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Loewald, H.W. (1951). Ego and Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:10-18.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:10-18

Ego and Reality

Hans W. Loewald, M.D.

In psycho-analytic theory we are accustomed to think of the relationship between ego and reality as one of adjustment or adaptation. The so-called mature ego has renounced the pleasure-principle and has substituted for it the reality-principle. It does not follow the direct path of instinctual gratification, without regard to consequences, to the demands of reality, does not indulge in hallucinatory wish-fulfilment, but tests external reality and thinks and acts accordingly, adapting its thoughts and actions to the demands of reality. This conception of the relationship between ego and reality presupposes a fundamental antagonism which has to be bridged or overcome otherwise in order to make life in this reality possible.

And indeed we see that Freud, in The Ego and the Id, calls the ego 'the dweller in a borderland', trying 'to mediate between the world and the id, to make the id comply with the world's demands and … to accommodate the world to the id's desires'. We know that Freud's first conception of the ego was that it represents the repressive, defensive agency within the psychic apparatus. Only later did he stress the synthetic function of the ego. He speaks then of the ego as 'an organization distinguished by a very remarkable striving toward unification, synthesis'. Yet he tends to see this synthetic function itself as a defence. In The Ego and the Id he describes vividly the unfortunate role of the ego, sandwiched between id and outer world (and superego), trying to compromise between and to satisfy these masters and to defend itself against their different demands.

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