The Final Split – Superego part 5


What works in life is to go for it. For example, mastery at a skill like relationship is a function of abundant engagement along with intelligent correction, called “deliberate practice”. Yet, most human beings have a segment of their personalities that is withdrawn, even collapsed, and does not engage. How does the superego play into this and how can we reintegrate this part of ourselves?

We’ve looked at how large parts of the ego get buried in the unconscious and left in primitive form. This repressed ego is divided into a needs self and an anti-needs self (the masochistic self and the fearful self can be considered aspects of the needs self). The needs self is paired up with an unavailable other and the anti needs self is paired up with a rejecting other. This is Fairbairn’s pioneering work in object relations. But there is another split in the ego that we have yet to discuss. This is Guntrip’s regressed ego or what I call the final split.

Originally the child internalized and repressed the unavailable and rejecting parents in order to both withdraw from them and simultaneously use them as guides. Some guidance, even bad guidance, is better than no guidance.  My point is that the child runs away from pain and not having its needs met. But the child is left in a difficult position because everything that it was running away from is now internalized!
Consciously we pursue ideals and unconsciously the constant critic awaits in the form of the rejecting parents and the angry anti-needs self. These are the building blocks of the super ego.  Between the real external situation, however difficult that happens to be, and chasing ideals, and, especially, the primitive attacking mostly unconscious elements of the superego, most people withdraw even further into themselves.

This is the part of the human being that collapses under the weight of what we just described.  The act of running away continues, not only from external circumstances but from internal circumstances as well.  A part of the needs self simply gives up and splits itself from any relation to external or even internal circumstance. It is a regression away from life altogether, a complete collapse, an attempt to return to the womb or oblivion, a time when there were no painful others, in fact no others at all.

This collapsed self is heavily repressed because this level of no relationship and depersonalization is very threatening to the rest of the ego’s ability to function.  This collapse takes the form of withdrawing from others, procrastination on projects, low energy often to the point of a sense of deep fatigue or even paralysis, a mood of hopelessness, and so on. Basically, it is a person going unconscious.

This happens in a generalized subtle way but also more dramatically, like blanking out or spacing out or “blowing out”. The conscious ego, chasing ideals, fights all this. The person is left pulled in two directions, driven toward some usually unattainable ideal and a sense of utter hopelessness. This primary conflict is the space that human beings spend a great deal of their life. The superego is the linchpin which keeps all this in place because it is simultaneously pushing us toward goals, attacking us from within and causing us to run away from our very selves!

As we stated last week, good real relationships and access to our true nature with all its qualities are what are required to free ourselves from this superego. Something must replace this old guide and there must be some real support for this collapsed self.  There are good places and bad places to look for the support. We will address those shortly, but for now let me say that one’s relationship partner is not an ideal place to look for the re-parenting that this collapsed and largely undeveloped self requires.

Alicia Davon