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Loewald, H.W. (1962). Internalization, Separation, Mourning, and the Superego. Psychoanal Q., 31:483-504.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:483-504

Internalization, Separation, Mourning, and the Superego

Hans W. Loewald, M.D.


The formation of the superego, as the 'heir of the Oedipus complex', is considered in its relation to the phenomena of separation and mourning. Separation is described in its aspect as the occasion for processes of internalization, especially as it is related to mourning. The work of mourning is not confined to a gradual relinquishment of the lost object but also encompasses processes of internalizing elements of the relationship with the object to be relinquished. Such internalizations, in so far as they occur as part of the resolution of the Oedipus complex, lead to further differentiation of the ego of which the superego is a 'differentiating grade'. Some illustrations of the psychological processes involved in separation are given and there is a brief discussion of the termination of analysis from this point of view.

Separation from love objects constitutes a loss and may be experienced as deprivation. But separation, in certain crucial events in human life, also has the significance of emancipation and lack of separation may be experienced as deprivation. It is suggested that the emancipation involved in the normal resolution of the Oedipus complex, as well as in subsequent separations in which successful mourning takes place, can be understood in two ways: first, as an internal substitution for an externally severed object relationship (internal 'restitution of the lost object'), and second, as a resumption of early boundary-setting processes by which a further differentiation and integration of

the ego and of the object world on higher levels of development takes place. In other words, so-called superego identifications represent an undoing, so to speak, of separation in so far as object loss is concerned and they also represent the achievement of separation in so far as boundary-setting and further ego and object differentiation is concerned. The differences and similarities between so-called primary and secondary identifications, as well as between primary and secondary narcissism and between primary and secondary aggression, are briefly discussed from this point of view. It is pointed out that both internality and externality, an inner world and an outer world, are constituted by the primary forms of these processes and that their secondary forms, notwithstanding their defensive functions, continue to contribute to the further organization of an inner and an outer world.

Some concrete aspects of superego formation through the interaction between child and parents are briefly cited, and the duality or polarity of individuation and primary narcissistic identity with the environment is emphasized as a basic phenomenon of human development underlying the ambivalent significances of separation and of internalization.

The concept of degrees of internalization is advanced. This implies shifting distances of internalized 'material' from the ego core and shifting distances within the ego-superego system, as well as transformations in the character of the introjects according to the respective degrees of internalization. The superego is conceived as an enduring structure pattern whose elements may change and move either in the direction of the ego core or in an outer direction toward object representation. Thus elements of the superego may lose their superego character and become ego elements, or take on the character of object representations (externalization). It is postulated that the superego has the temporal character of futurity inasmuch as the superego-ego ideal may be understood as the envisioned inner future of the ego. Conscience, as the voice of the superego, speaks to the ego from the point of view of the inner future toward which

the ego reaches or which the ego has failed. It is suggested that the degrees of internalization, the distances from the ego-core, are temporal in nature, representing relations between an inner present and an inner future, although we but vaguely grasp the nature of such temporal structuralization.

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