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Glover, E. (1950). Functional Aspects of the Mental Apparatus. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 31:125-131.

(1950). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31:125-131

Functional Aspects of the Mental Apparatus

Edward Glover

At the Amsterdam Congress of European Analysts I endeavoured to outline the most important of those sparingly stated basic concepts on which the theory and practice of psycho-analysis is founded and on which the validity of the most elaborate presentation of mental structure ultimately depends. On that occasion I pointed out that Freud's original description of the mental apparatus, as outlined in the theoretical part of his Interpretation of Dreams, provided us with a perfectly adequate reconstruction of the first stages of mental life. It is with this frequently misunderstood but nevertheless master-concept of a mental apparatus that I am concerned here.

The fact that in recent years psycho-analysts have neglected the concept of a mental apparatus is due to a number of causes some of which cannot be distinguished from resistances. Chief of these is an inveterate tendency to anthropomorphize all mental concepts. Because, for example, we tend to identify ourselves with our ego, or, as the case may be, our super-ego, it is easy to neglect the purely functional aspects of these psychic institutions as instruments of adaptation. This tendency to anthropomorphize the mental apparatus, to personalize its parts and functions, was accelerated by the circumstance that Freud's original and mainly dynamic concept of the apparatus was considerably overlaid by his later expansions of structural psychology. This emphasis on ego-psychology has given rise during the past ten to fifteen years to attempts to describe early functional (dynamic) phases of the mental apparatus in terms of organized ego-institutions; or, to put the matter more simply, to attribute to the suckling the conscious mentality and unconscious organization of a four-year-old child.

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