As a counsellor, I meet a lot of people in one to one sessions in the therapy room and they bring up different subjects to talk about. The stories are differ from person to person yet there is something in similar among all of them and it is the presence of the other In their stories. It is always about their relations with their partners, families, friends, colleagues and so on. However, my concern is not only the physical presence of the other, but rather it hugely is about the internalised symbolic other in one’s super-ego.
I am recently visiting a client who is homosexual but keeps repressing his sexual tendencies because he was not accepted in his traditional society. He was arrested a couple of times while he was having intercourse with someone and since then he was banned and ignored by his family. After about 10 years from that, he immigrate and now is facing so many difficulties due to his visa status. Regarding the fact that, now he could freely choose a partner and continue being a homosexual yet he resists himself. When I asked him what is the reason that he is doing that, he replied “because I want to be a better human, I want to change and make a new person out of myself. I do not want to lose my family anymore”. I told him “but you said that you have not been in touch with your family for 10 years except your older brother, so how would you lose them again?” He said “yes, I know, but there might be a chance. I talked to my older brother and he talked to my father and told him that I am a good person now. You know I miss my family a lot”.
What is obvious in his utterances is a sense of self-reproach and guilt, which he wishes to undo them by ‘making a news person out of himself’. In fact, he wants to change himself not only because of his own sake but because of the other’s desire, or better to say to be accepted and approved by the other. Hence, such a self-reproach is deeply connected to the internalised parents’ moral standards which came to being during the formation of identification. In this regard, Freud says “The child’s super-ego is in fact constructed on the model not of its parents but of its parents ‘super-ego’” (1933, p.67). What I can analyse from this is that there is a contradiction between the ideal-ego (moral standards) and ego-ideal (idealised self image).As we know, ideal-ego and ego-ideal are closely intertwined yet with a slight difference. Ego-ideal is the internalised parental imago which has formed the conscience while ideal-ego, on the one hand, is the recipient of the self-love that ego enjoyed in infancy, and on the other hand, it is a part of the idealised parental image, “the ‘ideal ego’ stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the Ego-Ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and propels me to give my best, the ideal I try to follow and actualise” (Žižek, 2006, p. 45).
Considering this fact, now we can have a more comprehensive understanding of the self-reproach and guilt in my client. On the one hand, the pleasure seeking part of his ego looks for ways to satisfy his sexual needs, and on the other hand, his moral standards push them back and keep them away from direct gratification because his ideal-ego does not fully fit into his ego-ideal’s standards. I believe this interpretation is the simplest way to explain the function of super-ego as a moral agent in our psyche. The bloody super-ego always brings us to such contradictions in our everyday decision makings. The internalised other’s voice is always in our head keep criticising or persuading us in every moment of our lives. I am not sure that we have to get away with it or accept it as a part of reality. But what I am sure about is that every single individual needs to find its own way towards gratification, there is no common rule for everyone. Sometimes the moral standards are good and sometimes they are not necessary and it is for us to find a critical view and come to this point that when they are required and when they are unnecessary. At least, that is what I have always been engaged with in my life, when to obey and when to disobey…
- Freud, S. (1933). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. S. E., 22: 1–182. London: Hogarth.
- Žižek, S. (2006). How to Read Lacan. New York: W. W. Norton Company.