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Wittenberg, R. (1955). On The Superego in Adolescence. Psychoanal. Rev., 42(3):271-279.

(1955). Psychoanalytic Review, 42(3):271-279

On The Superego in Adolescence

Rudolph Wittenberg

I have chosen this topic because it seems to lead most directly into the core of adolescent struggle. At this time when the instincts act up as they have never done before except in early childhood, the ego is being deserted by the guardian who has served so well until now. The ego and the superego part ways at this juncture, or, as Anna Freud puts it: “The ego alienates itself from the superego. To young people, this partial repression of the super-ego, the estrangement from part of its contents, is one of the greatest troubles of adolescence(6). This is, of course, like other formulations in this brief paper somewhat oversimplified. Paul Federn, whose contributions to modern ego psychology have thrown new light on these concepts, makes it clear that to some extent ego and super-ego are always a double structure. He holds that “in the normal person, harmony is established through a certain reciprocal moderation and yielding” (4). When I speak of alienation in this paper, I would like it to mean more of an alienation than already exists.

Starting from this point as homebase I would like to follow two trails: one back into some of the causes and effects of this situation, the other ahead into the implications of this fact to our work.

The causes of this alienation can perhaps be best stated if one recalls how the super-ego came into existence in the first place. Before it appeared, the instincts roamed freely and the outside world did the restraining; parents, neighbors, friends.

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