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Ginsburg, R. (1988). Beyond Ego Psychology. Developmental Object Relations Theory: By Rubin and Gertrude Blanck. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 212 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 57:120-123.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 57:120-123

Beyond Ego Psychology. Developmental Object Relations Theory: By Rubin and Gertrude Blanck. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 212 pp.

Review by:
Roy Ginsburg

Rubin and Gertrude Blanck have written this third book on ego psychology because of their belief that knowledge about human development and object relations theory have added a significant new dimension to psychoanalytic theory. The authors view theoretical and clinical issues through the developmental prism of separation and individuation, and they express them in the language of object relations. They attempt to apply the expanding field of experimental and theoretical child development to the understanding of patients with narcissistic and borderline difficulties, whom they call "understructured personalities."

The authors' view of ego psychology has changed from an emphasis on object relationships as simple mental representations of first experiences (the theory of parental blame) to an emphasis on the result of the interaction and negotiation between self and object that occurs in the entire course of the separation-individuation process. However, while they overtly espouse the second, more sophisticated model, they often revert to their first model. For example, they criticize Jocasta for being an inadequate "pre-oedipal" mother and for choosing a destructive father for Oedipus.

A central tenet of their book is the idea of a superordinate ego and superego. A superordinate ego implies a unifying or executive function of the ego (a "central steering organization") that promotes adaptation. The superordinate ego concept is used to explain how the ego simultaneously can be battleground, opponent, and ally of the superego, as well as mediator of the conflict. The ego of structure experiences anxiety, reduces it to a signal, and defends against it. It is left to the superordinate ego to maintain the integrity and stability of the entire structure. The competency of the superordinate ego is determined by a combination of innate capacities and early experience.

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