Skip to main content

Ego States

EGO STATES

An ego state is a coherent organization of cathected mental contents and related affects that are experienced as within the ego boundary at a given point in time. Federn's (1926/1952) concept of ego states is related to Schilder's (1930/1951) discussion of varieties of conscious experience and to David Rapaport's (1951/1954) view of states of consciousness. Federn's use of the construct ego state underscores mental content.

Ego states are correlated with particular ego boundaries, and the current contents included within a given boundary will determine a particular ego state. Conversely, given ego states include particular qualities of ego experience. Ego states range from developmentally primitive to advanced. Any ego state may be repressed, and thus de-egotized. When a conflicting idea is repressed, the ego state in which it is found will also be repressed. For a repressed memory to become emotionally meaningful, there must be recall of the whole ego state in which it is embedded. A repeatedly cathected ego state may become dominant, and when this ego state is repressed, a fixation point is created. Fixations are associated with highly rigid ego boundaries. Activation of a particular ego state will result when there is a regression to that fixation point.

Manifest dream elements may primarily signify, in addition to unconscious fantasies, repressed ego states. The very concept of pathological fixations implies the notion of a number of repressed ego states. The unconscious segment of the ego consists of all repressed ego states. An active ego state reflects how one is presently experiencing oneself.

Ego states succeed one another, but a person may also experience different ego states at the same time. Even so, in most cases, one is aware of only one ego state at a given time. In ego states characterized by fatigue, sleep, illness, and psychosis, the ego feeling is often seriously restricted. In general, the greater the mental disturbance, the more the person's functioning is limited by current ego states. Such a person is unable to do in one ego state what he can do in another. Regression to earlier ego states is one of the main pathological features of psychosis.

Marvin S. Hurvich

See also: Ego; Ego (ego psychology).

Bibliography

Bergmann, Martin S. (1963). The place of Paul Federn's ego psychology in psychoanalytic metapsychology. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 11, 97-116.

Federn, Paul. (1952). Ego-psychology and the psychoses (Edoardo Weiss, Ed.). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published 1926)

Rapaport, David. (1954). The autonomy of ego. In Robert P. Knight and C. R. Friedman (Eds.), Psychoanalytic psychiatry and psychology. New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1951)

Schilder, Paul. (1951). Studies concerning the psychology and symptomatology of general paresis. In David Rapaport (Ed.), Organization and pathology of thought. New York: Columbia University Press. (Original work published 1930)

Weiss, Edoardo. (1960). The structure and dynamics of the human mind. New York: Grune and Stratton.

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

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ego States." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ego States." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ego-states

"Ego States." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved December 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ego-states

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.