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Donadeo, J. (1967). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 36:149-150.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:149-150

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

John Donadeo

DISCUSSION: Dr. Rudolph Loewenstein noted that Freud based the concept of superego on, among other phenomena, the delusion of being observed. Self-observation may have self-disparaging or self-punitive motives and can lead to self-deception based on guilt feelings; if all self-observation contained self-deceptive elements, one would have to attribute self-observation to the system superego. However, every favorable analytic experience shows that toward the end of treatment patients are capable of objective self-observation untained by self-deception. Further, the superego helps to maintain objectivity, and only rarely impairs self-observation due to self-punitive tendencies. However, the essential elements—the perception of what really is observable within oneself—are functions attributable to the ego, albeit often standing in the service of the superego. The superego does not need to possess a special apparatus of observation for what the ego feeds it, any more than the id needs an apparatus of observation for what the ego feeds it.

Dr. Manuel Furer mentioned the difficult task presented by psychoanalytic theory because, to be useful, an explanatory idea must apply to both health and neurosis, to developmental phases, and to the later periods of life. He did not feel that developmental data are consonant with Dr. Stein's conclusions. Efficiency in reality testing is more dependent on the subsequent modifications of prohibitions than on their automatic functioning. In superego learning, the drives and conflicts are more likely to be involved, the comforting portion of the superego is more likely to lead to helpful illusions, and the prohibiting portions to correct appreciations of reality. Dr. Furer referred to Anna Freud's description of a preliminary stage of morality in the phase of identification with the aggressor: 'True morality begins when the internalized criticism, now embodied in the standard exacted by the superego, coincides with the ego's perception of its own fault'—an inner reality testing.

Dr. Heinz Hartmann agreed that self-observation influenced reality testing and that the superego influenced self-observation, but he would not ascribe to the superego system a function of self-observation. Freud defined reality testing as the capacity to differentiate between perception and representation.

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