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Wiedeman, G.H. (1972). Comments on the Structural Theory of Personality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:307-314.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:307-314

Comments on the Structural Theory of Personality

George H. Wiedeman


At the present time, the structural theory is generally accepted by most analysts as the most comprehensive formulation concerning the psychic personality. However, if the structures id, ego and superego are conceived as 'more imagery than theory' (Waelder), the usefulness of these subdivisions may be limited and in need of reformulation and revision. It is maintained in this paper that the term 'structure' as applied to id, ego and superego imposes unnecessary limitations on psychoanalytic theory. Structure defined by its function (Hartmann) is a contradiction in terms. Freud's original topographical theory rested on the subdivision of the psychic personality into the systems Pcpt., Mnem., Ucs., Pcs. and Cs. When Freud subdivided the psychic personality into id, ego and superego, he used various terms to designate the new subdivisions: configuration, agency, province, realm, etc. (in the original German: Bildung, Instanz, Provinz, Reich). The terms structure and structural relations (Struktur, Strukturverhältnisse) were used by Freud less frequently in relation to id, ego and superego than the other terms mentioned above.

The term 'system' in relation to the topographical model was based on the usage of this term in the 19th century. If it were possible to apply the present scientific use of the term system to id, ego and superego, psychoanalytic theory would be better integrated into the mainstream of science, become more clearly understandable to workers in other scientific fields, and last but not least, benefit by achieving greater consistency and conceptual clarity than prevails at the present time. The subdivisions of the psychic personality, as any system or subsystem, can be characterized by boundaries, structures, functions and history, and can be correlated to the five metapsychological points of view.

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