suffice for each other. Their rejection of the group's influence is expressed in the shape of a sense of shame. Feelings of jealousy of the most extreme violence are summoned up in order to protect the choice of a sexual object from being encroached upon by a group tie. It is only when the affectionate, that is, personal, factor of a love relation gives place entirely to the sensual one, that it is possible for two people to have sexual intercourse in the presence of others or for there to be simultaneous sexual acts in a group, as occurs at an orgy. But at that point a regression has taken place to an early stage in sexual relations, at which being in love as yet played no part, and all sexual objects were judged to be of equal value, somewhat in the sense of Bernard Shaw's malicious aphorism to the effect that being in love means greatly exaggerating the difference between one woman and another (Group Psychology, p.140).
This regression to the anal onlology of ‘all people’ is important in the hysteroid personality disorder and is not just a problem with men. I’ve worked with several women in substance abuse who are in competition with all other women in regards to being the most beautiful and who equate being beautiful with being sexually desired. Overtop of that, in the egoism of being the cause of sexual desire in a man there is a competition with him in which he gets “played” because the hysteroid is ‘fucking’ someone else behind his back. He represents the anal-oedipal father who is wants to jealously possess and control the sexual object in a way that isn’t love, and she both feels the most beautiful by being with him and defeats him by having sex with other men.
Anyway, we see that Freud has depersonalization into different social ontologies in his work but not yet formalized.
He notes the importance of the phallic-oedipal in relation to conscience and reputation and he has the earlier stage of narcissism in which the ‘omnipotence of wishes’ occurs and there is no social measure of one’s power.
In the next post I want to point out that Freud isn’t basing depersonalization purely upon the psycho-sexual relations but also sees the psycho-social (ego drives) as parallel to and sometimes taking the lead in relation to the sexual relationships (object drives).