You Ought To!: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Superego and Conscience

Author(s) : Bernard Barnett

Part of The Psychoanalytic Ideas Series - more in this series

You Ought To!: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Superego and Conscience

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : 2007
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 192
  • Category :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 17699
  • ISBN 13 : 9781855759831
  • ISBN 10 : 1855759837
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The superego is one of those psychoanalytic concepts that has been assimilated into ordinary language, like repression, the unconscious and the Oedipus complex. Because it has become such a familiar notion, its complexity may not always be appreciated, nor the controversy that it can inspire. Its origins, for example, its timing in the course of development, whether and how it is influenced by gender all these questions and others have been the source of lively disagreement. For psychoanalysts it is a fundamental concept of their discipline, but it belongs to a meta psychology whose value is often questioned, and opinions might vary on whether it remains truly alive as a generative, energising idea in contemporary psychoanalysis.

Reviews and Endorsements

'A compact but comprehensive survey...of the concept of the superego is very much to be welcomed. Bernard Barnett's thoroughness and his systematic approach are evident in this book. Starting with an account of how Freud elaborated, over many years, the idea of an agency within a person's mind which monitors and passes judgement on the person, the author goes on to describe the evolution of the superego from infancy to adulthood.'
- Michael Parsons, from the Foreword

'Bernard Barnett's book "You Ought To!", A Psychoanalytic Study of the Superego and Conscience is a clear concise survey of a complex psychoanalytic concept that is extremely relevant clinically, socially and culturally. The range of this book is impressive. Although Barnett is a training analyst from the Independent tradition of the British Psychoanalytical Society, the reader will find the views of Kleinians, the French writers, ego psychologists, self-psychologists and others represented. He traces the evolution of the concept from the development of Freud's ideas up to contemporary contributions. As a child and adolescent psychoanalyst, Bernard Barnett is well-placed to explain the development from early infancy to maturity of the superego as a system comprised of the ego ideal, the ego-self, conscience, the sense of guilt, the wish for punishment and remorse. This development is rooted in the quality of the interaction between "subject" and "object", which Barnett brings to life with references to work with patients, newspaper clippings, studies of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and his particularly moving study of the distortion of the superego in the perpetrators, victims and first and second generation survivors of the Holocaust. The clarity of the writing, the comprehensive approach, and the references and notes, make this book an informative reference for the professional, a stimulating guide for the student, and a valuable text for the teacher.'
- Donald Campbell, Former President, The British Psychoanalytical Society

'Dr Barnett, a highly esteemed Training analyst of the British Society, has provided an excellent survey of 'the system superego' (the ego, the ego ideal, conscience, the sense of guilt, need for punishment etc). What makes the book fascinating is the illustration of the superego's emotional power as a monitoring and judging agency and how the reader is guided along without any commands from a dictatorial authorial superego of the kind which insists that 'You ought to know!'. The author's account is also unusual in its detailed, development of the literary character studies. These describe, for example, George Eliot's pre-Freudian account of 'conscience' and of 'the unmapped country within us'. Another very interesting chapter describes the many factors which contributed to the catastrophic breakdown of the collective superego in the Holocaust. This is a valuable book which brings some clarity to a fundamental and highly complex topic.'
- Sylvia Zwettler-Otte, former President of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society

About the Author(s)

Bernard Barnett is a Fellow of the Institute of Psychoanalysis and a Training analyst of the British Psychoanalytic Society. He is a former Chairman of the Institute's Education Committee. He was for many years the Director of Psychological Training at the Child Guidance Training Centre and later at the Child and Family Dept. of the Tavistock Centre which he left in 1988. Since then he has been in full-time private psychoanalytic practice.

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