Saturday, December 22, 2012

Michael Fordham - Ego as Deintegrate of the Self

"In a previous paper (Fordham, 1957a) to which the reader is referred for a fuller account of what follows, I quoted Jung in support of a theory that the self is the prototype of the ego; this, together with other considerations, led to the postulate of an original self, which differs from all other states of integration in that it has no subjective manifestations though it can be inferred or intuited by observation. The theory postulated an original self which cannot give rise to the ego without dividing up spontaneously into parts termed deintegrates; these, by forming the basis for images of the archetypes, make possible the gradual development of the infant's relation to his mother and himself, and the gradual establishment of the ego over against the archetypal energies. These can at first often be observed to threaten the infant, and would overwhelm him disastrously were he not cared for by his own mother, who takes responsibility for satisfying his needs and protecting him, on the one hand, from social pressures with which he is manifestly not ready to deal, on the other from the complex inner energies against which he can be equally helpless and against whose effect even the best mothers are sometimes powerless.

The relation of the ego to the archetypes in infancy is radically different from that in later years; originally the ego is assumed to grow out of the self, as the result of its spontaneous deintegration followed by its reintegration. This process repeats, so that the self, considered dynamically, integrates and deintegrates in a rhythmic sequence. Gradually ego boundaries form and the psyche gains a demonstrable structure; only then can we refer to the complementary opposites, the ego and the archetypes, which can express themselves in images. It is recognized that, once this has happened, the energy in the archetypal forms bears a compensating relation to the strength of the ego as the centre of the conscious mind, and so, as the relative dominance of the ego comes about, the archetypal forms sink into the background or get hidden behind the barriers of repression. But when, as happens later in life, the ego ceases to have the same significance, as Jung has convincingly shown, it becomes drained of part of its energy and archetypal activity increases until finally the ego is displaced. It follows that the individuation process begins when ego consciousness, as an ideal and as a social and personal necessity, collapses.

The essential problem lies in the relation of the ego to the self; in early ego development the self is conceived to give rise to the ego, which then takes up its own struggle to extend consciousness with the support of, or in opposition to, the self. In individuation the self starts by performing the opposite function; it so to say attacks and eliminates the ego's position of pre-eminence which, as an illusion, it never regains."
(pp. 123-124)

"The thesis of this paper is mainly conservative inasmuch as it contests the extension of the classical concept of individuation to embrace the first half of life, including infancy. If individuation be defined as realization by the ego of the tendency to wholeness, it cannot cover the predominantly splitting processes of early infancy and childhood which lead to the opposition ego—unconscious. In the second half of life there may be deintegration of the self, but the predominating process is a uniting one; it leads to awareness of the ego as part of a greater whole, the self....In infancy the ego and self are not separate from each other in the way which Jung has correctly emphasized for personalities in whom the ego is a sufficiently organized structure. In them the ego can be distinguished clearly from that larger integer the self, and when this happens the process of individuation becomes an empirical fact." (pp. 127-128)


Michael Fordham (1958). Individuation and Ego Development. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 3, pp. 115-130

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