Superego - Is It Thetan, Saint, Sinner, and Body Pilot?

Superego - Is It Thetan, Saint, Sinner, and Body Pilot?

ALTHOUGH Sigmund Freud is best known for his ideas on sex, he made many other contributions. of equal importance. One of these was the discovery and analysis of the Superego.

On the basis of what he observed in psychoanalysis, Freud divided the human personality into three parts:

1. The Id -- unconscious, operating on the "get pleasure-avoid pain" principle, identifying contents on an A=A=A-basis, a sort of primitive animal mind.

2. The Ego -- the "I", mostly conscious, the seat of self-determinism.

3. The Superego -- (described below).

A small child -- if we observe him as he is and not through the rose-colored glasses of fond parenthood -- is almost all Id and Ego. He is completely a-moral. When he wants something, he cries until he gets it; when he objects he resists with all his might and main; when he is pleased, he enjoys his pleasure without restraint. Morality, inhibitions, courtesy to others come later. How do they enter into the picture?

Freud's answer is that the Superego forms. The Superego begins as a part of the Ego -- a part which withdraws from the Ego and observes its performance*. Prior to its development, the child is rewarded for co-operation and punished for opposition by the actions of his parents. This is how he learns "good" and "bad". "Good" is what his parents want him to do; "bad" is what they don't want him to do. He accepts this -- but only partly -- because he depends on his parents for food and love and protection.

As the Superego -- the self-observing part of his personality -- develops, it gradually takes over this "good-bad", "reward-punishment" function. The parents and other valence figures (called "imagos" by Freud) continue to influence the child, of course, but he learns to regulate his own actions for greatest reward and least punishment by means of the Superego.

In addition to this "self-judging" function, the Superego has another role -- the ego-ideal.

This is, simply, the idea of the kind of person the child would like to be. He aspires to this ideal. Usually, on analysis, the ego-ideal is an idealization of the parents and other valence figures in the child's life. Seldom if ever is it the result of rational study; it just forms. It is possible that the "desire to be clear" may have some relation to the ego-ideal.

Freud was not the first to discover the Superego, of course; his great contribution lay in calling attention to its importance, and above all, in insisting that it be analyzed objectively and honestly without pretense or avoidance.

An interesting feature of the Superego is its role in the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Freud observed that the normal development of a child requires that he give up the intense emotional (repressed sexual) desires and fears toward his parents, and that these emotional identifications are then transferred to the Superego. I cannot yet report whether or not this occurred in my own case, although there are indications that it did. But it certainly seems worth investigating.

Another interesting observation is that "parents and similar authorities follow the dictates of their own Superegos in the upbringing of children". If this is so, the Superego becomes for the psyche what the genes are for the body -- a means for transferring the psychological traits of the parents directly to the child. .

Still another interesting application is to group psychology. For groups which have a "leader", a formula may be derived which runs like this: "A psychological group is a collection of individuals, who have introduced the same person into their super-ego, and on the basis of this common factor, have identified themselves with one another in their ego." It is interesting to explore the implications of this formula.

Finally, and this is of direct interest not only in psychoanalysis but in any concerted effort to achieve self-understanding: the Superego is the agency of resistance and of repression. This is of considerable practical importance. It

* Some readers may have experienced this "withdrawal to observe" phenomenon directly. It is possible that the Superego and the Thetan are one and the same.