Freud: A Critical Re-Evaluation of His Theories

By Reuben D. Fine | Go to book overview

Chapter XII.
REVISED VIEWS ON NEUROSIS AND THERAPY

From the vantage point of the ego the problems connected with neurosis now had to be reviewed. To begin with, infantile sexuality becomes only one of several factors. Most weight has to be attached to the ego, the relative strength of which determines the outcome of the inner struggle. Thus the task of analysis becomes the strengthening of the ego. The new formula is: Where the id was the ego shall be, instead of the old: Make the unconscious conscious. The old formula, however, is not discarded: it merely plays a subordinate role.

In the process of therapy part of the ego turns out to be sick, part healthy; the therapist makes a pact, as it were, with the healthy part of the ego and both together proceed against the sick.

Freud can now propose a broader yet more simplified classification of mental illnesses, based on the ego concept. A transference neurosis corresponds to a conflict between the ego and the id; a narcissistic neurosis to that between the ego and the superego; and a psychosis to that between the ego and the superego.154 Nevertheless, quantitative factors still play a decisive role, so that this scheme, like those of earlier days, is primarily of theoretical value.

Freud's penchant for schematic presentations has obscured the fact that his writings in this period led to a much broader and in a sense entirely new concept of neurosis. In the old id psychology, neurosis was a symptomatic affair of the classical type; it was widespread, but still relatively limited in scope.

In ego psychology, however, the horizons are immeasurably broadened. First, Freud sees the ego as a poor creature owing service to three masters and consequently menaced by three dangers -

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