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Schafer, R. (1960). The Loving and Beloved Superego in Freud's Structural Theory. Psychoanal. St. Child, 15:163-188.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 15:163-188

The Loving and Beloved Superego in Freud's Structural Theory

Roy Schafer, Ph.D.


Summarizing these observations, formulations, and implications concerning the loving and beloved superego in Freud's structural theory, we arrive at the following conclusions. There is a loving and beloved aspect of the superego. It represents the loved and admired oedipal and preoedipal parents who provide love, protection, comfort, and guidance, who embody and transmit certain ideals and moral structures more or less representative of their society, and who, even in their punishing activities, provide needed expressions of parental care, contact, and love. The maturing child will identify himself with these parental aspects. The identification will take place partly by way of imitative primary identification and partly by way of identification for purposes of mastering the oedipal crisis. The former comes under the heading of ego identification primarily, the latter under the heading of superego identification primarily. By means of this identification the child ultimately attains the position of being able to love, protect, comfort, and guide himself and his children after him, and of doing so according to relatively ego-syntonic, culture-syntonic, and impersonal sets of ideals and moral standards. In

this development much importance is permanently transferred from the mother of the world of the senses and the primary process to the great, Godlike father and the secondary process. The ego values, depends on, and loves this inner, paternal source of strength and organization. As with the id, the ego's relations with the superego are not simply antagonistic and the therapeutic task with regard to the superego is not simply to establish the ego's independence from it.

This developmental achievement establishes the superego as a structure for the binding and discharge of libidinal as well as destructive energy. Variations in the disposition of libido in the superego give rise to a range of feelings and actions, extending from the sense of inferiority and abandonment by all protecting powers on the one hand to pride, fortitude, humor, and effective transmission of cultural ideals on the other. The superego is not the reservoir and inner channel of hatred alone, even though its structuralization appears to be tied to the oedipal crisis and to a new deployment of the aggression originally directed toward the feared rival. It is not a static or regressed product of instinctual defusion, except perhaps in pathological cases. Just as parental criticism itself need not imply defusion in the parent, the establishment in the mind of the complex parental image that is the core of the superego is not normally based on a thoroughgoing and permanent defusion of libidinal and destructive energies. We must assume that ego structure and superego structure alike bind and discharge energy associated with both types of drives, and that in the analysis of ego and superego it is always a question of varying degrees of fusion and varying distances from both basic instinctual drives. In the case of the superego, the degree of defusion appears to depend on the related factors of regression, pathological intensity of the oedipus complex, and transmitted superego pathology. Preoedipal factors, which have not been extensively discussed here, also may exert a major influence in this regard.

In the hostile aspect of the superego, object hate is turned around and transformed into self-hate; in the benign aspect of the superego it is object love which is turned around and transformed into that aspect of self-love or narcissism felt as pride and security in relation to society and destiny as well as one's own conscience and ideals. The

superego builds and upholds as well as splits and tears down, just as the ego does.

In these conclusions the ego and superego remain, as Freud meant them to, the mind's two great structures for the disposition of love and hate. But it does not appear necessary or correct to assume compartmentalization of libidinal and destructive energies in the ego and superego respectively. Even though Freud sometimes assumed this compartmentalization, at other times he saw that his theory would have to be further revised, developed, and synthesized.

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