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Laforgue, R. (1939). The Ego and the Conception of Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:403-407.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:403-407

The Ego and the Conception of Reality

René Laforgue

Although our daily experience of patients has taught us that their power of adapting themselves to reality, and in consequence their conception of reality, is often singularly impaired, we have so far regarded reality itself, in agreement with traditional notions, as a constant quantity which, for various reasons, the ego of our patients was incapable of apprehending in a normal manner. This emerges most distinctly from the way in which we represent to ourselves our patients' defence mechanism of repudiation of reality. This mechanism implies, as the use of the term 'repudiation' clearly indicates, the concept of a certain given reality which the patient's ego strives, more or less successfully, to repudiate. Many years ago I criticized the choice of the term 'repudiation'. Pichon and I proposed the term 'scotomization' as a substitute for it. It appeared to us more reasonable to picture the conception of reality not as a constant but as a variable. This conception presupposes a complex elaboration of representations of reality, both external and internal—an elaboration which entails a considerable expenditure of libido by the ego, and which can take place in varying directions according to the quantity or quality of the energy which the ego has at its disposal for such work.

It therefore seems to us more reasonable, in the light of our present experience, to suppose that an ego which has not got enough libido at its disposal, both as regards quantity and quality, to attain the conception of reality achieved by an adult individual belonging to our civilization, is, with all the good will in the world, not in a position to elaborate the current conceptions of reality. Such an ego will reach different conceptions, more primitive ones perhaps, as it cannot take into account all the elements which characterize reality for us. It will therefore exhibit, from our point of view, a true 'scotoma' in its mental field of vision as regards the perception or the conception of reality in our sense of the term. That is why we have suggested the use of the word 'scotomization' instead of 'repudiation' which is already used in ordinary psychology to denote a conscious mental procedure which has nothing to do with the unconscious phenomena that we are discussing.

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