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Lacan, J. (1953). Some Reflections on the Ego. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:11-17.

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:11-17

Some Reflections on the Ego

Jacques Lacan

The development of Freud's views on the ego led him to two apparently contradictory formulations.

The ego takes sides against the object in the theory of narcissism: the concept of libidinal economy. The bestowal of the libidinal cathexis on one's own body leads to the pain of hypochondriasis, while the loss of the object leads to a depressive tension which may even culminate in suicide.

On the other hand, the ego takes sides with the object in the topographic theory of the functioning of the perception-consciousness system and resists the id, i.e. the combination of drives governed solely by the pleasure-principle.

If there be a contradiction here, it disappears when we free ourselves from a naive conception of the reality-principle and take note of the fact—though Freud may have been clear on this point, his statements sometimes were not—that while reality precedes thought, it takes different forms according to the way the subject deals with it.

Analytic experience gives this truth a special force for us and shows it as being free from all trace of idealism, for we can specify concretely the oral, anal, and genital relationships which the subject establishes with the outer world at the libidinal level.

I refer here to a formulation in language by the subject, which has nothing to do with romantically intuitive or vitalistic moods of contact with reality, of his interactions with his environment as they are determined by each of the orifices of his body. The whole psycho-analytic theory of instinctual drives stands or falls by this.

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