Stage 4a: The Development of the Superego


"[Parents, caregivers] invoke the 'triad of retribution': punishment, moral reproach, and guilt. The problem of guilt is of decisive consequence. It acquires a double representation: mother (father) and the inner conscience (superego)...

In his frantic efforts to hold on to vestiges of his most cherished infantile fantasy--omnipotence, megalomania, autarchy-- the child at two or two and a half discovers an ingenious device. It consits of identification with the prohibitions handed down by his mother and father.

He thus substitutes an inner prohobition for the barrage of external prohibitions that have previously been so offensive.

The effect is the same; the message is still "don't do it," the only change being the direction of the taboo. The child's new obedience, his acceptance of rules of his own 'free will' saves face for him, saves punishment, even saves remnants of his illusion of omnopotence..."
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnBACK: Stage 3nnnn NEXT: Stage 4b