Ego & Archetype Chapter 2 Summary
In chapter two of Ego & Archetype, Edinger introduces the alienated ego by first focusing on the ego-Self axis and the psychic life cycle. The ego-Self axis is a bridge between consciousness and psyche that allows the ego to grow. This inflation of the ego is the first step in the psychic life cycle and is necessary for alienation to take place. Following ego inflation and alienation are repentance, restitution, and once again, renewed inflation. This cycle will repeat itself and each completion of this cycle gradually increases consciousness. This increased consciousness leads to the development of the individual.
Severe despair occurs when the connection to ego and Self is damaged. Consequently, this despair is followed by violence which can be self-directed or directed at other people. This paradigm is paralleled in Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain murders Abel after God rejects his offering. This despair causes the alienation of the ego, which always precedes the numinous experience, or awareness of the Self. In art and literature, alienation is often symbolized by the wilderness and in this wilderness is where God is encountered. It is important to note that the ego and Self must be separated in order to experience alienation for it is in the absence of ego that the Self can be made known.
A negative relationship with one’s parents in childhood can disrupt the psychic life cycle, which can later result in an inferiority neurosis in adulthood. In this instance the ego-Self axis must be repaired. This process can take place in psychotherapy through transference (in the form of projection of the Self) from the analysand onto the analyst. Edinger uses the interpretation of a woman’s dream to illustrate this point: a woman who was neglected by her father dreams that soldiers in a frozen wasteland are raping her. However, the final soldier treats her with kindness and takes her to a warm place and feeds her soup. The dream represents the alienation caused by past abuse and the restoration that is currently taking place in therapy.
I have personally experienced how rejection by a parent can cause an inferiority complex as well as how that complex can be repaired through therapy. In my case, a lack of affection and undermining comments from my mother stunted my personal growth, which appeared in the form of anxiety and eventually agoraphobia. Not only did I think I didn’t deserve to be treated well, I believed I wasn’t even fit to be seen in public. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the transference I experienced with my psychotherapist was seeing her as a mother figure. I felt that she gave me the acceptance and concern I didn’t receive from my own mother and that allowed my own healing to take place. Edinger would say that the feeling of acceptance was in fact a projection from my own Self onto my therapist and feeling that acceptance repaired my ego-Self axis, which allowed the healing to begin.