Habitus, Repetition, and the Ego in the Early Pre-Psychoanalytical Thought of Freud

egoistIn Sigmund Freud’s early pre-psychoanalytical monograph, “The Project for a Scientific Psychology,” we find the first formulation of ideas that would become central to his psychoanalytical understanding of mental phenomena.

While interesting from the standpoint of the development of psychoanalytical concepts, this text interests us mainly because of the rather powerful psychophysical account of mental phenomenon that he offers there.

From the beginning, Freud’s main goal in the Project was to offer a compelling account of defense. My essay concerns the way in which the structures of defense are built up and the function of these structures vis-?-vis the forces of the external world.

What are these structures, finally? The ego is itself the aggregate of these defensive structures that serve to impose rhythm and regularity on the pressures—external and internal—by which the nervous system is beset. As a movement of the establishment of habits, the building up of the ego involves a repetitional movement of subordination of the biological demands of the organism, in which the latter are compelled to wait until both preservation is assured and an appropriate object for the fulfillment of biological needs is present.

Furthermore, we’ll explore how the establishment of habits often involves not only a repetitive movement, but also a moderate violence to the nervous system (we will consider military discipline as an example). When repetition is accompanied by this violence, it can create enduring and irreversible inflexibilities in the ego.

Autor: Allen Thomas Jones.

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