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O'Shaughnessy, E. (1999). Relating to the Superego. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(5):861-870.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(5):861-870

Relating to the Superego

Edna O'Shaughnessy

The author aims to demonstrate the disjunction and antagonism between normal and abnormal forms of superego through an enquiry into clinical material from two patients who manifest abnormal forms of the superego as recognised by Freud, Abraham and Klein, later termed by Bion ‘the ego-destructive superego’. The abnormal superego usurps the status and authority of a normal superego and entices the ego to turn away from life, to dissociate itself from its objects and ultimately to destroy itself. While the normal superego originates from the emotional relations of childhood, by contrast, the abnormal superego stems from dissociations that have been inflicted and suffered in childhood. In clinical work the abnormal superego manifests itself in a transference situation where patient and analyst relate as abnormal superego to abnormal superego. No working through can take place, only an impoverishment and deterioration of relations, with an escalation of hatred and anxiety that results in psychotic panic or despair. In this dangerous situation, the significant event for the patient is to be enabled to move away from his abnormal superego, return to his object, and so experience the analyst as an object with a normal superego.

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