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Gillman, R.D. (1987). The Ego. Ideal. A Psychoanalytic Essay on the Malady of the Ideal: By Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. New York: Norton and London: Free Association Books. 1985. Pp. 271. £18.50.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:551-553.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:551-553

The Ego. Ideal. A Psychoanalytic Essay on the Malady of the Ideal: By Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. New York: Norton and London: Free Association Books. 1985. Pp. 271. £18.50.

Review by:
Robert D. Gillman

It is a pleasure for the reader to be plunged immediately into the new and interesting ideas of chapter 1 of this well-written book, 'The ego ideal and perversion'. The ego ideal is heir to primary narcissism, as Freud formulated it as an independent entity separate from the superego in 'On narcissism: an introduction' (1914). Man seeks to recover in the new form of an ego ideal that early narcissistic perfection he can no longer retain, that lost narcissism of early childhood in which he was his own ideal.

The author uses the psychopathology of perversion as a significant demonstration of the pathology, the failure to develop, of the ego ideal. She stresses that in the aetiology of male perversion there has been a seductive mother who encouraged the self-deception of an oedipal victory. There is then no envy of the father, no progression from a pregenital ego ideal to an ideal that invests the genital father and his penis. The boy's self-deception is accompanied defensively by two important denials: the denial of the difference between the sexes and the denial of the difference between the generations.

'The reality is not that the mother has been castrated. The reality is that she has a vagina that the little boy's penis cannot satisfy. The reality is that father has a penis and prerogatives that are still only potentialities in the little boy. If the sight of the female genital organs is so "traumatic", it is because it confronts the young male with his inadequacy, because it forces him to recognize his oedipal defeat' (pp.

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