Skip to main content

Antilibidinal Ego/Internal Saboteur

ANTILIBIDINAL EGO/INTERNAL SABOTEUR

Fairbairn's thinking on psychic structure began in 1929, with a critical study of Freud's ideas about the superego (Fairbairn, 1929/1994b), and developed into his mature object-relations theory (1954), modifying the Freudian model. In Fairbairn's revision (1952/1994a) of Freud's concepts of endopsychic structure (1923), the term "antilibidinal ego" refers to the split-off and repressed ego-structure related to the rejecting object. In his earlier work it developed from his ideas about the superego and was termed the "internal saboteur."

According to Fairbairn, the early unitary ego, rather than seeking pleasure, seeks relationships (intimacy) with the external object. Actual environmental failure (which in ideal circumstances maintains integration of the ego) leads to compensatory internalization of the object. The object is then defensively split into three objects. The unrepressed (central) ego, partly conscious and attached to the ideal object, represses the other two objects, the exciting (libidinal) object and rejecting (antilibidinal) object, together with the aspects of the ego related to them (the libidinal ego and antilibidinal ego, known as subsidiary egos). These repressed objects are termed "bad objects" and are unavailable for real object relations.

Fairbairn named the resulting situation the "basic schizoid position," a term later taken up by Melanie Klein (1946/1952). The antilibidinal ego, attached to the rejecting object and unrelentingly hostile to the libidinal ego, reinforces the central ego in its repression of the libidinal ego. The degree of psychopathology depends on these splits, the amount and strength of central ego remaining, and the many possible patterns of internal relationships. Fairbairn saw disturbance as being due to the return of repressed bad-object experience to consciousness. Fairbairn's dynamic structure, which differs from that of Freud, is wholly object-related. The concept of the schizoid position is fundamental to his thinking about the many possible variants of psychopathology. The elaboration of the antilibidinal ego as differing from the superego, together with the theory of a psychic structure made up of many conflicted ego-object relationships, allows a flexibile technical approach.

This thinking has been influential in Britain, most notably on the Independent Group, and on self-psychologists and intersubjective theorists in the United States.

Jennifer Johns

See also: Fairbairn, William Ronald Dodds; Quasi-independence/transitional stage.

Bibliography

Fairbairn, Ronald. (1954). An object-relations theory of the personality. New York: Basic Books.

. (1994a). Endopsychic structure considered in terms of object relationships. In his Psychoanalytic studies of the personality. London: Tavistock Publications with Routledge and Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1952)

. (1994b). What is the superego? In David E. Scharff and Ellinor Fairbairn Birtles (Eds.), From instinct to self: selected papers of W. R. D. Fairbairn, Vol. 2, Applications and early contributions. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. (Original work published 1929)

Freud, Sigmund. (1923). The ego and the id. SE : 19: 19-27.

Grotstein, James, and Rinsley, Donald (Eds.). (1994). Fair-bairn and the origins of object relations. London: Free Association Books.

Klein, Melanie. (1952). Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. In Joan Riviere (Ed.), Developments in psycho-analysis. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis. (Original work published 1946)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Antilibidinal Ego/Internal Saboteur." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Antilibidinal Ego/Internal Saboteur." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/antilibidinal-egointernal-saboteur

"Antilibidinal Ego/Internal Saboteur." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/antilibidinal-egointernal-saboteur

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.