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Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1985). The Ego Ideal and the Psychology of Groups. Free Associations, 1C(2):31-60.

(1985). Free Associations, 1C(2):31-60

The Ego Ideal and the Psychology of Groups

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel

The Development of the Ego Ideal

The child therefore receives its individual education much later than the animal; but it is, in consequence, much more susceptible to the influence of the species. The many ministrations, the continuous care that its early state of helplessness requires, maintains and increases the attachment of fathers and mothers and, in caring for the body, they cultivate the mind. The time required by the former to gain in strength turns to the profit of the latter.

Buffon, Natural History

Where the inclination of the male child to avoid having to confront rivals, castration and painful oedipal defeat (present to some extent in everyone) has not been supported and encouraged, his ego is led to look for, to discover, and to admire that which makes the father his mother's chosen object. Hence he forms the wish to be like him at some time in the future. In Freud's terms he ‘projects (this) before him’: the father will become the boy's ego ideal. Man's biological immaturity is the foundation-stone of the concept with which we are concerned here. It owes its origin to the child's early helplessness (Hilflösigkeit) and to the way in which this brings the state of primary fusion to a violent end.

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