Recognition and re-organization

“To the extent to which the individual remains entangled in his unappropriated id..he is driven by unmastered, unconscious forces within himself..He is free to develop, to engender his future, to the extent to which he remains or becomes open to his id..” (Loewald 25) If she were able to identify these id impulses through her ego, she would be able to consciously realise why she was choosing these specific partners. Furthermore, because of this recognition and re-organization of feelings, a choice of action would become available to her that had previously not existed, namely choosing to act against this id impulse and enter into a relationship whose function did not consist of repeating the memories of father-daughter dynamic. In other words, by remembering, one is more likely to stop repeating memories.

This distinction between repeating and remembering is vital as it highlights the importance of integration. Rather than nullifying id experiences, integrating them with one’s developed ego, actually gives the id experiences more value because they can be consciously appreciated and understood. By doing so, one becomes a whole person, reconciliating the id and ego, and thereby enabling self-understanding and making more courses of action available.

Loewald explains integration in terms of making unconscious mental states “one’s own” and in ‘becoming a whole person’ by unifying the three temporal stages as mentioned above: “One might come closer…by saying that it consists in an interpretation and reciprocal relatedness of past, present and future. The history of the constituted by this more-or-less actualised interpretation and mutual determination of the three temporal modes, as it unfolds during the course of a life.” (Loewald 23)

The generally accepted interpretation of integration is that each individual person is able to master their id experiences through their ego and thereby integrate all different levels of mentation or understanding. If this is true, the question of why psychoanalysis is necessary ironically, yet logically follows. The ability to independently access id experiences is, in fact, only possible if all feelings and desires processed by the id have not been repressed. There are mixed theories on which stage of mentation the act of repression ultimately occurs.

However, it seems rational to assume that if the ego were to acknowledge desires caused by external stimuli, and then choose not to integrate them into the pre-existing structure of analysed emotions, it would still have access to these “repressed” emotions and therefore they would not ultimately be repressed. For, the very nature of repressed thoughts is that they are inaccessible to the ego or any pre-conscious/conscious form of thought and must therefore be recognized with the help of a new external object, ideally, a psychotherapist. Only through the discovery of a new object can the agent recognize the way in which he related to old objects that caused the repressive responses.

“This new discovery of oneself and of objects, this reorganization of ego and objects, is made possible by the encounter with a ‘new object’ which has to possess certain qualifications in order to promote the process. Such a new object-relationship for which the analyst hold himself available to the one meaning of the term ‘positive transference.'” (Buckley 389) Furthermore, it is fathomable that repression can in fact occur before the ego is fully developed, and hence can only take place under id understanding. Although this line of reasoning negates Freud’s early idea that “an unequivocally moral force, an effort of will” is responsible for initiating repression, it does give weight to the belief that the id is able to process information independently of the ego. What this concept also proves is that integrating id and ego is a difficult procedure precisely because these two distinct forms of processing function in such a fundamentally different way.

To truly understand how the ego is able to rationalize and order desires, etc. one must turn to the powers and dictates of the superego. An appeal to these standards of the superego is what enables an agent to fully integrate ego and id in a way that demarcates normative1 action. (As will later be explored, this demarcation does not guarantee normative action.) The superego can be described as a kind of measuring facility. When processing desires, the ego must set them against the standards of the superego to determine where to categorize them and how much importance to allot to each desire respectively.

In other words, while the ego recognizes and rationalizes desires, it needs the superego to place this analysed desire into the proper position on the mental hierarchy of ends. This hierarchy of ends is predominantly determined by the superego as it delineates ideals and future goals of the agent. Furthermore, the superego is also responsible for feelings of guilt or shame if the agent is unable to act in accordance with the standards it represents. “..the superego might be seen as the representative of futurity…conceptualised as the inner agency of standards, demands, ideals, hopes, reproaches and punishments..It is the growing recognition of a differential between who I am, what I do at present, and who I may or should be, what I may, should or should not do in the future-as hoped for, desired, demanded by myself.” (Loewald 23, 24)

Unsurprisingly, the successful development of the superego is also contingent on effective motherly love and attention in early years. According to Freud, the superego, like the ego, is born out of the id and can therefore also be seen as developing in response to the mother’s expectations and her knowledge of future development that she ‘transfers’ over to the child through interaction. The introduction of the superego into the schemata of integration is what determines action. The ego analyses present desires and desires previously processed by the id. It then determines a course of action in regard to that desire based on the dictates and standards of the superego.

Assuming that most peoples’ standards include some sort of conception of justice, this brings a moral dimension into the process of integration itself and points to the idea that integrating the id, ego and superego is not only the process of becoming a rational person, but is also the process of becoming a moral person. Without the superego, it would be difficult to determine consistent and definitive courses of action. Interestingly, although the working together of the ego and superego determines normative courses of action (whether these be moral or not), it is not enough of a motivational force to guarantee that the agent will take said courses of action. This is where the limitations of integration become apparent.

As mentioned before, integration is the process through which we become rationally functioning and fully ‘whole’ people. More importantly, it is also the process that enables us to act truly freely in the sense that we are able to deliberate on the reasons or drives that motivate us to act2 and then choose to act in various ways through the knowledge of those reasons. However, simultaneously, this is where the problem lies. The fact that we have a choice as to whether or not to take the actions that are endorsed by ego and superego means that, although we are fully integrated, we can still act in a way that is irrational and can be labelled neurotic.

The point to make here is that: As long as one recognises the reasons why one is following an overwhelming id that points to action conflicting with superego endorsed ends and assuming that one has actively chosen to follow this id, the action remains voluntary. (Recognition of the id and the reasons surrounding the id proves full integration.) Therefore, acting against one’s ego/superego does not necessarily mean lack of integration in the same way that having conflicting ideals and ends does not necessarily mean lack thereof. Nevertheless, although it is not a sign pointing towards lack of integration, one is still acting irrationally.

This proves that another factor must come into the equation if we are to account for a formula that can guarantee a closer representation of mental health. The only possible answer seems to lie in self-determination, for this is the only way one can guarantee that the chosen action will correspond with the dictates of one’s ego and superego. Self discipline and determination is the only weapon people have against overwhelming ids that seem temporarily compelling and are motivational enough to lead people to stray from normative courses of action. “Human agents have the capacity for a sophisticated kind of rational agency, insofar as they can reach independent normative conclusions about what they have reason to do, and then choose in accordance with such normative conclusions. This capacity presupposes that we are equipped with the power to choose independently of the desires to which we are subject.” (Wallace 14)

Although integration is an important component of rationally functioning minds, it can only act as a definitive account of psychic health if experienced in conjunction with self-discipline. The point being that even if one’s ego is functioning properly in that it can recognise, analyse and prioritise drives and emotions according to the standards of the superego, and assuming that the id’s mentation process does not suffer from repressive tendencies, people need some other force to drive these dictates home and compel them to act accordingly.

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