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Joseph, E.D. (1978). The Ego Ideal of the Psychoanalyst. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:377-385.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:377-385

The Ego Ideal of the Psychoanalyst

Edward D. Joseph

It is an honour and a challenge to be asked to address you today on the topic of the ego ideal of the psychoanalyst. The challenge comes from the fact that the topic is an impressive and important one, venturing into a relatively unknown area of discussion. The concept of the ego ideal has had a varying history in our field and is often taken as being so well defined and understood that it needs no further explication nor discussion. At times, the phrase may be so loosely used as to cover all moral qualities or idealistic behaviour an individual shows. I will hope in the course of the discussion to narrow the definition somewhat, so that at least in regard to this paper, there will be some clarity of definition.

If the concept of the ego ideal is unclear in our literature, there is equally a lack of clarity about what a psychoanalyst is. The identity of a psychoanalyst was discussed by a number of members of this Association at the seminar in Haslemere, and I am not sure that there was agreement as to what is the identity of a psychoanalyst. If there is a lack of clarity about the identity of a psychoanalyst, there is no lack of agreement that whatever it is that a psychoanalyst does, his work is difficult and demanding, calling upon resources of character and personality that make unique demands on the individual who performs this work.

Francis McLaughlin (1978), in his Presidential Address to the American Psychoanalytic Association in December 1976, stated: 'Psycho-analysis (as we know it) is a narrowly defined and limited specialty, demanding sacrifices from its practitioners … we earn less than others but I know of no group of people who contribute more of themselves and their time and energy than analysts.

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