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Rosenfeld, H. (1962). The Superego and the Ego-Ideal. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:258-263.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:258-263

The Superego and the Ego-Ideal

Herbert Rosenfeld


Since the aim of this symposium is to discuss both the ego-ideal and the superego, I shall first attempt to clarify the way in which these terms have been employed by Freud, and then discuss my own understanding of the terminology and how it is used in this paper. The term superego was introduced as an alternative to the term ego-ideal in 1923 (Freud, 4) with the implication that the ego-ideal and the superego were identical. On the other hand, the term ego-ideal which Freud originally introduced in 1914 (3) had an entirely different meaning. At that time he differentiated the ego-ideal from a special psychical agency, the conscience, relating the ego-ideal to the 'narcissistic perfection of childhood' and suggesting that this ideal was a substitute for the lost narcissism in which we were our own ideal. This explanation would suggest a connexion between the ego-ideal and omnipotent phantasies of early infancy when the baby phantasies himself in the role of an omnipotent ideal figure, or as possessing an ideal object or part-object, often the breast or the penis. We frequently find that narcissistic patients have a highly idealized omnipotent picture of themselves which is in contrast to their real self. I am not in favour of using the term ego-ideal for these specific narcissistic idealized phantasies.

In the New Introductory Lectures in 1932 Freud (5, p. 88) introduced a distinction between the two terms and a different meaning for the term ego-ideal.

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