Super-ego, super bore, super buffoon


Gert enjoyed Adam Phillips’ romp with the idea of the ego in the LRB:

The self-critical part of ourselves, the part that Freud calls the super-ego, has some striking deficiencies: it is remarkably narrow-minded; it has an unusually impoverished vocabulary; and it is, like all propagandists, relentlessly repetitive….It is, in short, unimaginative; both about morality and about ourselves.  Were we to meet this figure socially, this accusatory character, this internal critic, this  unrelenting fault-finder, we would think there was something wrong with him. He would just be boring and cruel….

Writers are all too used to this unrelenting fault-finder. (Gert, she’s glad to say, has well and truly given it the boot).

What does the Freudian super-ego look like if you take away its endemic cruelty, its unrelenting sadism?  Phillips continues. It looks like Sancho Panza. And like Sancho Panza the absurd and obscene  super-ego is a character we mustn’t take too seriously.

What a great idea. Here’s to the Don Quixote in all of us, incurable adventurers,  tilting at the most absurd windmills. And  tell Sancho Panza to shut up.

Adam Phillips, Against Self-Criticism in the London Review of Books  vol 37 no 5 5 March 2015.



7 thoughts on “Super-ego, super bore, super buffoon

    1. When you think of it, there’s quite a trope in fairy tales, fables and kids’ stories of the reckless character dogged by the advice-giving plodder: the grasshopper and the ant, Toad and Moley, and in one of our favourite children’s books, “The Bear Bus” there was a grandiose bear called Lord Rushington and a serious, steady bear called Albert. Perhaps Gert could write a PhD thesis on Lord Rushington and the super-ego.

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