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see psychoanalysispsychoanalysis,
name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M.
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one of the three elements of the PERSONALITY in FREUD's theory. The superego is that part of the personality that operates as the conscience, aiming for perfection, controlling the function of the EGO by placing moral constraints on it.

Like the ego, the superego is said by Freud to develop from the ID in the first few years of life. He proposed that it was formed by the child internalizing the parent's perceived standards, and indirectly, therefore, society s standards. This came about through identification with the same-sex parent as resolution of the OEDIPUS COMPLEX. Freud's theory thus explained the development of a conscience in boys much better than in girls and he has been much criticized for the implied inferiority of women as a result. Feminist theorists such as Juliet Mitchell (1974) have explored this aspect of his theory

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000



The superego is to one of the three essential components of Sigmund Freud‘s theory of the human personality. The superego represents the internalized mores of society and tells us what is right and wrong. Because our parents are our primary source of socialization, it might be said that the superego is the internalized voice of our parents. According to Freud, the superego is frequently in conflict with the id, which represents such primitive, animal drives as sex and aggression. The need to control these urges leads to inner conflicts—conflicts of which we are often largely unconscious and which are frequently expressed in our dreams. Repressed sexual and violent urges may, for example, lead to sexual and violent dreams. In Freud’s view, the superego’s drive to repress the id extends even into our dreams, so that socially unacceptable urges are expressed indirectly in dream symbols. A person may, for example, have a dream in which a sudden downpour drenches someone who is the object of sexual desire.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


The subdivision of the psyche that acts as the conscience of the unconscious; the components, derived from both the id and the ego, are associated with standards of behavior and self-criticism.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Psychoanal that part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience for the ego, developing mainly from the relationship between a child and his parents
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In many passages, Freud describes the sense of guilt as something more complex than fear of the superego. He describes it as "the expression of the tension between the ego and the super-ego,"(27) making clear that this tension reproduces a multiply ambivalent relation between child and parent.
The ego ideal provides the normative background against which the superego can be conceived as having authority.
Where does the superego get the authority to demand that the ego fulfil its own standards, and to punish it when it fails?
The authority for the demand comes, I think, from the superego's being an aspect of one and the same figure as the ideal.
What gives the superego the authority to make the ego suffer for falling short of its own ideal?
At one point Freud describes the superego as punishing the ego with "feelings of inferiority."(33) This lash was placed in the superego's hands by the ego as well.
Unfortunately, this subtle, psychological form of suffering is not one with which the ego can feel threatened when criticized by the superego. For as soon as the ego has been criticized, it already experiences this suffering and is no longer in a position to fear it.
It will regard the anticipated punishment as the practical aspect of criticism, which it has authorized the superego to make, as the voice of the ego ideal.
These psychic materials strike me as sufficient to constitute a rudimentary conception of the superego's authority to punish.
We may say simply that he takes his father as his ideal.(44) This primary identification antedates the boy's introjection of his father into his superego; indeed, it antedates the Oedipus complex, which will be resolved by that later, more consequential identification.(45)
I have now argued that Freud encounters two dead-ends in attempting to explain the authority of the superego. He attributes this authority to the love that was felt in infancy for one or another precursor of the superego--either narcissistic love for the self or identificatory love for a parent.
I want to attempt this extrapolation because I believe that it reveals, first, why the superego as Freud conceived it cannot play the role of moral authority; but, second, how Freud's conception of the superego can be revised so as to play that role.