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Berchenko, F. (1967). Ego in Evolution: By Esther and William Menaker. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965. 266 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 36:283-284.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:283-284

Ego in Evolution: By Esther and William Menaker. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965. 266 pp.

Review by:
Frank Berchenko

The authors' thesis is essentially that the ego, itself a product of evolution, has an imperative tendency to evolve to higher levels of organization as a result of continuous interaction with the continually increasing complexities of conscious experience provided by the concomitant evolution of culture which it brings about. They oppose Freud's emphasis on the paramount role of instincts in human life with the 'self-actualizing tendency' of the ego 'as it seeks to fulfil optimally the totality of its functions, and as it participates in the psychosocial process of evolution'. Rejecting the idea that the ego is activated by instinctual energy or by independent ego energies, they do not see the model for ego functions 'in any specific energic concept, but in the momentum of the total process of evolution'. This leads them to different assumptions from those of Freud regarding motivation, anxiety, guilt, conflict, and what is normal and pathological in the realm of human behavior, and consequently also to different goals of therapy and a different therapeutic technique. For example, it is their opinion that anxiety is created by the conflict between the fear of evolving and the wish to evolve, in social, psychological, and especially in ego terms. An individual will have anxiety 'when he has conflict in synthesizing that part of his identity which derives from parental figures with that part which comes from his aspiration to take advantage of the opportunities of a new social niche'. They see the etiology of neurosis in the interferences with the impetus in an individual 'to develop maximally in individuation and organizational autonomy'.

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