Alter Ego

views updated May 23 2018


The representation of an other complicit in the subject's narcissism, or self-object, the alter ego refers to the narcissistic need of an other similar to the self, a factor in the development of the self. The term appeared in the work of Heinz Kohut in 1971 in the context of alter ego transference, a form of mirror transference. After 1984, given the autonomy of the alter ego transference, it appears as a constituent of the self, along with the grandiose self, the pole of ambitions, and the idealized parental imago, the pole of ideals. Defined as an arc of tension between the two poles, the alter ego takes into account the harmony of the self, while the mirror affirms the vigor of the self and its idealization and cohesion. The line of development of the alter ego is important throughout the period that extends from the age of four to ten years; friendship, the need for someone like us, sometimes changes into the need for an imaginary companion. The alter ego is associated with humanity and sexual identity through self-identificationthe father's true son. The reverse would be a Kafkaesque world of dehumanizing experiences. When this sector is stopped, repressed needs remain fixed and are difficult to verbalize because of the shame they arouse. The alter ego is associated with other needs and narcissistic transferences. Within this context, the concept of identification loses the specificity it has in Freudian metapsychology in terms of the constitution of the ego.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Bipolar self; Compensatory structures; Mirror transference; Narcissistic transference; Self; Twinship transference/alter ego transference.


Kohut, Heinz. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1984). How does analysis cure? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Alter Ego

views updated May 11 2018


A doctrine used by the courts to ignore the corporate status of a group of stockholders, officers, and directors of a corporation in reference to their limited liability so that they may be held personally liable for their actions when they have acted fraudulently or unjustly or when to refuse to do so would deprive an innocent victim of redress for an injury caused by them.

A corporation is considered the alter ego of its stockholders, directors, or officers when it is used merely for the transaction of their personal business for which they want immunity from individual liability. A parent corporation is the alter ego of a subsidiary corporation if it controls and directs its activities so that it will have limited liability for its wrongful acts.

The alter ego doctrine is also known as the instrumentality rule because the corporation becomes an instrument for the personal advantage of its parent corporation, stockholders, directors, or officers. When a court applies it, the court is said to pierce the corporate veil.

Courts have not traditionally applied the alter ego doctrine to other business forms, such as partnerships and limited partnerships, because partners generally do not enjoy the same form of limited liability as corporate stockholders, officers, and directors. By comparison, however, owners of limited liability companies may structure their business in a manner similar to a corporation so that members and managers are shielded from personal liability for the debts of the limited liability company (LLC). Several courts have determined that the alter ego doctrine may also apply to LLCs. For instance, in Kaycee Land & Livestock v. Flahive, 46 P.3d 323 (Wyo. 2002), the Wyoming Supreme Court held that the equitable doctrine of piercing the veil was an available remedy under the Wyoming Limited Liability Company Act.


Corporations; Immunity; Liability.