Ego

Klein (1930, 1946) believed that the ego, or ones sense of self, reaches maturity at a much earlier stage than Freud had assumed. Although Freud hypothesized that the ego exists at birth, he did not attribute complex psychic functions to it until about the 3rd or 4th year. To Freud, the young child is dominated by the id. Klein, however, largely ignored the id and based her theory on the egos early ability to sense both destructive and loving forces and to manage them through splitting, projection, and introjection.

Klein (1959) believed that although the ego is mostly unorganized at birth, it nevertheless is strong enough to feel anxiety, to use defense mechanisms, and to form early object relations in both fantasy and reality. The ego begins to evolve with the infants first experience with feeding, when the good breast fills the infant not only with milk but with love and security. But the infant also experiences the bad breast—the one that is not present or does not give milk, love, or security. The infant introjects both the good breast and the bad breast, and these images provide a focal point for further expansion of the ego. All experiences, even those not connected with feeding, are evaluated by the ego in terms of how they relate to the good breast and the bad breast. For example, when the ego experiences the good breast, it expects similar good experiences with other objects, such as its own fingers, a pacifier, or the father. Thus, the infant's first object relation (the breast) becomes the prototype not only for the ego's future development but for the individual's later interpersonal relations.

However, before a unified ego can emerge, it must first become split. Klein assumed that infants innately strive for integration, but at the same time, they are forced to deal with the opposing forces of life and death, as reflected in their experience with the good breast and the bad breast. To avoid disintegration, the newly emerging ego must split itself into the good me and the bad me. The good me exists when infants are being enriched with milk and love; the bad me is experienced when

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they do not receive milk and love. This dual image of self allows them to manage the good and bad aspects of external objects. As infants mature, then perceptions become more realistic, they no longer see the world in terms of partial objects, and their egos become more integrated.

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