The earliest stage grew out of Freud's discoveries of latent and manifest content in a variety of phenomena: dreams, neurotic symptoms, jokes, forgetting, and slips of all kinds. As he came to realize that this polarity between manifest and latent or conscious and unconscious applied in so many different spheres of mental activity, he understood that he had arrived at a general psychological principle of explanation: the dynamic tension between conscious and unconscious, thought of as "the" unconscious or "the" conscious, as systems, structures, forces, or even places in the brain.
We can date the second phase, ego psychology, from Freud's
positing a superego, an ego, and an id in 1923. Ego psychology
balances the mind's synthesizing functions against external
reality or some other internal psychic structure. Its basic
polarity for explanations thus poises ego against nonego, that
is, the mind's control and balance of the agencies acting on it
against those agencies themselves. Hence, although therapy in
the first phase sought to make "the" unconscious conscious,
therapy in the second aims at enlarging and strengthening the
ego. Indeed, as Freud himself concluded, one can no longer
speak of "the" unconscious as an isolated system. One
In the third phase, the tension whose dynamics will explain things is between self and non-self. As early as 1930, in the first chapter of Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud had embarked on this third phase. He stated that, in the earliest months of life, the infant's ego includes the world around it, in the way we adults experience falling in love or mystical experiences. "Originally the ego includes everything; later it separates off an external world from itself" (1930a, 21:68). He had, in effect, recognized that for at least the beginning of an individual's life span, the wholly intrapsychic model of the first two phases of psychoanalysis had to give way to an interpsychic model, one that included both the individual mind and its surround.
This is a monumental change in psychoanalytic theory, and Freud was not overstating it when he compared the discovery of this early developmental phase to the unearthing of Minoan and Mycenaean civilization beneath the classical and archaic Greece that the West had known since the Renaissance. Oedipus was a classical drama directed to the Olympian father-gods. Now Freud, by describing this early fusion, had found the ancient mother-goddess who had to be before Oedipus could be.
Once Freud had put forward the idea that at the beginning of life the ego is a permeable interface between self and outer world, later psychoanalysts have found a steadily increasing body of evidence that that is true all through life. Thus the third phase of psychoanalysis grows from work done during the fifties and sixties by theorists like Erik Erikson, Jacques Lacan, Heinz Kohut, Heinz Lichtenstein, Otto Kernberg, and (especially) English object-relations theorists like W. R. D. Fairbairn, Harry Guntrip, D. W. Winnicott, and Marion Milner. Now, in the 1980s, a great many psychoanalysts are thinking and explaining by means of a dynamic tension between self and other that includes but goes beyond the earlier dynamics of ego and nonego, conscious and unconscious. Often, these psychoanalysts describe themselves as "going beyond" ego psychology, and sometimes they contrast what they see as their more advanced view to what seems an unduly conservative commitment on the part of some psychoanalytic institutes to ego psychology.
Freud himself said, however, that our egos lose their boundaries when we fall in love or when we have mystical experiences, and subsequent psychoanalytic writers have argued that what Freud theorized for special cases is a general phenomenon of adult life. For example, I asserted (in 1968) that the same thing happens when we become "absorbed" in literary or artistic works. Long before I came along, Lacan had suggested his stade du miroir in infancy and D. W. Winnicott had developed his even more powerful concept of a transitional space between self and other in which all cultural experience takes place. One can read Erik Erikson's large concepts of adaptation, mutuality, and psychosocial development as building this interpersonal model of the mind. So does Charles Rycroft when he updates the old-fashioned symbolic decoding to treat psychoanalytic symbolism as an active way of relating oneself to the world. So, in a way, does Hans Loewald in rethinking the traditional concepts of id, ego, and superego or Roy Schafer in developing an "action language" of self and other that will get psychoanalysis beyond those second-phase constructs. Heinz Kohut, by addressing therapeutically a self that includes id, ego, and superego but is not limited to them, develops a third-phase psychoanalytic therapy parallel to classical psychoanalytic treatment.
One can remember these three phases by the parts of speech they make the word "unconscious" into. Always, Freud used the word to mean whether or not one was aware of some idea or feeling. In the first phase, however, "unconscious" could also be a noun, referring to a thing, a system, or even a place. In the second phase, when Freud announced that "unconscious" was no longer a system, only "descriptive," the word became an adjective only. Now, Roy Schafer ingeniously suggests, "unconscious" ought to be an adverb: we should think of a whole person doing this or that unconsciously (1976, pp. 241-43).
This three-phase capsule history of psychoanalysis gives us a frame for sorting out theories and situating identity theory within them. To each phase, identity theory brings a concept of identity which is very like the second-phase psychoanalytic concept of "character." The classic definition is Otto Fenichel's: "the habitual mode of bringing into harmony the tasks presented by internal demands and by the external world" (1945, p. 467; see also the discussion of characterologies on pp. 160-64 above).
"Character," in turn (as Victor Rosen pointed out in 1961), is much akin to "style." (Etymologically, both words have to do with scribing marks on a surface.) Style is a literary critic's word, but the concept works in much the same way for a copy editor, a fashion columnist, or a sportswriter. Style is someone's distinctive or characteristic mode of doing something, and you can therefore use the word for boxing or business or brewing, for any one or all aspects of a life, as in life-style. It is, for all practical purposes, identity, shorn of the theoretical niceties that cling to the later term.
By thinking in terms of style, then, we can connect identity theory to other concepts in psychoanalysis. Usually, identity is a way of saying that a certain concept from elsewhere in psychoanalyis is carried out with such and such a style. For example, in
Freud first defined the unconscious descriptively, as all those contents of the mind that are at any given moment outside of conscious awareness and that can only be brought to consciousness with special efforts or under special circumstances (like dreams or free associations). This is the unconscious as adjective, and none of Freud's revisions of theory changed this basic definition.
The unconscious in this sense is completely private. That is, only I can know what I am aware of (and, I suppose, what I am unaware--unconscious--of). You (or my analyst) might infer that I am unconscious of this or that, but only I can really know.
Identity is representation, and there are two possibilities. Identity can be perceived by the person in question, the one "inside" the identity (so to speak), or identity can be perceived by another from "outside." This distinction between an "inside" and an "outside" interpreter is important because, in it, a theme-and-variations concept of identity poses and preserves the classical psychoanalytic polarity of conscious and unconscious.
Even with empathy, we on the outside will never feel exactly the pleasure another mind feels, never know things, even knowledge we share, in the same way, never love as that other person loves. On the other hand, we can see and even measure behavior from outside as accurately as we please.
Behavior is "outside" as a literary text is. Both present visible surfaces, both spring from an intention, and with both one infers an intention from the surface. Presumably any given intention is conscious or unconscious or both, but one cannot infer which--from outside.
If you write, "To be or not to be," I can legitimately conclude that you intended to write "To be or not to be." I could be mistaken, however. You may have actually intended to write "To see or not to see" and, like the young man with aliquis, slipped. There is no way I could tell from what you say alone that you had made a slip of the tongue. There is no way I can infer from a text alone what of your intention was conscious and what unconscious.
I pick up a Fitzgerald story, and I find that it is about an idealized woman and something being withheld from the hero. Every other story by Fitzgerald that I read has the same themes. Is this a conscious choice for him or unconscious?
The idealized woman and the hero withheld from are not unconscious in the sense that he was unaware of them--Fitzgerald was certainly aware of what he was writing as he wrote it. Standing outside Fitzgerald, however, considering his identity, how can we know what he was aware of in his recurring choice of theme and what not--what was unconscious, what conscious?
So with behavior. You stub your toe. For all I know, you deliberately intended to kick that rock (like Dr. Johnson). Whether you did or did not, though, the data for thinking about identity could be no more than your stubbing your toe.
To the outside observer, the distinction between conscious and unconscious is invisible. Freud saw through the forgetful young man in a way the young man himself could not. Only the person observed can demonstrate the distinction between conscious and unconscious, as the young man showed by his surprise that he had not been consciously aware of the connection between his wish for avenging descendants and his worry about his mistress's pregnancy. In therapy or in conversation Fitzgerald might let us infer something about how much he knew of his own patterns, but even then we would be relying on his word.
At the same time, however, the young man knew all kinds of sensations, feelings, memories, information, and intentions opaque to Freud outside and on which Freud's inferences depended. Hence Freud's discovery of the young man's motive in forgetting depended precisely on their being two of them, one inside the identity, the other outside it, being able to talk back and forth.
In psychoanalytic therapy the therapist is outside, and the patient inside. The patient associates and says what he feels. The therapist infers the unity of what he hears, but that understanding can only become therapeutic when the patient takes it "inside." Conversely, the therapist can only function as a therapist if the patient will bring what he has inside, outside. One way of thinking about therapy, then, would be: the combining of outside insights and inside experience in an identity-creating relationship, namely, the verbal space in which the interpreter and interpretee act together that Freud described in his 1937 paper on "Constructions in Analysis" (23:258-59). In this way psychoanalysis mingles a self defined by both a feeling of wholeness and an observation of it, a therapeutic alliance between an inside, experiencing, associating ego and an outside, observing, analyzing ego.
Whether you free associate on the couch or stub your toe or misquote Virgil or write stories about all-powerful women and deprived heroes, identity need say nothing about your intention and can say nothing about whether it was conscious or unconscious. Identity has nothing to do with "conscious" or "unconscious" in the exact, descriptive sense: what you are subjectively aware of. There is, however, another sense.
In the first phase of psychoanalysis, "unconscious" is also "the" unconscious, a noun and a system with its own forces and energies. In his early clinical work Freud concluded that an unconscious thought was "dynamic," with forces (like physical forces) pushing either toward consciousness or unconsciousness, expression or repression.
Identity does not change the idea of a dynamic unconscious any more than the descriptive, but for a different reason. "The" unconscious no longer exists as a concept. Freud eliminated it when he introduced the id, ego, and superego and began the second phase of psychoanalysis. "We will no longer use the term 'unconscious' in the systematic sense" (1933a, 22:72). "The" unconscious has no place in second- or third-phase psychoanalysis.
I have been addressing the question, How does identity theory relate to the classical distinction between conscious and unconscious? There is a parallel question: How does identity relate to the distinction between primary and secondary process?
By secondary process, Freud intended the mental processes that psychology had traditionally studied: problem solving or rational, goal-directed thought governed by the reality principle. In dreams, jokes, symptoms, and free association, however, he had found forms of thought that were completely irrational and directed to immediate pleasure, that simply did not follow such rules of secondary process thinking as the axiom against logical contradictions, the principle of cause and effect, or the laws of time and place. This "primary process thinking" was, he thought, earlier, childish, something one grew out of in waking life if not in dreams.
I prefer a concept of primary and secondary processes that matches the picture of mind put forward in chapter 6, a hierarchy of feedbacks in which the higher levels govern the lower. The secondary processes are those aimed outward, at encountering reality, while the primary processes are attuned to the feelings that tell us whether the secondary processes are succeeding in their feedbacks through reality. The primary processes are those the ego must use for all the functions aimed inward, at preserving the continuity and identity of the self and assimilating (in Piaget's sense) new experiences to the way the self schematizes reality (as in chapters 4 and 5). Hence, the secondary processes depend upon a constant feedback of information from the outside world, while primary processes are independent of feedback from outer reality. Primary processes take over in dreaming and mental illness, because something (like sleep) interrupts the feedback needed to sustain the secondary processes.
If we think of primary and secondary process thinking as arranged in a hierarchy of higher and lower (as in chapters 5 and 6), then secondary process thinking must be the lower, tied to our sensory contacts with the outer world. Animals would have rather highly developed secondary processes. Primary process would be higher, associated in one direction with identity, in the other with governing secondary processes to sustain and enhance the self. Hence, we need not think of either primary or secondary processes as "primitive" or "infantile" with respect to the other. Both develop progressively all through life. Both serve in the adaptation of the human organism to its social and biological surround (Noy, 1969). Nor would one think of a "regression" from secondary to primary process. Art, which reverses the balance of the primary and secondary processes in life, is not childlike or primitive but simply a shift in modes.
We carry on both these kinds of thinking with a certain style: quickly or slowly, skipping steps or plodding, carefully or uninhibitedly. Since identity is a way of putting these stylistic features into words, it applies equally to primary and secondary processes. One dreams with a certain personal style of dreaming, hence as a function of one's identity. One pays one's income tax within a certain style which is, if not the same, at least like the style with which one dreams.
In my picture, then, identity uses both primary and secondary processes, with primary governing secondary. A person uses those processes as one might use the processes of language or arithmetic. We can imagine the primary and secondary processes as a smorgasbord of strategies that all people share but from which each person chooses in an individual way, with a certain style. A Shaw will choose those strategies of either primary or secondary process that fit his general need to find a significant other. A Fitzgerald will tend not to use strategies that do not enable him to find a large, withholding other. Any person will prefer some strategies and perhaps avoid others entirely. Identity theory thus gives us a way of understanding how primary and secondary processes can be the same for everyone yet my primary processes be my primary processes, just as my English is my English. The concept of an I ARCing and DEFTing through a hierarchy of feedback loops seems to me to enlarge the classical psychoanalytic concept of primary and secondary process quite usefully.
A third question likely to be asked about identity by those steeped in classical psychoanalytic theory is, Where are the drives in this? Is identity consistent with the classical psychoanalytic theory of the drives? If I were to answer in a word, I would say, "Yes," but the question is a complex one because Freud evolved his theory of the drives gradually over a whole lifetime (Bibring, 1936/1969).
In his last formulations, Freud wrote of two kinds of drive, libidinal and aggressive, life-instincts and death-instincts. Freud generalized the sexual instinct and the self-preservative into Eros, which he defined as seeking "to combine organic substances into ever larger unities," "to force together and hold together the portions of living substance." "The aim of the first of these basic instincts is to establish ever greater unities and to preserve them thus--in short, to bind together; the aim of the second is, on the contrary, to undo connections and so to destroy things" (1920g, 18:42-43 and 60n).
Freud speculated that if he were to generalize the aggressive drive as he had the libidinal one, its final aim would be to lead what is living into a state of inertia prior to organic life. It would be a death instinct. To generalize it that way, however, requires reversing the drive from active to passive, from a self undoing the connections in something external to a self undoing the connections in the self. No one, so far as I know, has found any evidence of such a reversal.
Ethologists translate Freud's assumption of an aggressive drive into an innate human drive to war. Intellectual (as opposed to clinical) fans of psychoanalysis rhapsodize about a "death instinct" or "Thanatos." In general, people tend to get romantic about the drives, they sound so much like love and hate. Few clinicians have found much in a death instinct that corresponds to human experience, however, and the idea appeals today mostly to the philosophical or to the idolaters of Freud.
Most Anglo-American analysts have accepted Freud's dual instinct theory in its less generalized form: one drive to form unities and another to split them apart into nullity. In life, any given instinct combines elements of both. "The sexual act is an act of aggression with the purpose of the most intimate union" (1940a, 23:149). In eating, one establishes a unity with the object but destroys it as a separate entity.
In relating the drives to identity, I find it helpful to return to Freud's original, clear definitions. It is certainly not easy, for drive is a frontier concept bridging mind and body. Sometimes Freud wrote about it as wholly physiological. Sometimes he included the Triebrepräsentanz, the mental representation or psychical representative of the bodily force. It is perhaps, as Freud suggested, neither necessary nor wise to try to eliminate that ambiguity.
One can distinguish four components of any given drive. It has a source (Quell), that is, some process located in a particular organ or part of the body. It has an aim (Ziel), namely, a satisfaction obtained by balancing the organic tension, as food, up to a point, satisfies hunger. The drive usually, but not always, has an object (Objekt) by means of which satisfaction is to be achieved--often a person but sometimes a thing, like food. Finally, it has a "pressure" or "impetus" (Drang) by which Freud seemed to mean a quantitative measure of the amount of action required to satisfy the drive (Freud, 1915c, 14:111-15 and 117-23).
One can use identity, it seems to me, to make "drive" more precise and useful; one can use "drive" to make identity precise. That is, one could speak of a quantitative factor in a person's identity from drives. One person has more drive than someone else or less: that would be Freud's Drang. Similarly, one could compare the balance of aggression and libido in different people. Some, obviously, are more aggressive than others. Certainly different people accent different Quelle. Shaw was an oral character, more so than Fitzgerald, although he was oral too. Also, different people seek different objects. Shaw sought a purposeful other. Fitzgerald sought one that would withhold. As for Ziel, Fitzgerald sought saturation, while Shaw was abstemious. One could regard the various components of Freud's concept of drive--aggression, libido, source, aim, object, and impetus--as ways of inquiring into and making more precise a statement of identity. A statement of identity, conversely, would be a way of understanding these various components as a whole.
There is, however, one fundamental difference between drive and identity. Freud located the drives in the biological self, while identity is a representation of that self in someone's mind. In this sense, I think of identity as freeing the concept of drive from a nineteenth-century cosmology.
Freud thought of actual, physiological drives, but modern biologists and later analysts are more reluctant to posit physiological entities than he was. With identity, we need not imagine those drives as part of our inherited physiology. Identity simply asks, Can we sort out behavior into two logically exhaustive quests, one to unite and preserve unity, the other to divide unities and so destroy? Identity makes the drives into a representation of self by means of drives.
Psychoanalysis is often said to be a psychology of conflict, for example, in the conflict between libidinal and aggressive drives. Identity, however, which so stresses unity might seem to ignore conflict. One might well ask (and people do), Where in identity theory is conflict?
Conflict refers to two or more competing impulses or perhaps a conflict between reality and an impulse. Identity describes the style of the adversaries. To the extent that an impulse is a part of the psychology of the individual, identity describes the style of the impulse: hasty, inexorable, displaceable, peremptory, reversible, splittable--whatever. Presumably, if one has read identity well, one would be able to see in each aspect of the conflict the same identity. That does not imply, of course, that there is no conflict, only that the scene of battle is lit all in the same hues.
Freud addressed the matter of conflict, however, more precisely in the second phase of his thought than in the first.
In 1915 (in a mere five months between March and August!), Freud wrote a series of twelve papers hoping to clarify his basic concepts so as to provide a firm theoretical foundation for his new science. Seven of these papers, however, he never published and apparently destroyed. Evidently, he had already begun to have doubts about first-phase theory, based on "the" unconscious versus "the" conscious. Beginning with Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920, he began to unfold a quite different system designed to account for two clusters of clinical evidence with which earlier theory had not dealt.
First, it was clear from the outset that one can observe and so split oneself, as the double appearance of "self" in that sentence suggests, but there are subtler forms of self-splitting. From the first Freud had spoken of a "censor" for whom the ideas in dreams had to be disguised. Obsessional neurotics and paranoiacs had delusions that they were being observed, and such an observer would have to be some form of their own selves. People mourning for a lost loved one typically reproached themselves for inadequacies toward that lost other.
In general, people have a sense of guilt: they inwardly criticize themselves for not living up to some ideal or for breaking certain taboos. This sense of guilt is often unconscious, as the adulterous young man's thinking of a group of saints might consciously express unconscious feelings of guilt. Hence "the" unconscious of first-phase theory was not just repressed impulses striving toward consciousness. Something critical and repressive was also unconscious.
The young man's guilt might be momentary, but the self-observation of an obsessional neurotic or a paranoiac person could go on for years. In dreams there is always a censor to be evaded. Freud therefore began to posit a self-critical entity that persists in time, a "structure" in Anglo-American usage, although Freud himself tended to speak of a "psychical apparatus" (seelischer Apparat) that included a certain "system" (System) or "agency" (Instanz--a judicial metaphor, as in the phrase, "a Court of First Instance" [1953-74, 1:xxiii-xxiv]). Whatever the terms, the point is, something in the mind shows a constancy and consistency in its workings like an organ in the body. The key, in other words, is time--duration.
Finding long-lasting, unconscious self-critical tendencies, Freud posited in 1923 an unconscious, censorious structure embodying the sense of guilt (particularly in the symptoms of obsessional neurosis), the normal conscience, self-reproaches during mourning, and paranoid delusions. The patient senses an agency holding sway in his ego which measures his self and each of its activities against what Freud had earlier called an "ideal ego" that each of us has created for ourselves in the course of development. In 1923, Freud named this agency the "superego."
This book, like most Anglo-American analytic writings, treats the superego (as a structure) as having two functions. First, it includes an ego ideal derived from the earliest identifications with parents and associated with values and ideals, one's sense of what one must be to "be somebody." Failure to live up to one's ego ideal leads to lost self-esteem or a sense of inferiority or inadequacy or depression--the fifty-year-old's question: Is this all I am going to be? Second, we have a superego properly so called, a "thou shalt not," derived from a later identification with the parents as they criticized, prohibited, or punished (as in our phrase "the voice of conscience"). Fear of punishment, guilt, or anxiety are the penalties exacted for a breach of these superego demands. Conversely, living up to both one's superego and ego ideal should lead to feelings of mental well-being, security, and, occasionally, humor.
Speaking loosely, people sometimes call the superego the basis of morality. Certainly, a person's ego ideal and superego will embody the values of society to the extent and in the way that person experienced them as a child through parents. These values may, however, be quite childish and as a result not moral at all (Schafer, 1974). The ego ideal's imperative may be truly imperial: you must control all evil impulses in the world; you must be omnipotent. The superego may say, Thou shalt not be dependent, for that is effeminate.
I think the tone, intensity, and maybe even the style of my moral impulses come from my experience of my parents, but their content does not. What I think moral at fifty-six has to do with what I now think, read, and know more than with the values I held as a boy. I rejected most of my parents' values in my twenties. As against the older psychoanalytic view, which treats morality as a residue carried over from childhood, contrast what I have learned since: my experience of authorities as (sometimes) reasonable, my ability to grasp their reasonableness, my assuming positions of authority myself, my capacity for empathy, my experience of moral models, and my ability to reason through the consequences of different moral positions. I deem it best, in thinking psychoanalytically about morality, to interpret the ego ideal and the superego as general rather than particular imperatives: Thou shalt be good. Thou shalt not do wrong. These imperatives command in the same style one's parents once did, gently, furiously, relentlessly, or lovingly, but the content of that "good" or "wrong" is likely to be more adultly thought out.
So far as identity is concerned, it refers to precisely that style of the superego and ego ideal, their recurring patterns, their rhythm, flexibility, intensity, persistence, and the like. An interpretation of identity would also consider patterns in the virtues and vices the superego rewards and punishes. For one person, sexual fidelity might be an important virtue and failings in fidelity would be the occasion for deep guilt. Another might care more about verbal honesty, monetary nicety, or personal loyalty. Such commitments would be part of identity.
The superego, however, dealt with only part of the clinical evidence that the earlier topographic (Cs.-Ucs.-Pcs.) system had not accounted for. In his psychoanalytic practice, Freud had also encountered unconscious resistance to the treatment. For example, the young man who forgot his aliquis commented, "I hope you don't take these thoughts of mine too seriously, if indeed I really had them." Questioning his thoughts is certainly resistance (since he obviously did have these thoughts), but he probably would not consciously accept it as such. More typically, a patient continues, say, to antagonize his boss although he knows (from his psychoanalysis) he does so in the self-defeating belief that his boss stands for his father. He acts out instead of interpreting and controlling--and he can't control it.
If there is unconscious resistance, then, Freud concluded, the agency that represses (the former Cs.) is not wholly conscious and the former division into Cs. and Ucs. is again too simple. There must be an unconscious ego as well as an unconscious superego. This is the reasoning that led Freud to replace his earlier division of the mind into "the" conscious, "the" unconscious, and "the" preconscious with a more complex picture, made up of superego, ego, and id, which included the earlier one. From my point of view, identity is like the coloring or the steadiness of line in this larger picture.
Opposite the superego Freud set what he called das Es, literally, "the it," a term taken from Nietzsche via Groddeck. By it, Freud intended "whatever in our nature is impersonal and, so to speak, subject to natural law," the sensation we have of being "'lived' by unknown and uncontrollable forces." "'It shot through me,' people say; 'there was something in me at that moment that was stronger than me.'" For das Es, Freud's early English translators chose the Latin id to parallel the already well established ego (1923b, 19:23, 23n, 7, 7n; 1926e, 20:195).
Oldest of the psychic structures, the id "contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, that is laid down in the constitution--above all, therefore, the instincts" (1940a, 23:145). It is the agency that--somehow--spans body and mind, soma and psyche. In some never specified way, it lets me sense the chemistry of my stomach walls as hunger, the pressure on my seminal vesicles as sexual desire. I do not think of it as an organ so much as a logical necessity: there has to be something like an id to bridge from body to mind.
"It is filled with energy . . . but it has no organization." "We call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations." It follows primary process thinking. The laws of logic, above all, the law of negation or exclusion do not apply. "Contrary impulses exist side by side, without cancelling each other out or diminishing each other: at the most they may converge to form compromises." The id has nothing to do with ideas of space or time and "most remarkable," its own mental processes do not change in time. "Wishful impulses [in the id] are virtually immortal; after the passage of decades they behave as though they had just occurred" (1933a, 22:73-74).
As with the superego, identity would include the content of the id: What impulses are dominant? Oral? Intrusive? Aggressive? Identity also refers to the style of the id. How strong is it? How inflexible, inexorable, and peremptory? How distractible?
Between the id that "lives us" and the thou shalt and thou shalt not of the superego, stands das Ich, the ego or "I." Originally synonymous with self, ego came to mean something considerably more complicated when Freud posited "the" ego, superego, and the structural hypothesis in 1920. In the structural view, only the id is wholly unconscious. Superego and ego are partly conscious (or preconscious) and partly unconscious.
Possibly the safest (if least useful) way to define the ego is: self minus id and superego. More usefully, one could say that the ego is the repository of consciousness, judgment, memory, intelligence, affects, perception, motor control, defense mechanisms, self-preservation, instinct control, one's sense of time, identifications with early objects, but most particularly perception, motility, and consciousness, which Freud called the "nucleus of the ego" (1923b, 19:28; 1940a, 23:145-46; see also Fenichel, 1945, p. 468). Key to all these transactions, although Freud does not single them out, are relationships to other people, and the effort to take other people into account led to an early and fruitful offshoot from ego psychology: object-relations theory.
In relation to identity, the most important thing the ego does is unify. "The ego is an organization characterized by a very remarkable trend towards unification, towards synthesis," said Freud (1926e, 20:196), and Hermann Nunberg summed up this unifying force in his classic phrase, "the synthetic function of the ego" (1931). The ego, precisely by virtue of its integrating power, takes even symptoms and makes them "useful in asserting the position of the self . . . more and more closely merged with the ego and more and more indispensable to it" (1926d, 20:99). Symptoms, in my terms, are functions of identity just like other kinds of behavior--and that is one reason they are difficult to cure. At the same time, however, in the process of cure, "as we analyse it [the neurotic patient's 'torn mind'] and remove the resistances, it grows together; the great unity which we call his ego fits into itself all the instinctual impulses which before had been split off and held apart from it" (1919a, 17:161). In identity terms, cure means keeping the same identity but changing its manifestations and the balances within it, for example, among various instincts and controls of instinct (as with Anna S.)
From the point of view of identity, the ego brings together various forces in a way that may not appear completely adaptive to an observer outside the I but feels to the person "inside" the I the best possible balance for his particular identity. Each of us will have a dream, choose a vocation, or even arrive at a neurotic symptom in such a way as to enable us to feel, think, and act in a way that feels coherent, that maximizes satisfactions and minimizes pains (except--perhaps--for the most crazed among us). Someone watching from outside can trace a coherence, an identity.
In short, when one represents an identity for Dr. Vincent, it includes representations of the styles of his id, ego, superego, and the balances among them. Identity theory includes an assumption that the style of Dr. Vincent's id will make sense alongside his ego style. Identity theory is consistent with the structural view.
In general, identity refines the second-phase concept of character, Fenichel's "the ego's habitual modes of adjustment to the external world, the id, and the superego, and the characteristic types of combining these modes with one another" (1945, p. 467). Since Fenichel bases his concept of character on Robert Waelder's "principle of multiple function," we need to look at the relation of that corner- stone of ego-psychology to identity.
Cause and effect, in psychoanalysis, become very complicated indeed. One can analyze many free associations into a single latent thought (like Freud's wish in the table d'hôte dream to enjoy a love that cost nothing). A single latent thought evidently gives rise to many manifestations: dream images or, in associations, memories, phrases, or pictures. Conversely, a single manifest idea like Freud's spinach can express guilt toward parents, reversal of preference, or beaux yeux (love) contrasted to money. "Not only are the elements of a dream determined by the dream-thoughts many times over," remarks Freud, "but the individual dream-thoughts are represented in the dream by several elements" (1900a, 4:283-84). For example, Freud's table d'hôte dream served not one but several purposes: it preserved Freud's sleep, it expressed a wish for love, and it warded off guilt. Further, had Freud continued to free associate he would no doubt have arrived at still other latent thoughts that apparently entered into or caused the dream. In principle, according to Freud there are no limits to the determinants.
The phrase psychoanalysis uses for this special kind of indefinitely large causation is "overdetermination" or, more recently, "multidetermination." Freud was probably most accurate of all when he suggested simply, "the principle of the complication of causes" (Moore and Fine, 1967, s.v. "Overdetermination"; Freud, 1901b, 6:60-61).
Historically this multidetermination led to a major psychoanalytic concept: Robert Waelder's "principle of multiple function," first published in Vienna in 1930 and in the United States in 1936. "I found the notion of over-determination difficult to accept logically," wrote Waelder three decades later. "If a;sb1;nt, a;sb2;nt, ...., a;sbn;nt were factors which were both necessary and sufficient to bring about a certain result A, I saw no room for another factor a;sbn;mp1;nt." Accordingly Waelder proposed a characteristic psychoanalytic strategy: turn the problem around and look at it from the opposite point of view. "It seemed to me to be more satisfying to say that behavior served several functions, or, as one might also say, that it was at once responsive to many pressures, or was a solution for many tasks" (1960, p. 56).
From the very beginning, Freud had recognized that dreams, hysterical symptoms, slips of tongue or pen, forgettings, or jokes all represented compromise formations. The individual makes some kind of a deal among two or more competing wishes, needs, or fears, or, more technically, the ego mediates between the superego and the id.
Given id, ego, and superego, Waelder could have formulated his principle that way. Had he done so, however, he would have neglected two other ideas being talked about in Freud's Viennese circle in the late thirties.
The first was adaptation, not in the crude sense of "adjusting to reality." Any changes in the world as we sense or act on it constitute tasks for the ego, because the ego is what senses or acts on reality. Sometimes, as in work or politics, the ego copes alloplastically, by changing the environment. Sometimes, as with a death or with changes in one's own body, the ego can only cope autoplastically, by changing the self. Either way, the ego fits the self and the environment together. It adapts them.
A second idea percolating psychoanalysis in the 1930s was the so-called repetition compulsion. Freud ultimately combined it with the aggressive drive to make a death instinct, but at first he conceived it simply from clinical evidence.
People repeat. Having once found an adaptive solution, we try that solution again before trying to invent another (like the hypotheses in a feedback picture). After a trauma, the victim will relive the event in re-peated nightmares. In transference, an analysand re-creates in his analyst the figures of his childhood. Some people have "destiny neuroses," getting themselves into the same predicament over and over: they "fall" for unsuitable lovers, they always manage to say just the wrong thing, or they blunder just at the moment of success. What is striking about these repetitions is that they do not give pleasure--indeed, they are often exceedingly painful. Logically enough, Freud entitled his 1920 exploration of this enigma Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
We repeat these particular unpleasures and also our pleasures (as in the scripts and scenarios I discussed in chapter 10). Accordingly, Freud concluded that he had discovered a "conservatism" intrinsic to the very nature of biological drives. "It seems, then, that an instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things . . . " (1920g, 18:36). The compulsion to repeat represents something very like the definition of a wish or the persistence of impulses in the id or the perpetuation of parents in the superego. It is generalizable, therefore, if not to all organic life, at least to many--I would say all--human drives and structures. Taken that way, it makes for a considerable neatening of theory. Waelder could analyze multidetermination into id, ego, superego, repetition compulsion, and reality (as related to the mind through perception and action).
A second book provided other bases for Waelder's principle: Freud's Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Some call it the first book of ego psychology because it firmly asserted the ego's executive role in psychic organization. Published in 1926, it was no doubt discussed in the Vienna circle well before that. In this book, Freud gave up his older idea that anxiety resulted from a chemical transformation of unrelieved desire (sexual, usually) which overtook a relatively defenseless ego.
The new theory, as Waelder sums it up, holds that "in a situation of danger . . . the ego may anticipate the latter in the form of anxiety and that this anticipation then becomes the immediate signal which tends to induce the organism to adjust itself so as to avoid the danger--for example, [by] flight." In other words, the ego gets "affect signals" of pleasure and unpleasure, particularly anxiety and guilt, and in response to these signals the ego sets in motion ways of coping with the problem (or, if we think of this as feedback, of zeroing the signal).
Waelder speaks of the tasks that arise for the ego because of the id, the superego, reality, and the repetition compulsion. One can group the four agencies facing the ego symmetrically along two axes. The id presses for drive satisfaction while the superego inhibits it. Reality constantly demands new solutions while the repetition compulsion wants to cling to old ones. Try something new. Do what worked before. Do it! Don't do it!
As these four inevitably conflict, they present the ego with problems, but they also give the ego resources with which to solve them. The ego can act on the real world to gratify the id. The repetition compulsion guarantees a kind of efficiency in the search for adaptations. The superego can warn the ego away from conduct that would elicit pain or punishment. Hence the ego is active as well as passive toward the four agencies. The ego actively, as it were, sets itself problems of overruling one or another of the four agencies, balancing them, assimilating them to its own tasks, and so on.
With this theoretical armamentarium, Waelder was in a position to develop what seems to me the cornerstone of ego-psychology and second-phase psychoanalysis, the principle of multiple function. Every attempted solution to one problem by the ego, says Waelder, is at the same time an attempt to solve all the others. Each act by the ego serves a multiple function within the mind as a whole.
The ego's active and passive relations to the other four agencies make a total of eight types of problems facing the ego at any one time. Thus, when the ego tries to solve one problem, it necessarily tries to solve up to seven others. Clearly a given transaction may be--must be--more successful in one of its eight aspects than another. It is impossible that one solution could enact with equal success all eight tactics, for they embody fundamental inconsistencies (do it, don't do it, try something new, follow the tried and true).
In the ego's serving so many taskmasters, Waelder sees "that sense of perpetual contradiction and feeling of dissatisfaction which, apart from neurosis, is common to all human beings." Conversely, multiple function suggests the unique importance of the act of love, "as that psychic act which comes nearest to a complete solution of all the contradictory problems of the ego."
Also built into this model of psychic functioning are basic concepts like psychological time (as wishes, the quest for a former perception, and as old and new adaptations). Emotions, particularly pleasure and unpleasure, not only provide basic motivations but also feed back signals as to whether a given solution by the ego has been successful (see chapter 6).
Finally, understanding the multiple functions of psychic acts leads to a hermeneutic or method of interpretation. If each psychic act attempts a solution of all other problems which are found in the ego, then every psychic act must have a multiple meaning. To interpret it, one must look along the various axes about which the ego makes its multiple functioning syntheses. As Waelder says, "A multiple meaning corresponds to a multiple function."
For example, consider the young man's forgetting aliquis in relation to the four agencies. On the one hand, the young man harbored an aggressive wish for avenging descendants (aggression from the id, and presumably a solution he had often proposed to himself before). Balancing it was a wish for no descendants, possibly under pressure of guilt from the superego--all those saints!--certainly because of his conscious knowledge of what a child would mean to him in his present reality. Similarly, Freud's table d'hôte dream represents a compromise between Freud's id-wish to have love even though he is selfish and his superego hesitations about that wish, expressed as a need to deserve love by being unselfish. He himself remarks that the dream repeats an episode in his courtship of Martha, while it also represents a response to his current financial needs in reality.
The two axes along which ego meets nonego--id and superego, reality and repetition compulsion--suggest a structural basis for the dualism we so often see in dreams, slips, of symptoms. At the same time, each psychic act "is to be understood as the expression of the collective function of the total organism," or, as I prefer to say, as a unity or convergence from four different directions.
Waelder's shift from determination toward interpretation marks, in a way, the beginning of the third phase of psychoanalysis, but within the second phase Waelder's principle provides a broad theory of psychoanalytic causality. As such, it represents a major rebuilding of the conceptual frame around the first, basic data of psychoanalysis, like Freud's interpretation of his dream. The frame becomes both larger and simpler, eliminating the need for subordinate concepts like, for example, "neurosis." They become permutations and combinations of the eight possible relations of the ego to id, superego, reality, and the compulsion to repeat.
Among the problems that the principle of multiple function clarifies is the psychoanalytic concept of character. It becomes almost anticlimactic, given multiple function. Fenichel writes, "The mode of reconciling various [ego] tasks to one another is characteristic for a given personality. Thus the ego's habitual modes of adjustment to the external world, the id, and the superego, and the characteristic types of combining these modes with one another, constitute character." Essentially what Fenichel adds to ordinary multiple functioning is the "habitual." "The term character stresses the habitual form of a given reaction, its relative constancy. Widely differing stimuli produce similar reactions" (1945, p. 467).
Because it is so long-lived, character in ego psychology almost becomes a structure like ego or superego. Fenichel speaks of it as an "ego function," analogous to walking, I suppose. That phrasing marks a difference between ego psychology and identity theory. In ego psychology (in Erikson's writings, for example), identity would be a function of the ego. In identity theory, the ego would be a function of identity.
Nevertheless, of all the psychoanalytic concepts we have considered, character comes closest to identity. By focusing on the recurrence of themes and patterns, identity accents the habitual in Fenichel's definition. Indeed the theme-and-variations aspect of identity provides a way of precisely defining and conceptualizing the habituality implicit in "character," and the hierarchy of feedbacks makes it possible to imagine how character is learned and how character is consistent with what we know of the brain.
Long before and long after Fenichel's phrasing, psychoanalysis had been addressing the unity of the personality. In 1908, Freud had written: "The sexual behaviour of a human being often lays down the pattern for all his other modes of reacting to life." If he pursues the object of his love energetically, he will probably pursue other aims with equal vigor, but if he inhibits himself sexually, he will probably inhibit himself in other areas of life as well (1908d, 9:198). Freud is describing a unity at any given time. Erikson reports that play constructions by a given individual vary but also show continuity from childhood into the early forties (1972). That is a unity over a life span.
Either synchronically, then, or diachronically, psychoanalytic observations lead to a sense of unity in a personality and to ways of thinking about it. Ego-psychology had, in Heinz Hartmann's words, "sharpened our eyes to the frequent identity of patterns in often widely divergent fields of an individual's behavior" (1951, p. 38). In 1966, Anna Freud spoke of "a general cognitive and perceptive style of the ego" as though it were a psychoanalytic commonplace, an extension of notions of defense "to include besides the ego's dealings with danger, anxiety, affects, etc., also its everyday functioning such as perceiving, thinking, abstracting, conceptualizing." Such a "style," said Heinz Hartmann, would embrace a person's moral behavior (his superego, therefore) as well as his characteristic defenses and instinctual drives (1960, p. 53). Ideologies, values, and all systems projected on the world would express total personality (Kardiner, 1945)--even a person's prose style would (Holland, 1968b). One of the best studies of style in this sense of a unity pervading a person's behavior is Victor Rosen's 1961 article, reprinted in his book of 1977. Rosen makes the important point that style must include the "meaningful collaborative response from another individual," in an artistic situation, "a collaboration in effect between the producer and the observer" (pp. 452, 298). Rosen had recognized the necessity, as in this book, of including other-ness in the essence of self.
By 1966, however, when Miss Freud was speaking of a general ego style, Erik Erikson had already set the magical word "identity" on the lips of the world, enlarging and changing Fenichel's "character" in three ways. First, where character is something observed by someone else, Erikson's identity is one's own inner sense of continuity and coherence. Second, this inner sense coincides with one's meaning for others. There is mutuality. The individual's identity depends upon the supportive understanding of his human environment. Third, for Erikson, because of this mutuality, identity is achieved only in adolescence, "before which it cannot come to a head" (1975, p. 19) because the community has not yet granted its part of identity to the individual. Final identity, however, is "fixed at the end of adolescence" (1968, p. 161) and is more or less unchangeable after that. "Therapy and guidance may attempt to substitute more desirable identifications for undesirable ones, but the total configuration of the ego identity remains unalterable" (1946, p. 26).
People have found Erikson's concept of identity richer than earlier psychoanalytic theories of character because it talks about the individual's mutuality with his community. Hence Erikson's "identity" has led to important work in psychohistory and psychosociology.
The problem I find with this version of "identity" is that one is always trying to talk about someone else's inner sense of identity from outside. How can you know how I feel about my own wholeness or my sense of solidarity with my university, with other literary critics, or the political life of my country? Hence I turn from what is properly a person's "sense of identity" to "identity" tout court.
I ARC, including identity as representation, makes a necessary departure from Fenichel's "character" or Erikson's "identity." Identity as developed in The I stands alongside and apart from the structural description of character as id, ego, and superego, much as identity stands alongside the division of awareness into conscious and unconscious.
I have heard both Anna Freud and Robert Waelder say at lectures that the psychoanalytic ideas that grew up in the 1930s in Vienna evolved around and with Freud, although he encouraged their publication by others. Such ideas, presumably, included character and the principle of multiple function on which it is based.
Freud himself believed in something very like an innate character or an identity formed very early: "original, innate distinguishing characteristics of the ego," in effect, a personal ego style that operates from the beginning of life. "Even before the ego has come into [separate] existence, the line of development, trends and reactions which it will later exhibit are already laid down for it" (1937c, 23:240). What he is describing is now called "temperament" as, for example, Stella Chess has observed it in infants (Thomas, Chess, and Birch, 1968, 1970), and Burks and Rubenstein have traced it in adults (1979).
Freud was developing these ideas in a Vienna that still included the brilliant group of students that surrounded him in his last years, among them Heinz Hartmann. Hartmann began addressing this question: How can one bring into psychoanalytic thought the way human beings live in the world, both the physical world and the world of human relationships necessary for human survival? He answered by dividing the human ego into two "spheres." One sphere, the primitive, driven, dreaming, unconscious ego, was the traditional subject of psychoanalysis and only haphazardly adaptive. The other sphere was conflict-free, autonomous, and more or less automatically adapted from birth to survive in an "average expectable environment." We are either born knowing or we learn to see, stand, walk, talk, remember, read, write, and so forth, free of the conflicts associated with, say, multiple functioning (1939).
Autonomy presupposes (to me, at least) style-less-ness. Hartmann seems to me to be saying that there are various things we do like seeing or remembering which everyone does the same way. They are automatic or autonomous. In a sense, they do themselves. If that were true, then the idea of a conflict-free sphere would conflict with the everyday observation that we all have different styles of seeing, walking, remembering, or handwriting.
Further, others following Hartmann (and, to some extent, Hartmann himself) began to talk as though there were two kinds of ego, the old unifier and the new autonomous ego. Analysts began to assign rather complex acts like driving a car or writing a letter or rhyming to this new structure.
Clearly, this version of autonomous ego is a considerable extension. No matter how firmly the young man on the park bench had learned his Virgil in school, a distracting thought of his mistress drew this seemingly "autonomous" activity back into conflict, and he forgot his aliquis. It is well to remember Hartmann's original definition of a conflict-free ego sphere: "that ensemble of functions which at any given time exert their effects outside the region of mental conflicts." Any such "sphere" is not a "structure" in the psychoanalytic sense for it is not long-lived. It is a limiting condition, a balance that can be upset by any transient thought.
In terms of ego-psychology, it seems to me neater theoretically to think of just one kind of ego with the primary function of unifying the demands of the other structures. One can discuss conflict (or lack of it) as a separate issue, even while recognizing that there are ego functions which operate free of conflict most of the time.
Identity theory gives us a hierarchy of feedbacks as a way of imagining "autonomous" functions. That is, we can think of processes like walking, talking, seeing, or remembering as lower-level feedback loops. They get their standards from higher levels that more closely reflect a personal style or identity. Most of the time, however, there is no need to change the standards. We hear or walk without thinking about doing so. We are like the driver of a car who leaves it on "cruise control" to hold a set speed. The driver only steps on the brake to change the set speed if he wants to pass or to turn, that is, if a higher level of his mind perceives conditions that require a new cruising speed. We only pay attention to the way we walk if the terrain is rough or slippery. We only pay attention to the way we hear English f we are hearing it spoken with an accent or over a faulty telephone. "At any given time," walking and hearing language and even driving are likely to be autonomous in Hartmann's sense, although embodying a personal style and governed by upper levels of a hierarchy that are themselves always involved in conflict. A conflict-free sphere in the sense of lower levels of feedback not only fits with but forms an essential part of identity theory.
In general, then, one can derive the concept of identity and an identity principle from ego-psychology or mesh the two quite neatly. At the same time, however, there is a profound ambiguity in ego-psychology that justifies the transition of psychoanalysis to a third phase. It has to do with drives. Freud called the id a seething cauldron but not completely chaotic. "Contrary impulses exist side by side. . . . They may con- verge to form compromises." Indeed, drives in life take highly particular forms--for caviar, for Mozart, for a certain beloved redhead.
When a drive seeks a specific aim like that, psychoanalysis would speak of a "wish," and it is one of the earliest and most important definitions of classical theory. A wish is based on a previous satisfaction; it is "a psychical impulse . . . to re-evoke the perception itself, that is, to re-establish the situation of the original satisfaction . . . a repetition of the perception which was linked with the satisfaction of the need" (1900a, 5:565-66).
I find two important ideas in this definition. First, it puts any given wish into a framework of history and development. In theory, even the most adult of wishes could be traced back through a long series of similar (but not identical) perceptions of satisfaction to some early, infantile gratification. Yet the id, Freud tells us, is timeless and immortal. A wish thus bridges from the timelessness of the id to the here and now of the ego. Second, a wish has an aim. It has, so to speak, a picture in mind. Hence, the id has to have some structure in order to imagine such a satisfaction, to have an aim. The id thinks, but in ego-psychology thinking is a function of the ego, and the id is not supposed to think. Finally, then, Freud's definition of a wish cuts across his seething cauldron image for the id.
The point is not that an idea of Freud's from 1900 is inconsistent with an idea from the 1920s--that would scarcely be surprising. Rather, the concept of a wish or of the aim of a drive says (to me, at least) that one cannot draw sharp lines between id and ego. Their relationship is profoundly ambiguous, and one can read Lacan, for example, and much of third-phase theory as trying to express that ambiguity. A transition, not a boundary, separates id from ego. If so, then we must take the structures of id, ego, and superego more freely and metaphorically than many American psychoanalysts currently do.
Freud apparently did, or so Waelder reported in a paper he left unpublished at his death. "Ego, superego, and id were, for Freud, more imagery than theory and . . . he continued to think in terms of living beings and living processes rather than in terms of these concepts" (Guttman, 1969, pp. 272-73; see also Waelder, 1964, p. 84n).
Freud's attitude suggests that he would have favored Roy Schafer's extremely important critique of ego-psychology (1976, 1978). Schafer is not objecting to the facts of psychoanalysis, but he wants to change the rules of the language for discussing them. Following the reasoning of such analytic philosophers as Wittgenstein, Hampshire, Austin, and Ryle, Schafer tries to make logical sense out of such sentences as, "I tried to control myself," where the "self" at the end of the sentence apparently refers to something different from the "I" at the beginning. Intention involves infinite regress: "I intended to intend to intend . . . to buy a microcomputer." Similarly, to say an action was caused is to assume that there was a cause for that cause and a cause for the causing cause and so on.
Schafer says that many statements by psychoanalysts get into logical trouble, some because they lead to infinite regresses, some because they use nouns like "ego," "force," "mind," or "self" to describe what are essentially processes that should be described with verbs. Hence Schafer prescribes an "action language" which does away with both motivation and self terms. Instead one should speak of a "person" or some equivalent doing something--verbs and adverbs. Instead of "There was a repressing force," say, "Hannah repressed." Instead of "I failed to control myself," say, "I did X, but reluctantly" or "I did X, but I wanted to avoid Y."
Most important, actions have interpretations rather than causes. Schafer wants to move psychoanalysis out of the language of determinism and the natural sciences and into a language of interpretation, significance, and meaning (as the feedbacks I develop in chapters 4-6 become the dialogue of chapters 7-12). From Schafer's point of view, then, multiple function is not four entities interacting but multiple ways of looking at an action. In a way, then, he would agree with Waelder that "a multiple meaning corresponds to a multiple function," but he would mean 'a multiple function is really a multiple meaning.'
Similarly, Schafer suggests that "unconscious" today should be an adverb, not an entity. "Unconscious" refers to the way a person does something: "I unconsciously admired him."
One of the entities that Schafer jettisons is, inevitably, identity, defined as "the theme of significant personal actions" (1976, p. 114). He rejects identity as a thing one can "have" or "acquire" or "lose" (pace Erikson). One should really regard identity, he says, as a way of thinking about a person, of pointing to some feature.
It seems to me that Schafer is saying just what I mean by identity as representation, as a way of pointing to the enduring aspects of a person. I must admit that definition would involve us in nouns again. Nouns are perhaps not all bad, though, since the model of mind as a hierarchy of feedbacks helps resolve just those verbal paradoxes that led Schafer to posit an action language.
That is, if the mind is a hierarchy of feedbacks, then one can make sense of a sentence like "I failed to control myself" or even "There was a repressing force." If we picture the mind as higher loops prescribing reference levels for lower loops, we can think of those reference levels as a repressive force but also as an act of a person. "I failed to control myself" would mean that an upper level of the mind tried to assert some standard for a lower loop, but the lower loop ran on regardless. One can sort out sentences that refer to the self as different segments of the hierarchy. "Non-self" would be clear enough, too, as the world outside those hierarchies.
Nevertheless, Schafer rejects concepts like "self" or "identity" as subjects for his action verbs. I don't see why. That is, I don't see why a carefully defined verb and adverb describing an action must preclude a carefully defined subject for the verb. Why can't the subject be an identity understood as agent, representation, and consequence? The two approaches seem to me to dovetail nicely, although together they involve the by-now familiar paradox that the identity who is the subject of the action is also a representation of the actor by someone else (Schafer's "way of thinking about"). Identity is a function of the interpreter as well as the interpretee (but Schafer seems to accept this).
I have another suggestion in relation to Schafer's action language. In a way, we could think of identity (in The I) as an adverbial of manner. I, for example, read and write Norman N. Hollandly, I teach Norman N. Hollandly, and so on. One could fit my concept of identity into Schafer's action language by thinking of the identity of a person as a long string of adverbs that refer to the way that person does things: lovingly, impulsively but guardedly, unifyingly, fearfully, unconsciously, or however. If we were to take that long string of adverbs and seek the recurrences in them (Schafer's "theme of significant personal actions"), we would arrive at an identity in my sense.
One can read Schafer's proposal for an action language, I think, as a reaction to ego-psychology. Most such reactions, however, have taken a direction opposite to Schafer's, not toward behavior and actions, but toward
Erikson, it seems to me, belongs in this camp, although he calls himself (and most others call him) an ego-psychologist. Where Hartmann stressed adaptation to the physical and biological world Erikson emphasized adaptation to the social environment. Extending the original, classical sequence of child development into adulthood, maturity, and old age made human growth include growth in society as well as in the family. Each of Erikson's stages was therefore not just psychological but psychosocial. Erikson enlarged, particularized, but most of all humanized the idea of adaptation as Hartmann had left it (1963, p. 65; see also 1959).
Conceptually, if not historically, one can regard the English object-relations theorists as particularizing Erikson. I am thinking of Harry Guntrip, W. R. D. Fairbairn, Charles Rycroft, and especially D. W. Winnicott (also, in their somewhat different ways, R. D. Laing and M. Masud R. Khan). They concentrated their attention on both child and adult patients in their individuality and particularly the individual kind of relationship or "space" they created between patient and therapist or child and parent or patient and society. Where Erikson rested his observations in the large word "mutuality," these English writers went on to detail how different individuals differently created mutuality in different settings and phases of development. They did so through concepts like "transitional object," ; "adequate mothering," ; "schizoid condition," or the contrast between a "false self" that obeys the world and a "true self" the false self hides.
The most decisive rejection of first- and second-phase psychoanalysis, I think, is W. Ronald D. Fairbairn's. He replaces entirely Freud's innate instincts and their vicissitudes in favor of a theory of the personality conceived in terms of the infant's relations to objects (1963).
Such a theory derives ultimately, as I read it, from the work of Melanie Klein. One of the first to specialize in the analysis of children, Klein had considerable influence in England, and as a result English psychoanalysis focused on the early relationship of mother and child sooner and more intensely than American or French.
Klein explored the child's ambivalent first relationship with the mother (for Klein, mother's breast) and concluded that the child dealt with that ambivalence by splitting the breast into good and bad parts and fantasying the biting, emptying, and annihilation of the bad part. (The ability to split, of course, implies the existence of a functioning ego many months before classical or second-phase theory would.) From this "schizoid" position the child progresses to a "paranoid" position, the child's projection of its own hostility onto the mother and the resulting fear that the mother will retaliate. At a still later stage, the child introjects its mother and directs its rage inward. The result is a "depressive" position. Finally, if all goes well, the child is able to separate its representation of its mother from its self-representation, to accept its own rage, and to realize that its own feelings are what threatens its internal world. If all does not go well, the child or adult falls into the psychosis associated with the early position associated with the failure. All of this, clearly, lays much greater stress on early object relations than Freud did or than the ego psychologists tended to. Clearly, it is somewhat different from the picture I have developed in chapter 8.
Klein's theories rested on her work with older children who had regressed. Inevitably her ideas could be corrected or replaced by direct observation of children, and that is the way I read Spitz, Mahler, Stern, and the other baby-watchers. Their careful observation of children tends to prove the part of Klein's theory that most psychoanalysts thought wrong: early ego functions. Observation alone, however, cannot confirm her speculations as to the child's inner strategies of splitting, projection, and introjection.
Of the many analysts who today concentrate on the mother-child relation, the one who speaks most directly to me is D. W. Winnicott. I have referred to him many times in this book in connection with his concept of "potential space," which seems to me so like the way I imagine identity interacting with the world around it. It is well to remember, however, that Winnicott himself thinks of "potential space" and the "transitional object" in terms of the child's relation to a mother (Grolnick and Barkin, 1978, pp. 539-49).
Nevertheless, it seems to me, the ideas that I associate with identity build on object-relations theory and enhance it--with one major difference. Typically object-relations theory gets stated in terms of category or type: depressive position, schizoid position, false self, introjection, or rapprochement phase. I read this as a habit of mind retained from medicine or nonpsychoanalytic psychology, not essential to the ideas of object-relations psychoanalysis, only the most familiar way of generalizing from one individual to many. Identity theory, by contrast, uses thematic analysis, as do the object-relations theorists when they are talking about individuals: Mahler's Bruce or Winnicott's Iiro.
The key to identity theory is the precise use of words to phrase an identity theme. Although verbal precision has always mattered in psychoanalysis, so far as I know, Franz Alexander was the first to use this kind of verbal precising of a theme with his "emotional syllogisms" in the 1930s. He would use a sentence like "I give so much and therefore I have the right to receive" as a way of bringing together a wide range of a patient's behavior (1935). We see the same kind of thing in the 1970s as "script analysis" in the popularization of psychoanalysis usually called "TA," transactional analysis (Berne, 1971). But these formulas embrace only a part of someone's behavior, thus following in the tradition of Freud's descriptions of character-types (1916d). In the same way, Lacan's scenario or mythe familial for the Rat Man deals only with the love and money parts of his life (1953).
The first theorist I know who explicitly set out a method for finding a theme for all of someone's behavior was the French literary critic Charles Mauron. He would "superimpose" all of a writer's writings to find a single mythe personel which would sum up "networks of associations or groupings of images" which in turn expressed "both . . . the troubles of the living man and the obsessive metaphors of the author" (1964, pp. 141-42). Mauron was in turn anticipated by Sartre in l'Etre et le Néant (1943) in his concept of the For Itself, l'être pour soi, the self who is for itself, but continually projecting itself toward future possibilities. Sartre, in his 1947 study, shows how Baudelaire exemplifies such a projet. Indeed, Sartre's last words in that book could serve as a motto for The I: "The free choice that a man makes from himself becomes absolutely identified with what we call his destiny."
Object-relations theory, it seems to me, needs the careful phrasings of identity themes. The inability of category, class, or type to express the individual theme becomes more telling in object-relations theory than elsewhere in psychoanalysis because an individual's life space is even more individual (so to speak) than his or her biophysical makeup. Life space would include both the biological person and the social person in all the individuality of both. Therefore, it seems to me, treating childhood phases from the first year of life on as a dialogue instead of classes of events has unusual promise for object-relations theory. Development as dialogue may provide object-relations theory a useful way of generalizing unique themes over many cases without rubbing off the individuality of the case to fit a category drawn from outside or before the event.
Where the not-self is for Erikson society and for the object-relations theorists the mother or her successors, for Jacques Lacan the Other, as he calls it, is language. They use human relations. Lacan uses puns. More exactly, Lacan uses the undoubted fact that the Others of Anglo-American theory come to the child in a prepackaged world of either images (in the early, prelinguistic months) or language (for all the rest of life). In a way, one can read all of Lacan as dealing with the ambiguity inherent in Freud's definitions of id and ego. The id is the mind's representative of desire--chaotic, peremptory, unthinking--yet it images what it desires. Hence it must have some of the structure that Freud attributes to the ego. Lacan deals with the ambiguity by replacing the concepts of id and ego with the moi and the je--or at least we can say that for the purpose of comparing Lacan's ideas with identity theory (1966).
At first the helpless infant cannot deal with the flood of perceptions his environment provides. A baby achieves only a jumble of fragmentary signifying networks of association. During what Lacan calls "the mirror stage," the infant senses the discrepancy between the integrated image of itself it would see in a mirror (or which a mother would reflect) and the chaotic jumble within. In an effort to achieve that unity, the infant identifies with the integrated Other (mother). In a third stage, the infant seeks to keep up that fusion against the competition of the father and the alienating effect of language. (Language cannot render the inner chaos of the moi and hence becomes paradoxical, an instrument of understanding that always misunderstands.) Lacan's moi (as I understand it) is unconscious, the agent of desire (and hence of lack), and therefore the embodiment of the "truth" of a person, their "signified" (their meaning, so to speak).
Such a moi corresponds reasonably closely, I think, to the idea of identity that the body of this book puts forward. The child's original push (continued all through life) toward a convergence of signifying networks corresponds to the theme-and-variations aspect of identity. The moi's desire and the sense of lack on which it is based corresponds to identity as feedback, ever perpetuating a difference between the standard and the actual.
Lacan seems to think of the moi in almost geometric terms, as a network full of holes and gaps, which the moi seeks to close. The moi relates to the real world (another Other) by perception, cognition, primary and secondary processes, the subjective experience of reality, all of what Lacan designates as the Imaginary. Various ways I have thought about Lacan's Imaginary are: as what language theorists would call a person's "referents," as Freud's "thing-representations," or as the representations of desire in the id. The crucial thing is the absence of symbols.
Unaided by the Symbolic, the realm of language, these functions of the moi in the Imaginary would remain chaotic and disorganized. With language, the individual replaces a dyadic relation to reality with a triadic. "I see what I want" or "I feel what I want" becomes "I can say what I want" or "I can generalize about what I want." Yet language, Lacan says, alienates and misdirects by the very promise of understanding.
Against the moi is the je, the agent of language, operating in the Symbolic as a mediator between the desires and the perceptions of the moi and the fully real world. If the moi is what is signified, the je consists of the network of signifiers, always shifting and sliding into one another, each signifier defined by the next, never attaining to meaning and the moi. The je does what an American analyst would describe by defense mechanisms: it denies, opposes, negates, shows off, lies, flees. It does these toward outer reality, the Real, and toward the inner reality of the moi. The je, by contrast, is unreal, the mere "I" of my sentences that takes on life only as the moi gives it. The je misrecognizes and denies the moi, where the truth of the individual resides, his identity.
In 1953, Jacques Lacan did do an analysis of the identity of one famous patient, the Rat Man, or as he termed identity, le mythe individuel. (Curiously, his term corresponds to the "personal myth" of the ego-psychologist Ernst Kris.) In seeking one central myth, he did something very like my own quest for an identity theme.
In the actual interpretation, however, Lacan does not try to find a style for the Rat Man that permeates all his acts. He looks for a pattern in only a few: the Rat Man's crisis over paying the postage; his fear of the rat torture; his inability to make up his mind about his lady.
Further, because Lacan sees the human determined by the prepackaged reality presented him by society and the family, he lays great importance on Rat Man's father's failing to pay gambling debts, on the mysterious friend who lent the senior Lanzer money, and on the father's choice between women. To fit Lacan's theory of the individual's entering a preestablished symbolic realm, the Rat Man's myth must derive from his father's myth. Inevitably, as Lacan's editor admits, since that is the prehistory of the case, "there are times, especially in his elaboration of the flashiness and bravado of the Rat Man's father, when Lacan does seem to invent details rather than interpret them" (Evans, 1979, p. 391; Lacan, 1953, 1979).
There are thus both similarities and differences between Lacan's ideas and identity theory. Certainly Lacan's sense that the methods of symbolic analysis, be they scientific or linguistic, yield savoir--knowledge--but not verité--truth--corresponds to my belief in identity as representation rather than something in an individual waiting to be discovered like buried treasure. Similarly, I resonate to Lacan's blurring of the lines between id and ego, fantasy and reality. My image of feedback accords with his sense of the dialectic relationship between the individual and society, particularly the symbolic structures of a culture. Often, I find, if translated out of their pixilated jargon, Lacan's ideas sound like familiar and quite sensible concepts from ego-psychology or identity theory.
On the other hand, Lacan offers much that is different, not only from my thinking but from Freud's. Lacan introduces the je to rid himself of the ego as a mediator, indeed to get rid of the ego entirely. With the ego go such familiar concepts as defense mechanisms (especially the idea of regression) and character. In fact, so far as I can tell, the idea of "character" does not exist at all in French psychoanalysis. Similarly, Lacan reintroduces "the" unconscious, despite Freud's having written it out of psychoanalysis. Indeed, Lacan jettisons all of post-1923 Freud.
Hence, I think Lacan is kidding when he claims a "return to Freud." Poor dignified Professor Doctor Freud. Lacan's ministrations make him look as though, on his morning constitutional around Vienna's Ring, he had stepped into a clothing store, and the clerk sent him on his way in purple espadrilles, a cowboy hat, and wraparound sunglasses. Surely the clerk ought not also to proclaim, "See? This is the real you!" Lacan is more a Freudian prophet than a Freudian fundamentalist.
Where Lacan innovates out of a wish to bring linguistics and metaphysics into psychoanalysis, the two major innovators of the last two decades in America, Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut, are trying to expand the clinical base of psychoanalysis.. Partly, I think, because so many senior American psychoanalysts worked as general psychiatrists in the Second World War, American analysts have long been interested in using psychoanalysis for psychotics and borderline patients, who are more disturbed than the classical psychoneurotics. In treating these cases, analysts report patients' perceiving themselves as grandiose, magnificent, absolutely entitled to the best, or alternatively as useless, worthless, and beneath contempt (presumably these two feelings are opposite sides of one pathological coin). In a psychoanalytic setting, patients may seek in their analysts simply approving mirrors of themselves or ideals into which they can merge.
Kernberg deals with these phenomena in terms of object-relations theory (1975, 1978). The individual develops by internalizing interpersonal relations, particularly in the form of persistent constellations. Each of these consists of a self-image, the image of a significant other bound in a relationship to the self (one of the parents, presumably), and the emotions associated with that relationship. These self-object-affect configurations evolve, says Kernberg, into the libidinal and aggressive systems and ultimately into the familiar adult structures of ego and superego.
Various forms of pathology can affect this development. For instance, in order to cope with a painful self-object-affect system, the individual may divide it into a part all good and a part all bad. An overuse of this kind of splitting develops a borderline character. Kernberg has described many other phases in the child's differentiation and integration of self- and object-images, but I have not tried to include them lest I further complicate my own already complicated picture of development in chapters 7-12.
Kohut begins with much the same data: the borderline cases, the idealizing or grandiose behavior toward others or in the patient's transference toward the psychoanalyst. Like Kernberg, Kohut sees narcissism as critical in the process of separation and individuation (particularly Mahler's "practicing subphase"). Like Kernberg, Kohut sees the child using external objects (originally the parents) to solve this problem. Kohut calls these "self-objects," someone (or something) used in the service of the self and the maintenance of its instinctual investment. Such an object may provide a way for the individual to say, "I am perfect" (the grandiose self) or "You are perfect but I am part of you" (the idealized image of the parent) (1971, 1977; see also Kohut and Wolf, 1978; Ornstein, 1974).
Kohut adds frankly to Freud and ego-psychology in a way that Kernberg does not. For Kohut, for example, the self is a structure. (It is invested with libidinal and aggressive energy. It endures in time.) The self is also represented in the mind: the familiar psychoanalytic concept of self-representations. One apprehends the self, as an analyst or a patient or simply a person living, through empathy, which occupies a central role in Kohut's methods and thought.
Kohut adds to the familiar oral, anal, phallic sequence of development another track describing the energy directed toward objects, particularly those self-objects from which the nuclei of the ego are formed. Furthermore (and this has created a considerable flap in American psychoanalytic circles) Kohut feels that one must loosen classical psychoanalytic treatment for these narcissistic disorders. The narcissistic disorders represent failures in development (not, as Kernberg would say, pathological regression or other defense). Hence the analyst's job is to promote that development. The analyst needs to become a self-object for the patient, a real person who delivers praise or blame as progress is or is not made. In general, a person needs self-objects all through life, and the analyst may be only one of many performing that role.
By contrast, Kernberg takes a more traditional view. A narcissistic disorder represents a defense against both early, massive feelings of love and hate (the ambivalence of the first year) and later, mature acceptance of object-relations and their limits. In treatment, Kernberg would analyze the narcissistic disorders as one would analyze any other defense, seeking insight and maintaining analytic neutrality. Rather than meet and sustain a need for idealized or grandiose self or others, Kernberg would analyze it away.
These differences in therapy are only secondarily relevant to "the I" and its theory, however. Kernberg's and Kohut's theories impinge on the theses of this book primarily as they suggest other aspects of development to be added to the developmental dialogue of chapters 7-12. In particular, both Kohut and Kernberg address grandiosity, idealization, and splitting--whatever the situation, an exaggerated view of self or other as all-powerful, all-good, all-bad, or simply all. I could therefore translate the clinical data on which they agree into another question to be traced through the developmental dialogue or landscape: How will you deal with the fact that you (or, in a symbiotic phase, you and your nurturing other together) are not all? What objects will you find to sustain your need to idealize yourself and others? Kohut traces the pathological answers to early arrest. Kernberg finds that individuals answer, then lose their answer under later stress. Which is correct and which, if either, needs to be added to this picture of identity depends on the evidence which the next decade will see developed in therapy.
I am less comfortable with Kohut's inclusion of a separate track for the development of narcissism. Even so, I think it could be added to the diagram of pages 244-45 as another series of questions and answers parallel to the more or less traditional sequence I have given. It also seems to me that that diagram could include either Kernberg's self-object-affect structures or Kohut's self-objects as features of the developmental landscape or dialogue.
Kohut's use of self-representations corresponds to my treatment of identity as representation. In addition, however, Kohut introduces the self as a structure. That seems to me parallel to my treatment of identity as an agency and as the consequence of that agency as it acts through feedbacks. By insisting on the self as a structure in the psychoanalytic sense, however, Kohut seems to me to make it a thing "in" a person (like the traditional view of an ego), and that is not consistent with my view that one must think of identity at all times as a representation.
When I make that representation of identity out of a theme and
variations, I think I am being consistent with both Kernberg
and Kohut, although I am not relying (as much as Kohut would)
on empathy but rather on observation and interpretation.
Obviously, though, empathy has its place in the theme-and-variations
interpretation of an identity, too.
In general, it seems to me, identity theory is consistent with the rest of psychoanalytic theory as we know it today. Certainly the concept of identity includes and builds upon first-phase, conscious-unconscious psychoanalysis. Similarly, identity includes and builds upon the second phase and ego-psychology especially the concept of character to which identity closely corresponds and the concept of multiple function which provides a basis for the leap from multiple agencies to a single style. Identity enlarges second-phase psychoanalysis by repersonalizing--positing individual styles for--such abstractions in ego-psychology as "multiple function" or "superego" or, indeed, "ego" itself.
Identity theory is itself, however, a form of third-phase psychoanalysis. It also enhances other third-phase theories by offering a precision for, for example, such concepts from object relations theory as potential space or true and false selves or Erikson's psychosocial identity. To be sure, this concept of identity differs from Erikson's later thinking (although it is very close to his early ideas about "ego identity"). It does, however, offer a precise way of interpreting Erikson's mutualities (by reading them as ARCing and DEFTing a theme and variations).
Identity is more problematic in relation to Lacan. Certainly it offers a way of thinking about the moi and the je (like the true and false selves of English theory) which is not inconsistent with Lacan's thinking. One could say that Lacan's networks of signifieds and signifiers simply are identity, although a phrasing of identity would be less concerned with verbal details and more with large themes. Identity theory accords with Lacan's blurring of the lines between ego and id, and Lacan's distinction between savoir and verité parallels the insistence in identity theory that identity is somebody's representation of identity. Lacan's insistence on "the" unconscious and his abandonment of Freud's concept of an ego do not touch identity theory directly. What is difficult, however, is the absence in his thinking of the idea of character and its replacement by gaps and leaks in a linguistic network otherwise formulated by the surrounding culture or by a family myth. To be sure, one can accommodate this scheme to identity or identity to this scheme but only by turning one or the other inside out.
The American theories of Kohut and Kernberg mostly do not impinge on identity theory. They deal closely with what the therapist is to say in the therapy, while identity is useful to the therapist primarily as a way of thinking the patient through. If, after some years of clinical experience, one or the other of these two theories becomes established, it would be possible, so to speak, to "write it into" identity theory, particularly the identity picture of development.
For the time being, however, I would prefer to relate identity theory to psychoanalysis as a sixth metapsychological principle (as at the end of chapter 3). For the past twenty years, analysts have agreed that any psychoanalytic interpretation or theory should admit of five kinds of statements: about forces, about energies, about structures, about genesis and development, about coping with reality. In relation to psychoanalysis, it is my purpose in this book to urge a sixth such principle, the personal. It follows from the fifth. Since any given psychological phenomenon involves the interaction of self and reality, it is just as essential to talk about what the individual personality, the I, does in a given psychological transaction as to talk about the effect of reality. Any psychoanalytic theory or interpretation should include statements about the continuing identity of the I's involved.
This sixth metapsychological principle applies two ways. Were we to discuss the effect on you of reading this book, it would be essential to take into account your personality. That seems obvious enough. Less obvious, perhaps, is that we also need to take into account the personality of the person analyzing the effect of this book on you. Writer and reader, experimenter and subject, interpreter and interpretee--in any psychological venture the I is finally you and I.
In the bibliography I have included only texts that relate to the study of the theory of the I, not, for example, biographical materials for the study of Fitzgerald or Shaw.
I have keyed my references to Freud to the "Freud
Bibliography" in volume 24 of The Standard Edition of the
Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James
Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud assisted by Alix
Strachey and Alan Tyson, 24 vols. (London: The Hogarth Press,
1953-74). That is, Freud (1917e) would correspond to the
1917e listing in that bibliography, not necessarily to a fifth
reference in this book to Freud's writings of 1917. Readers
seeking references to Freud's German texts can obtain them from
that bibliography or from the key in the Freud Concordance that
relates the English edition to the Gesammelte Werke.
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