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Hoffer, W. (1950). Development of the Body Ego. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:18-23.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:18-23

Development of the Body Ego

Willie Hoffer, M.D.

In recent considerations on the genesis of mental structure Hartmann, Kris and Loewenstein (3) advocate a modification of Freud's view on the origin of the ego as expounded by him in The Ego and the Id(1). They suggest with the support of impressive arguments that the ego should no longer be considered the result of differentiation from the id, but that both the ego and the id, should be conceived the result of differentiation from an undifferentiated state.

Hartmann, Kris and Loewenstein explicitly "refrained from indicating at what point in early infancy the successive steps leading to structural differentiation take place," but they state that the first and most fundamental step leading to it "concerns the ability of the infant to distinguish between the self and the world around him." This agrees with Freud's own thoughts on ego formation according to which "the ego is the part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world acting through the Pcpt-Cs" (Perceptual-Consciousness).

But there is, according to Freud, another differentiating agency which, instead of being tuned to stimulation from outside, responds to stimuli from within the organ system. Under certain conditions instinctual drives not only act on the bodily and mental apparatus but merely by operating within the organism cause changing states of tension or demands and relaxations which are registered within the body in respect to their intensity and perhaps the locality where they arise. I mean the very first sensations and the earliest processes of discharge following an excitation. Freud spoke of internal perceptions which, in contrast to external ones, are more fundamental and more elementary.


The visual, auditory and olfactory apparatus has a definite relation to our interest in the outer world which in the most primitive language is the "not-self."

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