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McIntosh, D. (1986). The Ego and the Self in the Thought of Sigmund Freud. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:429-448.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:429-448

The Ego and the Self in the Thought of Sigmund Freud

Donald McIntosh


An analysis of the development, nature, and inter-relations of the three main senses in which Freud used the term 'Das Ich' (the 'I'). They are:

a. the ego —one's person as subject, who desires, thinks, feels, acts. The use of this concept is very flexible, ranging from a global sense which includes the whole psychic system, to the narrower idea of the conscious purposive agent, to the technical concept of the 'system ego': a psychic subsystem which plays the key role in organizing and directing the activity of the person as subject.

b. the self —one's person as the object of one's narcissistic or aggressive cathectic investment: the person one believes, wishes, or hopes oneself to be, as distinct from the actual object, one's (or another's) actual person. The idea of such an object (nowadays called an 'intentional object') derives from Franz Brentano, Freud's teacher.

c. the character —a stable syndrome of interrelated traits of behaviour or thought. Both the ego and the self have characters, which are formed

in different ways, and which resemble each other only to a varying degree.

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