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Weigert, E. (1962). The Superego and the Ego-Ideal. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:269-271.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:269-271

The Superego and the Ego-Ideal

Edith Weigert


Dr Lampl-de Groot has in her lucid paper outlined the normal development of ego-ideal and superego with a short survey of deviations, while Dr Rosenfeld in his excellent illustration has concentrated mainly on the psychopathology of the superego. Lampl-de Groot presents the ego-ideal, like Nunberg and Spitz (9), as maternal and pregenital in origin, as a wish-fulfilling agency which provides the child with a basis for self-esteem derived from narcissistic gratifications and identifications with the gratifying mother. In what Winnicott (10) calls 'a good-enough environment' the needs of infant and mother dovetail in a symbiotic unity and the inevitable gaps between hallucinatory wish-fulfilment and real gratification are bridged by the tender attachment of what Balint (1) calls primary love and Erikson (2) primary trust. Without this primary trust the infant could not survive. Before the child can understand commands or prohibitions he reacts by conforming or protesting with the automaticity of a conditioned reflex. In the second year of life the individuality of the child starts to rise out of the automatic identifications through a precursor of the superego which was defined by Anna Freud as the identification with the aggressor. Playfully turning from passive automatic identification to active selective identifications, the child achieves a growing ego mastery and differentiation in his object relations. The identification with the aggressor saves the child from anxieties, but it does not yet arrive at the self-criticism of moral judgement; the child achieves a still insecure self-affirmation by projection of his frequently severe accusations onto the frustrating aggressor.

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