Difference between revisions of "Superego"

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superego (surmoi)                The term 'superego' does not appear until quite late
+
superego (surmoi)                 
  
  in Freud's work, being first introduced in The Ego and the Id (Freud, 1923b). It
+
The term 'superego' does not appear until quite late in Freud's work, being first introduced in The Ego and the Id (Freud, 1923b). It was in this work that Freud introduced his so-called 'structural model', in which the psyche is divided into three agencies; the EGo, the ID and the superego. However, the concept of a moral agency which judges and censures the ego can be found in Freud's work long before he locates these functions in the superego, such as in his concept of censorship.
 +
Lacan's first discussion of the superego comes in his article on the family (Lacan, 1938). In this work he distinguishes clearly between the superego and the EGO-IDEAL, terms which Freud seems to use interchangeably in The Ego and the Id. He argues that the primary function of the superego is to repress sexual desire for the mother in the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Following Freud, he argues that the superego results from Oedipal identification with the father, but he also refers to Melanie Klein's thesis on the maternal origins of an archaic form of the superego (Lacan, 1938: 59-60).
 +
When Lacan returns to the subject of the superego in his 1953-4 seminar, he locates it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego: 'the superego is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech' (Sl, 102). The superego has a close relationship with the Law, but this relationship is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, the Law as such is a symbolic structure which regulates subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration. On the other hand, the law of the superego has a 'senseless, blind character, of pure imperativeness and simple tyranny' (Sl, 102). Thus 'the superego is at one and the same time the law and its destruction' (Sl, 102). The superego arises from the misunderstanding of the law, from the gaps in the symbolic chain, and fills attempt to avoid the ambiguity and equivocation of discourse, it is precisely this ambiguity which psychoanalysis thrives on.
  
    was in this work that Freud introduced his so-called 'structural model', in
 
 
    which the psyche is divided into three agencies; the EGo, the ID and the
 
 
  superego. However, the concept of a moral agency which judges and censures
 
 
  the ego can be found in Freud's work long before he locates these functions in
 
 
  the superego, such as in his concept of censorship.
 
 
      Lacan's first discussion of the superego comes in his article on the family
 
 
(Lacan, 1938). In this work he distinguishes clearly between the superego and
 
 
  the EGO-IDEAL, terms which Freud seems to use interchangeably in The Ego and
 
 
  the Id. He argues that the primary function of the superego is to repress sexual
 
 
  desire for the mother in the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Following
 
 
Freud, he argues that the superego results from Oedipal identification with the
 
 
father, but he also refers to Melanie Klein's thesis on the maternal origins of an
 
 
  archaic form of the superego (Lacan, 1938: 59-60).
 
 
      When Lacan returns to the subject of the superego in his 1953-4 seminar, he
 
 
  locates it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego:
 
 
    'the superego is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech' (Sl,
 
 
102). The superego has a close relationship with the Law, but this relationship
 
 
  is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, the Law as such is a symbolic structure
 
 
    which regulates subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration. On the
 
 
  other hand, the law of the superego has a 'senseless, blind character, of pure
 
 
imperativeness and simple tyranny' (Sl, 102). Thus 'the superego is at one and
 
 
  the same time the law and its destruction' (Sl, 102). The superego arises from
 
 
  the misunderstanding of the law, from the gaps in the symbolic chain, and fills
 
 
attempt to avoid the ambiguity and equivocation of discourse, it is precisely
 
 
this ambiguity which psychoanalysis thrives on.
 
 
      Suggestion has a close relation with TRANSFERENCE (E, 270). If transference
 
 
  involves the analysand attributing knowledge to the analyst, suggestion refers
 
 
  to a particular way of responding to this attribution. Lacan argues that the
 
 
analyst must realise that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed
 
 
(by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess
 
 
  the knowledge attributed to him. In this way, the analyst is able to transform
 
 
  the transference into 'an analysis of suggestion' (E, 271). Suggestion, on the
 
 
  other hand, arises when the analyst assumes the position of one who really
 
 
  does know.
 
 
      Like Freud, Lacan sees hypnosis as the model of suggestion. In Group
 
 
Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud shows how hypnotism makes
 
 
  the object converge with the ego-ideal (Freud, 1921). To put this in Lacanian
 
 
  terms, hypnotism involves the convergence of the object a and the I. Psycho-
 
 
analysis involves exactly the opposite, since 'the fundamental mainspring of
 
 
  the analytic operation is the maintenance of the distance between I      - identi-
 
 
  fication - and the a' (S11, 273).
 
  
 +
Suggestion has a close relation with TRANSFERENCE (E, 270). If transference involves the analysand attributing knowledge to the analyst, suggestion refers to a particular way of responding to this attribution. Lacan argues that the analyst must realise that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed (by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess the knowledge attributed to him. In this way, the analyst is able to transform the transference into 'an analysis of suggestion' (E, 271). Suggestion, on the other hand, arises when the analyst assumes the position of one who really does know.
  
 +
Like Freud, Lacan sees hypnosis as the model of suggestion. In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud shows how hypnotism makes the object converge with the ego-ideal (Freud, 1921). To put this in Lacanian terms, hypnotism involves the convergence of the object a and the I. Psychoanalysis involves exactly the opposite, since 'the fundamental mainspring of the analytic operation is the maintenance of the distance between I      - identification - and the a' (S11, 273).
  
  

Revision as of 05:45, 26 April 2006

superego (surmoi)

The term 'superego' does not appear until quite late in Freud's work, being first introduced in The Ego and the Id (Freud, 1923b). It was in this work that Freud introduced his so-called 'structural model', in which the psyche is divided into three agencies; the EGo, the ID and the superego. However, the concept of a moral agency which judges and censures the ego can be found in Freud's work long before he locates these functions in the superego, such as in his concept of censorship. Lacan's first discussion of the superego comes in his article on the family (Lacan, 1938). In this work he distinguishes clearly between the superego and the EGO-IDEAL, terms which Freud seems to use interchangeably in The Ego and the Id. He argues that the primary function of the superego is to repress sexual desire for the mother in the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Following Freud, he argues that the superego results from Oedipal identification with the father, but he also refers to Melanie Klein's thesis on the maternal origins of an archaic form of the superego (Lacan, 1938: 59-60). When Lacan returns to the subject of the superego in his 1953-4 seminar, he locates it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego: 'the superego is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech' (Sl, 102). The superego has a close relationship with the Law, but this relationship is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, the Law as such is a symbolic structure which regulates subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration. On the other hand, the law of the superego has a 'senseless, blind character, of pure imperativeness and simple tyranny' (Sl, 102). Thus 'the superego is at one and the same time the law and its destruction' (Sl, 102). The superego arises from the misunderstanding of the law, from the gaps in the symbolic chain, and fills attempt to avoid the ambiguity and equivocation of discourse, it is precisely this ambiguity which psychoanalysis thrives on.


Suggestion has a close relation with TRANSFERENCE (E, 270). If transference involves the analysand attributing knowledge to the analyst, suggestion refers to a particular way of responding to this attribution. Lacan argues that the analyst must realise that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed (by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess the knowledge attributed to him. In this way, the analyst is able to transform the transference into 'an analysis of suggestion' (E, 271). Suggestion, on the other hand, arises when the analyst assumes the position of one who really does know.

Like Freud, Lacan sees hypnosis as the model of suggestion. In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud shows how hypnotism makes the object converge with the ego-ideal (Freud, 1921). To put this in Lacanian terms, hypnotism involves the convergence of the object a and the I. Psychoanalysis involves exactly the opposite, since 'the fundamental mainspring of the analytic operation is the maintenance of the distance between I - identification - and the a' (S11, 273).


superego (surmoi) The term 'superego' does not appear until quite late

  in Freud's work, being first introduced in The Ego and the Id (Freud, 1923b). It
   was in this work that Freud introduced his so-called 'structural model', in
   which the psyche is divided into three agencies; the EGo, the ID and the
  superego. However, the concept of a moral agency which judges and censures
  the ego can be found in Freud's work long before he locates these functions in
  the superego, such as in his concept of censorship.
      Lacan's first discussion of the superego comes in his article on the family

(Lacan, 1938). In this work he distinguishes clearly between the superego and

  the EGO-IDEAL, terms which Freud seems to use interchangeably in The Ego and
  the Id. He argues that the primary function of the superego is to repress sexual
  desire for the mother in the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Following

Freud, he argues that the superego results from Oedipal identification with the

father, but he also refers to Melanie Klein's thesis on the maternal origins of an

  archaic form of the superego (Lacan, 1938: 59-60).
      When Lacan returns to the subject of the superego in his 1953-4 seminar, he
  locates it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego:
   'the superego is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech' (Sl,

102). The superego has a close relationship with the Law, but this relationship

  is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, the Law as such is a symbolic structure
   which regulates subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration. On the
  other hand, the law of the superego has a 'senseless, blind character, of pure

imperativeness and simple tyranny' (Sl, 102). Thus 'the superego is at one and

  the same time the law and its destruction' (Sl, 102). The superego arises from
  the misunderstanding of the law, from the gaps in the symbolic chain, and fills

out those gaps with an imaginary substitute that distorts the law (see E, 143;

   see Lacan's almost identical remarks on the censorship: 'Censorship is always
   related to whatever, in discourse, is linked to the law in so far as it is not
   understood'   - S2, 127).
       More specifically, in linguistic terms, 'the superego is an imperative' (Sl,
   102). In 1962, Lacan argues that this is none other than the Kantian categorical

imperative. The specific imperative involved is the command 'Enjoy!'; the

   superego is the Other insofar as the Other commands the subject to enjoy. The
   superego is thus the expression of the will-to-enjoy (volontÈ de jouissance),
   which is not the subject's own will but the will of the Other, who assumes the
   form of Sade's 'Supreme Being-in-Evil' (Ec, 773). The superego is                   an
   'obscene, ferocious Figure' (E, 256) which imposes 'a senseless, destructive,

purely oppressive, almost always anti-legal morality' on the neurotic subject

   (Sl, 102). The superego is related to the voice, and thus to the invoking drive
   and tO SADISM/MASOCHISM.


The super-ego is the faculty that seeks to police what it deems unacceptable desires; it represents all moral restrictions and is the "advocate of a striving towards perfection" ("New Introductory Lectures" 22.67). Originally, the super-ego had the task of repressing the Oedipus complex and, so, is closely caught up in the psychodramas of the id; it is, in fact, a reaction-formation against the primitive object-choices of the id, specifically those connected with the Oedipus complex. The young heterosexual male deals with the Oedipus complex by identifying with and internalizing the father and his prohibitions: "The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more intense the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of discipline, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the more exacting later on is the domination of the super-ego over the ego—in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt" ("Ego and the Id" 706). Given its intimate connection with the Oedipus complex, the super-ego is associated with the dread of castration. As we grow into adulthood, various other individuals or organizations will take over the place of the father and his prohibitions (the church, the law, the police, the government). Because of its connection to the id, the superego has the ability to become excessively moral and thus lead to destructive effects. The super-ego is closely connected to the "ego ideal."


References