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(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Notes on Ego Development. Judith S. Kestenberg. Pp. 111-122.. Psychoanal Q., 23:613-614.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Notes on Ego Development. Judith S. Kestenberg. Pp. 111-122.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:613-614

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Notes on Ego Development. Judith S. Kestenberg. Pp. 111-122.

This paper presents a series of thoughts on several questions. What type of raw material in the id lends itself to transformation into ego structure? How are condensation, displacement, lack of contradiction, and timelessness and spacelessness energized by the unbound energy of the id, subdued and utilized in the formation of ego functions? Is it necessary to assume primary autonomy of the ego, as Hartmann and others believe, to understand congenital differences among egos? Or is it possible to trace peculiarities of the ego to inborn trends of the id?

The first part of the paper surveys the main functions of the ego. Clinical illustrations show the complexity of the components of the ego and their interaction with each other as well as with the id and with reality. The author concludes that exploration of the development of basic ego functions (Hartmann's conflict-free sphere) and of early stages of defense mechanisms might help to provide an answer to the questions posed. Speculations on the origin of the controlling functions of the ego from the conservative trend of the id are mentioned briefly and set aside as possibly too farfetched.

The second part of the paper attempts to reconstruct the development of early ego functions from their sources in the id. Early reactions to tensions follow the pattern of the primary process. Early unspecific responses become specific under the impact of specific demands of reality. Bodily equipment present at birth, and amplified by maturation, can be used by the id in a disorderly fashion, by the ego in a controlled one. An infant insists on 'condensation' when it sucks its fingers while trying to drink from the bottle. Limitations of time and space imposed by the nursing situation force the child to modify such a primitive model into a higher form of condensation, used in the conceptualization of the nursing experience as a whole. Similarly unspecific displacement becomes the foundation both for basic ego functions, such as anticipation, and for defensive function, such as withdrawal into fantasy.

The pleasure it experiences in functioning is largely responsible for the infant's ability to displace. Enjoying one's own perceptions and movements becomes an important part of autoerotic gratification. In time functional pleasure becomes specifically associated with end-pleasure, and is thus differentiated into forepleasure. For instance the unspecific pleasure of looking becomes forepleasure when looking is used for the pleasurable anticipation of nursing. The forepleasure period becomes increasingly extended in time and reaches a relative independence from end-pleasure in such activities as play. In play the infant is able to modify and consolidate a variety of ego functions born out of needs at an earlier time. Thus displacement from uncontrolled

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drive for gratification to functional pleasure facilitates the child's coping both with reality and with demands of drives.

There is continuous interaction between defensive and nondefensive functions. Condensation is used for ideation and is also used for countercathexis of defense mechanisms. In both instances it is a necessary concomitant of the binding of energy. Displacement is used in such prototypes of defenses as hallucinations, ignoring, denial, and eventually repression. The concept of negation evolves from the experimentation with these early mechanisms.

The impact of time and space modifies unspecific displacement and unspecific condensation, which are present in the id, into specific functions of the ego. The ego borrows both energy and models for its function from the id. A small part of the id yields to the regulating influence of reality; it is no longer a zone of subservience to somatic needs but rather a territory of limited control, the ego.


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Article Citation

(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953. Psychoanal. Q., 23:613-614

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