THE CRUELTY OF THE SUPER-EGO. Phillips acknowledges that:…”[n]othing makes us more suspicious…than the suggestion…that we should…start really loving ourselves.” Yet he attacks the self-critical part of each of us—“the part that Freud calls the super-ego”. The super-ego is “remarkably narrow-minded”,”relentlessly repetitive”, and “cruelly intimidating”. It is not simply the harshness of the super-ego, but that “It never brings us any news about ourselves.”

Phillips has much more to criticize about the super-ego. We identify with it even though it “is only one part—a small but loud part—of the self”.

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  1. Dick says:

    A Freudian fantasy!

  2. The Id, well we are all born with it, and we have different comfort levels dealing with the uncivilized drives of our natures. Fair enough. So, we have to balance out the id with what? The ego? Is that, perhaps, related to reason? I’m a little rusty on all this. But I think I remember that the ego is the expression of our needs and desires that go beyond the primitive “I want” of the Id. Is the ego our REAL self?
    I’m not sure. But the Super Ego. Wow. That is CREATED outside ourselves and then internalized by us when we’re too young to have any defenses in place. And that’s where you get the valuable restraints of conscience, but also the nagging, restrictive voices of parental or institutional instruction and pressure that tell you: you don’t want what you really do want, and who do you think you are, anyway. Organized religion, though it can be a civilizing force, depending upon the religion, is pretty merciless to individual variation. Its message is often a one size fits all conformity.
    When I was in college, in a Jesuit college, there was a lot of pressure put on the undergraduates to enter service professions, like social work. I felt vaguely uneasy and even annoyed. Not all people are SUITED to do social work. And does our culture have no need for other professions? I was thinking of the theater as a positive contribution to society, not some fribble that was cyphening off all those necessary social workers. But then, years later, I was talking to my friend from college Bob Rickert. He’s a poet as well as a lawyer. And he said to me, “You know, Mary Jane,
    when we were in college, we were already deeply into the arts and knew that was our true bent. But a lot of our fellow students didn’t know WHAT to do with their lives. For them, the advice to do something that helped society to take care of the less fortunate was very good advice. It gave them a positive goal in life.” He is absolutely right, but at the time, and the way the message was delivered, it felt like a censorious condemnation of anything but social service. In fact, I should feel guilty because I cared so deeply about the theater. Didn’t I know there were homeless people? I think
    the Super Ego seemed to be there to spoil our lives and make us give up our dreams.

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