Friday, July 01, 2011

Freud's The Ego and the Id and "The Borrowed Sense of Guilt"

October 28, 1992
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Apt. 136
Washington, DC 20008

Dr. Suzanne M. Pitts
George Washington University
Medical Center
2150 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Dear Dr. Pitts:

I respectfully enclose the passage from The Ego and the Id that I mentioned at our session on Tuesday October 27, 1992. The writing encapsulates what I believe to be the core of my psychological difficulties, including my difficulties in therapy.

Further, a comparison of the excerpt from The Ego and the Id (discussing a need for a counteracting force to a derivative [guilt] of an abandoned erotic investment [in the mother]) with the enclosed excerpt from Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (discussing the homosexual's need to replace the repressed erotic investment in the mother) may bring into sharper focus the nature of my homosexuality.

Thank you very much.


Gary Freedman

[Handwritten notes by Dr. Pitts: "1st appt 10/27 1st appt. rec'd 10/28 (dropped @ desk)"]

The excerpt from Freud's The Ego and the Id contains the following text that has attracted considerable attention from commentators:

Definition of the term: the "borrowed sense of guilt."

"The battle with the obstacle of an unconscious sense of guilt is not made easy for the analyst. Nothing can be done against it directly, and nothing indirectly but the slow procedure of unmasking its unconscious repressed roots, and of this gradually changing it into a conscious sense of guilt. One has a special opportunity for influencing it when this unconscious sense of guilt is a "borrowed"one - when it is the production of an identification with some other person who was once the object of an erotic cathexis. A sense of guilt that has been adopted in this way is often the sole remaining trace of the abandoned love-relation and not at all easy to recognize as such.  (The likeness between this process and what happens in melancholia is unmistakable.)  If one can unmask this former object-cathexis behind the unconscious sense of guilt, the therapeutic success is often brilliant, but otherwise the outcome of one's efforts is by no means certain.  It depends principally on the intensity of the sense of  guilt; there is often no counteracting force of a similar order of strength which the treatment can oppose to it.  Perhaps it may depend too on whether the  personality of the analyst allows of the patient's putting him in the place of his ego ideal, and this involves a temptation for the analyst to play the part of prophet, savior and redeemer to the patient.  Since the rules of analysis are diametrically opposed to the physician's making use of his personality in any such manner, it must be honestly confessed that here we have another limitation to the effectiveness of analysis; after all, analysis does not set out to make pathological reactions impossible, but to give the patient's ego freedom to decide one way or the other."


Gary Freedman said...

The referenced excerpt from Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego states:

The genesis of male homosexuality in a large class of cases is as follows. A young man has been unusually long and intensely fixated upon his mother in the sense of the Oedipus complex. But at last, after the end of his puberty, the time comes for exchanging his mother for some other sexual object. Things take a sudden turn: the young man does not abandon his mother, but identifies himself with her; he transforms himself into her, and now looks about for objects which can replace his ego for him, and on which he can bestow such love and care as he has experienced from his mother.

Gary Freedman said...

See previous blog post on neurotic mothers: