In therapy, if the Super Ego is under functioning the focus of attention in counseling would be on the Id and helping to revive or develop the Super Ego as was discussed in last week’s blog. More often in therapy, if the focus of attention is on the Super Ego, it is because it is over functioning. This over functioning usually manifests as a striving towards the ideal self, or towards what the person sees as the ideal. The therapeutic work approaches this issue from two fronts. The first focus is on helping the client identify whose ideal they are striving towards. Often the Super Ego presents the client with ideals that are an internalization of the parental voice, and therefore an internalization of the parental ideal. The parental ideal may not align with the person’s own ideal or her/his ability to achieve the ideal.
The second focus then becomes on how to resolve the conflict between the ideal and the real. If the person cannot meet the internalized ideal while working through therapy to dis-entangling what is her/his ideal and what is possible (versus ideal) based on ability, the person will struggle with the guilt that comes with not living up to the perceived ideal. The client’s sense of failure or of inadequacy can lead to a cycle of frustration where s/he strives for the ideal, but cannot achieve it leading to a sense of failure/inadequacy, which keeps her/him from trying again, increasing the sense of guilt and failure. The role of therapy is to help a person develop a moderated Super Ego that is in touch with the person’s reality and his or her own ideals.
Also, as noted in the Id blog, those who deny their needs/drives due to an over developed Super Ego have the potential to have unhealthy manifestations of the Id followed by a sense of guilt. These individuals frequently say things like “I let myself down,” because they did not live up to their high personal standard. The person generally lacks insight to see that the reason for not meeting her/his personal standard is due to an unhealthy level of suppression of Id, driven by guilt (i.e., the voice of the Super Ego), of natural and appropriate drives, that if moderated appropriately would not lead to inappropriate manifestations.