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Freud, S. (1936). Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Psychoanal Q., 5:1-28.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:1-28

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

Sigmund Freud


To return to the problem of the ego: The apparent contradiction of which we have been speaking arises from the fact that we take abstractions too rigidly, and from out of a complicated state of affairs we pick now one aspect and now another exclusively. The separation of the ego from the id seems justified, indeed is forced upon us, by certain findings. Yet on the other hand the ego is identical with the id, is only a specially differentiated portion of it. If in our thinking we contrast this portion with the whole, or if an actual disjunction of the two has come about, then the weakness of this ego becomes evident. If, however, the ego remains one with the id and indistinguishable from it, then it is its strength that is apparent. The same with the relation of the ego to the superego: as regards many situations they are one and the same; as a rule we can distinguish them only when a state of tension, a conflict between them, has arisen. In the case of repression the fact of crucial importance is that the ego is an organized entity, whereas the id is not; in fact, the ego is the organized part of the id. It would be quite unjustifiable to conceive of the ego and the id as if they were two opposing camps—as though through repression the ego were seeking to suppress a part of the id, and that thereupon the rest of the id came to the assistance of the part attacked and measured its strength against that of the ego. Such may often come about, but it is certainly not the situation at the outset, at the time when repression is instituted; as a rule, the instinctual impulse to be repressed remains isolated. The act of repression has demonstrated to us the strength of the ego, but it also bears witness at the same time to the ego's impotence and to the uninfluenceable character of the individual instinctual impulse in the id.

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