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Kafka, E. (1990). The Uses of Moral Ideas in the Mastery of Trauma and in Adaptation, and the Concept of Superego Severity. Psychoanal Q., 59:249-269.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:249-269

The Uses of Moral Ideas in the Mastery of Trauma and in Adaptation, and the Concept of Superego Severity

Ernest Kafka, M.D.

ABSTRACT

The power of moral ideas, here equated with superego strength, has been explained in increasingly complex terms over the course of the development of psychoanalysis. At first regarded mainly as useful in opposing oedipal instinctual demands, morality came to be seen also as opposed to aggressive wishes while at the same time capable of gratifying aggressive and libidinal forces. In this paper, I discuss the contribution to the strength of morality that comes from the effects of painful ("traumatic") experiences and from the use of moral ideas for social, adaptational purposes. In addition I consider the possibility that unchanging moral ideas can have changes in function in clinical work. A case is presented to illustrate these points.

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