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The Narcissist's Split Off Ego

Elsewhere ("The Stripped Ego")

We have extensively dealt with the classical, Freudian, concept of the Ego. It is a partly conscious, partly preconscious and unconscious. It operates on a "reality principle" (as opposed to the Id's "pleasure principle"). It maintains an inner equilibrium between the onerous (and unrealistic, or ideal) demands of the Superego and the almost irresistible (and unrealistic) drives of the Id. It also has to fend off the unfavourable consequences of comparisons between itself and the Ego Ideal (comparisons that the Superego is only too eager to perform). In many respects, therefore, the Ego in Freudian psychoanalysis IS the Self. Not so in Jungian psychology.

The famous, though controversial, psychoanalyst, C. G. Jung, wrote [all quotes from C.G. Jung. Collected Works. G. Adler, M. Fordham and H. Read (Eds.). 21 volumes. Princeton University Press, 1960-1983]:

"Complexes are psychic fragments which have split off owing to traumatic influences or certain incompatible tendencies. As the association experiments prove, complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings, a fact especially evident in abnormal states of mind. In the voices heard by the insane they even take on a personal ego-character like that of the spirits who manifest themselves through automatic writing and similar techniques."
(The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Collected Writings, Volume 8, p. 121)

And further: "I use the term 'individuation' to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological 'in-dividual,' that is, a separate, indivisible unity or 'whole'."
(The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Writings, Volume 9, i. p. 275)

"Individuation means becoming a single, homogeneous being, and, in so far as 'individuality' embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, also implies becoming one's own self. We could, therefore, translate individuation as 'coming to selfhood' or 'self-realisation'."
(Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Writings, Volume 7, par. 266)

"But again and again I note that the individuation process is confused with the coming of the Ego into consciousness and that the Ego is in consequence identified with the self, which naturally produces a hopeless conceptual muddle. Individuation is then nothing but egocentredness and autoeroticism. But the self comprises infinitely more than a mere Ego It is as much one's self, and all other selves, as the Ego. Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to oneself."
(The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Collected Writings, Volume 8, p. 226)

To Jung, the self is an archetype, THE archetype. It is the archetype of order as manifested in the totality of the personality, and as symbolised by a circle, a square, or the famous quaternity. Sometimes, Jung uses other symbols: the child, the mandala, etc.

"the self is a quantity that is supraordinate to the conscious Ego. It embraces not only the conscious but also the unconscious psyche, and is therefore, so to speak, a personality, which we also are.... There is little hope of our ever being able to reach even approximate consciousness of the self, since however much we may make conscious there will always exist an indeterminate and indeterminable amount of unconscious material which belongs to the totality of the self."
(Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Writings, Volume 7, par. 274)

"The self is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the Ego is the centre of consciousness."
(Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Writings, Volume 12, par. 44)

"the self is our life's goal, for it is the completest expression of that fateful combination we call individuality"
(Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Writings, Volume 7, par. 404)

Jung postulated the existence of two "personalities" (actually, two selves). The other one is the Shadow. Technically, the Shadow is a part (though an inferior part) of the overarching personality. The latter is a chosen conscious attitude. Inevitably, some personal and collective psychic elements are found wanting or incompatible with it. Their expression is suppressed and they coalesce into an almost autonomous "splinter personality". This second personality is contrarian: it negates the official, chosen, personality, though it is totally relegated to the unconscious. Jung believes, therefore, in a system of "checks and balances": the Shadow balances the Ego (consciousness). This is not necessarily negative. The behavioural and attitudinal compensation offered by the Shadow can be positive.

Jung: "The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies."
(The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Writings, Volume 9, i. pp. 284 f.)

"the shadow [is] that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious... If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc." (Ibid.)


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Last Updated: 15 October 2015
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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