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Weissman, P. (1954). Ego and Superego in Obsessional Character and Neurosis. Psychoanal Q., 23:529-543.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:529-543

Ego and Superego in Obsessional Character and Neurosis

Philip Weissman, M.D.


To clarify some of the obscurities of the interaction of ego and superego in the genesis of obsessive-compulsive disorders, it is necessary to distinguish more precisely between the postoedipal, mature superego and the pregenital or archaic superego. Introjected parental images from the infantile period of ego

development are directly related to obsessional and compulsive symptoms, and these images of omnipotence are representatives of the archaic superego. Omnipotence in obsessional neurosis is a quality of the archaic superego, while magical thinking, a derivative of the pleasure principle, is the property of the ego itself.

In obsessional neurosis, the archaic superego has a relative supremacy over the mature superego. The obsessional character, on the other hand, appears to be the result of molding by the mature superego in the face of a libidinal regression to the anal level, whereas the same libidinal regression in the presence of an archaic superego results in an obsessional neurosis.

It is necessary to distinguish between the genital superego and the pregenital (archaic) superego because the application of 'superego' to both promotes confusion. A sharper delineation of the organizations of the archaic and of the mature superegos, from functional, structural and developmental aspects, leads to a clearer understanding of the roles of the ego and of the superego in obsessional neurosis and obsessional character. Severe obsessional psychopathology is related to more extensive regression of the total ego; the milder obsessional syndromes to minor regressions of the total ego.

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