The term 'autonomous ego' was coined by the propo-
nents of EGO-PSYCHOLOGY. According to the proponents of ego-psychology, the
EGo becomes autonomous by achieving a harmonious balance between its
primitive drives and the dictates of reality. The autonomous ego is thus
synomymous with 'the strong ego', 'the well-adapted ego', 'the healthy
ego'. Psychoanalysis was conceived of by the proponents of ego-psychology
as the process of helping the analysand's ego to become autonomous: this was
supposed to be achieved by the identification of the analysand with the strong
ego of the analyst.
Lacan is very critical of the concept of the autonomous ego (see E, 306-7).
He argues that the ego is not free but determined by the symbolic order. The
autonomy of the ego is simply a narcissistic illusion of mastery. It is the
symbolic order, and not the ego, which enjoys autonomy.