The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 365–376

The “Incompatible Idea” Revisited: The Oft-Invisible Ego-Ideal and Shame Dynamics

  • Melvin R. Lansky
Article

Abstract

The observation that incompatibility with conscience initiates deployment of defense goes back to Freud's conceptualization of the “incompatible idea” put forward in Studies on Hysteria. In this view, consciousness itself, insofar as it gives rise to painful affect resulting from conflict with the conscience, is the cornerstone for dynamic thinking, first as regards repression of traumatic memory and later for dynamic thinking generally. Subsequent discoveries about the conscience tended to give rise to pars pro toto thinking in which the new discovery replaced rather than added to the basic notion of conscience. Such pars pro toto imbalance exists in full force in psychoanalytic thinking today: Modern conflict theory privileges the postoedipal retaliative aspect of the conscience, as Kleinian thinking does for the preoedipal projective aspects of retaliation. Neither conceptualizes shame adequately. Kohut appreciated the role of shame, but discarded the notion of incompatibility with the ego-ideal. The incompatible idea model still provides an all-inclusive model for conceptualizing the conscience in the context of intrapsychic conflict.

shame incompatible idea conscience superego intrapsychic conflict 

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© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2003

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  • Melvin R. Lansky

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