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(1967). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 36:148-149.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:148-149

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

January 25, 1966. SELF-OBSERVATION, REALITY, AND THE SUPEREGO. Martin H. Stein, M.D.

Self-observation, an essential element in the process of reality testing, is inextricably linked to self-evaluation, and the two are involved with superego functions. Hence, superego functions play an essential, if indirect, role in reality testing and reality adaptation. After tracing the development of Freud's views on reality testing and those resulting from the structural hypothesis, Dr. Stein attempted to show that metapsychological explanations have not sufficiently taken into account the role of stimuli arising from the individual's inner world and disturbances in the capacity to perceive and evaluate them. One of the basic assumptions underlying the theory of psychoanalytic therapy is that as a result of treatment patients will be able to see the world more clearly and deal with it more efficiently because of having corrected distortions of self-observation as they become evident in the analysis. While defects in self-observation are not solely responsible for misinterpretations of percepts, self-observation is necessary for the adequate evaluation of reality.

In 1921 Freud ascribed reality testing to the ego ideal, but he did not consider the problem settled. As late as 1932 he was still not certain whether responsibility for the evaluation of psychic processes pertained to the ego or superego, or both. With the explanations of ego psychology, especially by Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein, self-observation has come to be considered more and more an ego function rather than a superego function.

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