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Bálint, M. (1942). Ego Strength and Education of the Ego. Psychoanal Q., 11:87-95.

(1942). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 11:87-95

Ego Strength and Education of the Ego

Michael Bálint

Since the publication of Freud's The Ego and the Id the conception of a 'weak ego' has become a commonplace. Yet, according to psychoanalytic theory, neurotic symptoms develop out of a conflict between the sexual instincts and the interests of the ego. If this is so, how can the neurotic ego, being so weak, represent its own interests so energetically that the result has to be a continuous compromise?

As early as 1926 in The Problem of Anxiety and only three years after publication of The Ego and the Id, Freud called to attention that the ego can be strong as well as weak. However only in recent years, coincident with increasing interest in the structure and function of the ego, has the concept come gradually to a focus, first, in the contributions to the Marienbad Congress in the symposium on the Theory of Therapeutical Results (1936), and second, in the symposium on Strength and Weakness of the Ego at the International Congress in Paris (1938). At the latter Congress the need to gather data about strength of the ego was acknowledged. Hartmann has approached the subject in terms of a general theory of adaptation, and Nunberg in terms of the synthetic function of the ego.

The concept, strength of the ego, has never been clearly and exactly defined.

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