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Mancia, M. Meltzer, D. (1981). Ego Ideal Functions and the Psychoanalytical Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 62:243-249.

(1981). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 62:243-249

Ego Ideal Functions and the Psychoanalytical Process

Mauro Mancia and Donald Meltzer


This paper has been centred around an aspect of the problem of the harshness of the superego which derives from the internal object being altered by projective identifications from infantile structures. Under these circumstances not only do the internal objects lose their ego ideal functions, but they also suffer a structural and ethical deterioration.

Clinical material from a highly narcissistic, but very intelligent and talented man in his forties demonstrates the process by which these internal objects have been rehabilitated through the experience of the analytical transference over the period of the first three years of his analysis. Three crucial dreams surrounding a holiday break have been selected to show the nucleus of the process of withdrawal of projective identifications from both the maternal and paternal figures and the consequent changes in their qualities and functions. In very clear terms the emergence of ego ideal functions, of support, comfort and encouragement can be seen to take their place along with the superego functions of these objects, tending towards a fusion in the combined object of breast-and-nipple, in both their receptive-containing (toilet-breast) aspects as well as the nurturing (feeding-breast) one.

The material demonstrates clearly how the growing acceptance of dependence in the transference, with its attendant lessening of omnipotence, allowed for the emergence of depressive feelings and a massive alteration in values and view-of-the-world. In this sense the paper is a contribution to the phenomenology of the Threshold of the Depressive Position.

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