From: JASA 19 (September 1967): 65-72.
The current debates over the "new morality" have prompted the re-examination of the psychology of morality. Morality is not merely a personal issue but is a central aspect of socio-cultural existence. Situational ethics has aptly criticized traditional views on morality which have often been culture-bound and laden with neurotic vicissitudes. But situation ethics has ignored the inadequacies of individualistic morality. The psychological theory of ego morality developed in this paper emphasizes the necessity for a balance between individual integrity, social commitment, and ultimate universal values which must be weighed in determining the moral behavior of both the person and his society.
*E. Mansell Pattison is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Coordinator for Social and Community Psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington. This is an abridged and revised version of a paper presented to the biennial joint session of the American Scientific Affiliation-Evangelical Theological Society, Chicago, August, 1966.
Morality is a word that usually appears in disfavor in the vocabulary of the psychotherapist. It is often taken as a taboo word or epithet. At best morality is generally viewed as irrelevant to psychotherapy, at worst it is taken to be a destructive anti-therapeutic attitude.
Yet in the face of these negative connotations, there is swelling literature of books and articles concerned with the psychology of morality. (For recent reviews see: 2,3,4,5,6; Major commentaries include: 7.8,9,10, 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18).
Freud, father of modem psychotherapy, has sometimes been accused of being unconcerned with morality, although Philip Rieff19 devoted a whole book, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, to demonstration of the central moral issues in Freud's thought. Freud was preoccupied with the vicissitudes of intrapsychic pro cesses and did not concern himself directly with the imperatives for morality. However, the late anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn,20 states the issue clearly:
There is the need for a moral order. Human life is necessarily a moral life precisely because it is a social life, and in the case of the human animal the minimum requirements for predictability of social behavior that will insure some stability and continuity are not taken care of automatically by biologically inherited instincts, as is the case with the bees and the ants. Hence, there must be generally accepted standards of conduct, and these values are more compelling if they are invested with divine authority and continually symbolized in rites that appeal to the senses.
No society can long function without a specific morality. Nor can this merely be left to individual d-iscretion for it is a group requirement as well.
Although it can be oppressive, morality is a central integrative force in culture. If religious faith is dispensed with, then some other faith must replace it. In his important new book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, sociologist Philip Reiff2l notes that psychoanalysis was instrumental in demolishing moralistic standards and rejecting religion. Jt thereby contributed to the symbolic impoverishment of our culture and to the establishment of "negative" communities that require no commitment and offer no integrative symbolic. In the past, "positive" communities offered some sort of commitment and a type of salvation to the individual through participant membership. Rieff goes on to say:
To speak of a moral culture would be redundant. Every culture has two main functions: ( 1) to organize the moral demands men make upon themselves into a system of symbols that make men intelligible and trustworthy; (2) to organize the expressive remissions by which men release themselves in some degree from the strain of conforming to the controlling symbolic, internalized variant readings of culture that constitute individual character. The process by which a culture changes at its profoundest levels may be traced in the shifting balance of controls and releases which constitute a system of moral demands.
In sum, morality cannot be ignored or dismissed, for morality whether couched in religious institutions or not, provides a core integrative mechanism and content for the development of personality and for the maintenance of society. Morality, in these terms, then is not a question of prohibitions, but rather the values and definitions of appropriate behavior by which man governs his behavior.
Two major psychological theorists, Freud and Piaget, have devoted considerable interest to the Psychological development of morality. In this paper I shall use Freud's psychoanalytic theory because it has been most clearly defined, but then we shall return to touch on the concepts developed by Piaget since these are complementary rather than competing views of morality.22
First, we shall consider the function of three parts of the personality: the superego-that agency of the self which produces feelings of guilt, the ego idealthat agency of the self which produces shame, and the narcissistic self-that central part of internal self which we experience as basic instinctual needs and wants.
(These definitions are to be taken as non-teclinical abbreviations for this paper.)Superego
In his 1914 paper, "On Narcissism," Freud 23 anticipated a conceptual framework for morality: "It would not surprise us if we were to find a special psychical agency which performs the task of seeing that narcissistic satisfactions from the ego ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal ... what we call our conscience has the required characteristics."
Here Freud intimated an evaluative moral function of the ego. This early broad concept of moral functions of the ego was to be narrowed as the superego concept was refined. The consequence was that in everyday clinical jargon we have since come to consider morality as solely a question of superego prohibitions.
However, this restricted view of superego function and morality was not the only concept Freud had in mind. In 192324 he noted that "unconscious moral demands ... together with the conscious moral exigencies of man . . . have since then been called the superego." Loewenstein25 comments that Freud had noted that "the superego . . . its contents and functioning often differ widely from the consciously adopted moral codes of the individual," and that the ego was involved in coping with these conscious moral issues as much as with the moral issues of the superego.
Here then is a distinction between unconsciously chosen moral values that are a function of the superego as a punitive condemnatory agency and consciously chosen moral values which are part of the conscious discriminatory ego.
Freud demonstrated that the subjective experience of "conscience" or feelings of guilt stemmed from the introjection of parental prohibitions. The agency of conscience-the superego-was shown to be the arbitrary, unconscious representation of one's moral upbringing. Consequently, this unconscious prohibitive agent is idiosyncratic and provides no reliable guide to adult moral behavior. As a matter of fact, the personality seeks to avoid and evade the prohibitions of the superego, giving rise to neurotic symptoms and aberrant behavior. The most moralistic person with the rigid severe conscience turns out to have an unreliable and contradictory pattern of moral behavior. The private moral code of the unconscious superego is only quasi-morality, or moralism.26
Three general attitudes regarding superego morality have been taken. The first regards all superego morality as harmful and to be removed-one would be better off without much of a superego. This view, however, only considers the pathology of superego function.
A second view, represented best by 0. H. Mowrer,27 would recommend greater reliance on superego functions, based on the assumption that all guilt feelings refer to real moral violations. However, Mowrer fails to recognize or accept the intrapsychic distortions that superego functions undergo.
The third view holds that superego function must be placed in appropriate balance. As an adult, one must realign one's superego according to one's adult ego value commitments, while modifying overly strict and erroneously developed superego sanctions. That is, one must learn not to feel guilty about inappropriate matters, and develop appropriate guilt for appropriate matters; appropriate guilt meaning a signal of guilt, rather than a punitive overwhelming condemnation.
This third view asserts that internalized superego
norms, where appropriate and in the degree appropriate, serve as representatives of our group and cultural
morals. Chein et a128 assert:
The social significance of the superego inheres precisely in the fact that it provides for individual standards of behavior not dependent on a person's limited experience and that their application is not dependent on the limited egocentric perspective of their situationally adaptive value to him. The social need of the superego type of morality rests, on the one hand, on the fact that the capacity of individuals to profit from experience or the range of individual experiences-even when vicariously augmented-are limited and, on the other hand, on the social necessity for a reasonably consistent set of standards even though the latter cannot be rigorously justified in experiential pragmatic terms.
In his New Introductory Lectures Freud29 Comments along this line: "Fear of the superego should normally never cease, since in the form of moral anxiety it is indispensable in social relations, and only in the rarest cases can an individual become independent of human society."
In describing mature superego development, Jacobson3o speaks of the development and modification of demanding, directive, prohibitive, and self-critical superego functions that become fused into collaboration with the ego. She goes on to comment:
. . . we have been more concerned with the self-critical functions of the superego, which passes moral judgment, than with those of the ego, whose evaluation of the self covers a much broader field . . . What we learned from our comparative study was, first of all, the superego, judging in moral terms of right or wrong, good or bad, chiefly regulates our personal and social relations and behavior, and even evaluates our ego pursuits essentialIy from this perspective. Furthermore, the mature seff-critical ego, though participating in this moral selfevaluation, also judges our ego functions and our practical relations to reality, including those to the inanimate object world. Finally, the self-critical ego evaluates behavior not only in terms of correct or incorrect, true or false, appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, but also from the standpoint of utilitarian or ambitious "Worldly" ego goals ("self interests") with regard to their effectiveness and success . . . the ultimate collaboration between self-critical superego and ego functions.
To sum up the role of the superego in morality, we can say that behavior based on the dynamics of guiltfeelings is precarious and neurotically distorted. However, superego sanctions, when aligned with one's conscious value commitments and modified in their force, play a valuable and necessary role in guarding us against our own egocentric biases and blind spots.Ego Ideal
Various aspects of the affirming, loving, or approving counterparts to prohibitive superego functions have been defined apart from superego as the ego ideal. Ego ideal and superego are closely related in their intrapsychic origin, structure, and function. Further, both ego ideal and superego, with derivative roots in preoedipal and oedipal conflicts, both undergo modification, maturation, and integration with ego structure and function during adolescence. Laufer3l has recently shown how ego ideal models and values undergo crucial revision as childhood models are modified during the adolescent struggle to develop a coherent set of values for one's own self.
For our purposes I wish to point out that the primitive ego ideal, developing out of the introjection. and identification of norms and values of idealized adults, may not undergo necessary modification. The result may be that these irrational, unconscious norms then govern our aspirations, decisions, and attitudes. A failure to live up to this ego ideal may result in experiences of shame. There may also be elements of condemnation if one does not attain one's ideal.
In terms of morality, it is obvious that one's ego ideal plays an important role. However, the ego ideal may be modeled along destructive lines, for example if one's ideal is John Dillinger. Or the goals may be too high, forcing the person to neurotically and inappropriately try to achieve those goals by fair means or foul. Or the ideals may be inappropriate to one's talent or role in life, for example the intellectual but clumsy son of -a ball player who cannot use his intellect because his internalized ideal involves physical prowess.
As with our analysis of superego, we cannot posit morality in terms of ego ideal alone. It provides powerful motivation and central values around which one's life behavior revolves. But unless the ego ideal is modified in alignment with reality and one's conscious value commitments, it may distort and pervert one's behavior, so that the end result is immoral rather than moral behavior.The Narcissistic Self
A third intrapsychic source of morality involves the narcissistic self. One must accept, love, care for, and reward oneself before one can do so for others. Much pious self-abnegation and self-denial arises out of fear and anxiety about gratifying oneself directly; and so vicariously and pseudo-altruistically, one gives to oneself through others. This is moral masochismpaying a price for one's pleasure by giving to oneself via others. Unfortunately, this is hostile giving and leads to the attempt to control and dominate others so that one will have foils through whom one can nourish the necessary narcissism of the self.
Kohut32 sums up the role of the narcissistic needs of the personality and its ambitions as becoming "gradually integrated into the web of our ego as a healthy enjoyment of our own activities and successes and as an adaptably useful sense of disappointment tinged with anger and shame over our failures and shortcomings."
The person who has a grandiose image of himself, as well as the person who has a morbid self-image, will neurotically distort his behavior to balance the needs of the narcissistic self. These internal demands of ourselves must be aligned with our capacities and our conscious value commitments. If not, these internal self-needs will override whatever conscious moral com punctions one might have-a hungry man steals bread. On the other hand, the needs of the self, appropriately construed, provide a necessary balance between the commitment to self and the commitment to others that is necessary for moral interpersonal relations.
Again Jacobson makes the following pertinent observations:
Occasionally, we encounter persons who, having lost their health, their work, their money, their position, their social status and prestige, nevertheless do not collapse under the onslaught of such narcissistic assaults, because they find support from their intact ethical and moral codes. Quite in contrast to such rare persons, we may observe in people who are not guided by a firm, coherent set of mature ethical standards a pronounced predisposition to identity problems. In fact, there are gifted and very capable persons with a devouring ambition and amazing careers, who give the appearance of strong personalities and a "strong ego" but who actually have deep-rooted identity problems, because of the particular defectiveness of their superego and the narcissistic structure and fragility of their ego.Ego Morality
Although couched in various terms, there is a growing consensus that personality development reflects not only physiological needs, but also value needs. Such needs to "make sense out of the world" have been termed the .. quasi-needs" of the ego (von Bertalanffy) the will to meaning (Frankl) ego efficacy (White), cognitive coherence (Festinger). Now, according to Hartmann's formulation of ego development, there is an initial undifferentiated id-ego matrix from which emerges aspects of ego function separated apart from instinctual drive processes; and these autonomous ego activities are involved in the process of developing a coherent effective adaptation to the external world.
These autonomous ego functions assume the function of 11 ego drives" in contradistinction to "instinctual drives." These ego drives are dependent upon the beliefs and values of the culture and these drives become important if indeed not the overriding determinants of behavior. Thus it can be seen that belief systems or value systems are the data that the ego uses to organize individual be' havior. The lack of such cultural value data results id the failure to develop an effective coherent ego structure; or the cultural value system may result in significant distortions in the formation of ego structure. Belief systems, whether they be religious or otherwise, then are both necessary and influential in the development of personality.
The autonomous adult ego, then, chooses
the values, morals, norms and standards by which the person shall
live. These consciously chosen values, however, must be related to the unconscious values of one's super ego, ego ideal, and narcissistic self. The capacity to pursue moral behavior in adulthood optimally occurs
when there is a synchronous alignment between all four derivative forces: superego, ego ideal, narcissistic
self, and autonomous ego values.
Morality has been usually thought of in terms of static rules, and has been defined as a negative be havior related to avoidance of punitive superego sanc tions or meeting of ego-ideal demands.
In contrast, the concept of morality developed here is a dynamic concept emphasizing the selection of goals and values and the process by which the person makes value choices . . . although including avoidance behavior, it emphasizes the positive goal-person directed behavior of the ego. This concept of ego morality posits that there is an evaluating and coordinating structure and function of the ego which is part of its autonomous function, concerned with defining and directing one's life in accord with the values one has chosen.
This latter function of the ego is related to what Engel 34 calls
His description of the nature and function of this ego mechanism bears directly on our theoretical model of ego morality.
The signal-scanning affects have as their distinguishing characteristics a warning or signal function and a "how am I doing?" or scanning function, yielding information to self and to the environment of good or bad, success or failure, pleasure or unpleasure. They serve as signals and means of reality testing for orientation to both external reality and internal reality "in a continuum extending in all shadings from massive affect experience to mere signals and even signals of signals" (Rapaport). They have both regulatory and motivational properties . . . the signal-'scanning affects operate to provide information which is then used by the self-inspection part of the ego as a guide for subsequent ego activities in the service of the reality principle.
Rinsley35 has pointed out that certain concepts of the observing, evaluating and motivational self which are coherent in a phenomenological view of ego are still difficult to integrate into the existing theory of ego psychology. Nonetheless, at this stage of formula tion it seems reasonable to think in terms of a self aware aspect of ego which is involved in the issues of moral values, and which experiences what Freud had termed "moral anxiety."
The role of the ego in morality is also differentiated by Piaget 36 in his studies on the development of moral concepts in childhood. Early first morality is "moral realism" which is absolute and a morality of constraint. This morality is superego moralism. The child's morality is based on authority and fear of punishment. Morality is a static set of absolute rules. In contrast, in adolescence the child begins to develop a "morality of cooperation" which is a relativistic concept. Morality here is related to ego functions of perception, evaluation, and determination of both consequences and desires. It is a relativistic morality in that the adolescent learns to guide his value choices and behavior in terms of his commitments to others and to the ideals and goals he posits for himself.
Again Chassell37 notes that "children who were fixed in a state of moral realism by their peculiarly strong ties to their parents were unable to pass on to moral relativism, and remained bound by the moral realism of the superego."
Recent studies on the development of moral character and moral ideology have found that ego-strength and "good moral character" are closely associated. It is ego-strength rather than superego that results in moral behavior. Kohlberg38 has found that the ego variables associated with moral capacity include:
1. the ability to withstand temptation and to behave honestly
2. to act in conformance with social norms that require impulse control
3. capacity to defer immediate gratification in favor of more distant rewards
4. maintain focused attention on one task
5. ability to control unsocialized phantasies.
Reviews of child rearing practices reveal that parental attempts at specific training in "good" habits fail to produce consistent moral behavior; whereas effective nurturance of a child as a significant, loveable individual with the use of firm, kind, consistent discipline does produce "moral capacity."
Parenthetically it is of note that scholars in the Roman Catholic church have urged their leaders to redefine the pre-adolescent concept of sin in the light of this evidence, for they argue that moral capacity does not develop until after the ego of the adolescent has coalesced into the capacity to make moral commitments and discriminations in the mature sense we have described.39
Ego morality I define, then, as the process and mechanism of balanced interdependent interplay between superego, ego ideal, narcissistic self-image, and autonomous ego values. Ego morality is the consequence of ego development, such that ego is the final common pathway for the establishment of values and moral choice to which the several forces of the personality have contributed.
To conclude in a less theoretical vein, Erickson40 writes:
The true ethical sense of the young adult at its best encompasses moral restraint and ideal vision, while insisting on concrete commitments to those intimate relationships and work associations by which man can hope to share a lifetime of productivity and competence. Truly ethical acts enhance a mutuality between the doer and the other-a mutuality which strengthens the doer even as it strengthens the other. Thus, the "doer unto" and "the other" are one deed. Developmentally, this means that the doer is activated in whatever strength is appropriate to his age, stage, and condition, even as he activates in the other the strength appropriate to his age, stage, and condition.Ego and the Hierarchy of Social Values
The function of ego morality interdigitates with a hierarchy of social values that range along a continuum from relative to absolute. To begin with we can list social values in the following manner:1. Idiosyncratic values-held by only one person in the group under consideration, i.e., personal preferences.
Anthropologists no longer hold to the radical cultural relativism of a quarter century ago. Rather, there is growing consensus that tentative absolutes do exist -interestingly, a rough parallel to the Mosaic Decalogue.41 However, these absolutes must be defined and translated into appropriate behavior by each group. In other words, absolute values must be translated into operational and group values which are to be taken as the moral norms of behavior. Briefly, absolutes must be reduced to relative values, and these relative values must assume absolute functions. For example, a tentative absolute value is the right of personal property or, negatively stated, stealing is immoral. However, the behavior to be labeled as stealing varies with each group; yet, that group definition must be a fairly inviolable norm for that group.
With this in mind, any particular moral standard is culture-bound. Or more psychologically-relative group and operational values are incorporated by the child and become part of a psychologically absolute moralistic system. For mature ego morality to develop, the person must modify these absolutes laid down in the superego, ego ideal and narcissistic self to fit one's mature moral commitments.
In ego morality, the ego continually balances and weight one's actions in terms of how general absolute values can be put into action in term of one's group values in accord with one's personal values.
The so-called New Morality of situation ethics is an attempt by theologians to reconstruct a system of morality since psychoanalysis demonstrated the vagaries and immorality of traditional moralism. However, theologians like Fletcher have failed to come to grips with the need for man to rely on more than personal integrity in social context as he sees it. Although they stress love as the penultimate ethic, they fail to recognize that man, left to his own devices, no matter how noble his intent, deludes and defeats himself. Sociologists and philosophers alike have criticized the situational ethicists on this count. Not that the situational ethicists are wrong in crticizing the traditional approach to morality, but rather that the situational ethic fails to take account of the fact that morality is not merely an individual matter. indeed, individual morality stands in interdependence with group morality.
The concept of ego morality implies that each individual is not alone in determining his value commitments and determining moral choices. The individual is molded by both his culture and his upbringing. His mature commitments are influenced by his social matrix, and his mature moral decisions are not his alone to make, but interdependent on the judgments and evaluations of his peers. This is what theologians are calling "contextual" or "consensus" ethics.
Again, Erikson42 implies this interdependence in his discussion of the roots of virtue. He notes that man is not guided by a comprehensive and conclusive set of instincts but must learn to develop what he calls the eight cardinal virutes of Hope, Will, Purpose, Skill, Fidelity, Love, Care and Wisdom. He goes on:The cog wheeling stages of childhood and adulthood are truly a system of generation and regeneration-for into this system flow and from this system emerge those attitudes which find permanent structure in the great social institutions. I have tentatively listed these social attitudes as reverent, judicious, moral, technical, ideological, interpersonal, productive, and philosophical. Thus the basic virtues-these miracles of everyday life-seem to provide a test for universal values, and to contain the promise of a possible morality which is self-corrective as it remains adaptive.
What Erikson intimates, and what ego posits, is that the individual optimally acts to integrate one's behavior into the commitments to oneself and to one's society according to a whole range of social values. In some instances only a matter of personal preference is involved while in others it is a question of decision for one's whole culture.Guilt, Responsibility and Forgiveness
From the central axiom of ego morality stem certain corollaries in regard to guilt, responsibility and forgiveness which are of importance in terms of systematic theory as well as in practical application in psychotherapy.43.44,45
I would define four types of guilt: (1) civil objective guilt, (2) psychological subjective guilt-feelings, (3) existential ego guilt, and (4) ontological guilt.
Civil guilt is arbitrary and impersonal. It is the violation of objective rules. Such guilt may or may not be related to morality. For example, the Jewish martyrs to Nazi justice were objectively guilty of violating Nazi law; or a small child may be objectively guilty of property damage. Many instances of civil guilt involve other types of guilt. However, objective civil guilt does not in itself indicate either the morality of the act or the moral consequences for the person.
Psychological guilt is an affect or guilt-feeling. It is the subjective experience of internal condemnation of oneself by one's superego. Guilt-feelings bear no necessary relationship to either existential ego guilt or civil objective guilt. To avoid confusion, I do not believe that the common word "conscience" should be used for either guilt-feelings or for superego function, since these latter concepts refer to specific intrapsychic dynamics.Existential ego guilt is a violation of relationship between man and man. This guilt, too, is objective, for it is a condition of estrangement between two persons. Existential ego guilt is ultimately a reflection of man's denial of his values and commitments, a denial of his true situation, and a withdrawal into narcissistic isolation from others. Existential ego guilt is not a feeling but is a situation.
Ontological guilt may be understood in theological terms as original sin, that is, man's basic responsibility for his life and behavior. In Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky puts it that man is responsible for everything and therefore guilty of everything. Sartre pessimistically notes that man can only face himself in making decisions; he has nowhere to turn to affirm that his decisions are right or moral. Ontological guilt is a reflection of the original state of man in the human condition of inadequacy-the fatal flaw of human character that leads man to damn himself-the classic theme of "hubris" of the Greek tragedians-the leitmotiv of our contemporary novelists like William Golding's Lord of the Flies-the basic contention of both ancient theology and the modem formulations of theology.
Ontological guilt, in summary, is a situation, a reflection of man's awareness of what he is. One contemporary psychoanalyst, Allen WbeeljS46 in his metaphorical analysis of the limitations of self-enlightenment -The Illusionless Man, concludes that the ontological quest for meaning in life is crucial, yet unanswerable and certainly untreatable by the psychotherapist.
The psychotherapist can and does address himself to the other three forms of guilt however. Consequently we must inquire into the management of guilt by the psychotherapist in terms of the concept of ego morality.
A typical therapeutic ploy has been to assume that behavior must be based on choice to be moral, and that one should not feel guilty about one's behavior which has been unconsciously determined. The assumption here is that guilt and morality are integral to each other. However, this view does not account for the variety of circumstances that we call "guilt." Indeed psychotherapists have for the most part concemed themselves with reducing guilt feelings, but ignored the "existential guilt situation."
In contrast I propose that morality is only tangentially related to guilt feelings and is primarily involved with existential guilt . . . that is, the issue of relating to others in terms of my ego commitments to them.
Out of existential human incapacity, rises the conflict between one's own conscious aspirations, and one's own unconsciously determined behavior. Indeed, St. Paul's classic self-confession states: I do not do the good things that I want to do, but I do practice the evil things that I do not want to W' (Romans 7:19, Williams Translation).
Long ago Freud pointed out that our behavior was more determined by our unconscious than we were willing to admit and that we were more responsible and able to change our behavior than we were willing to accept. Despite the philosophical arguments about determinism and free will, recent studies of psychotherapy indicate that Freud's maxim holds true.
For example, Catch and Temerlin47 compared psychoanalytic protocols from existential psychoanalysts and classic psychoanalysts. Interestingly, there was no actual difference between the two groups-both treated events in the patient's past as if they had been determined and not the patient's responsibility, while both treated the decisions for the future as totally a matter of free choice of the patient who had the responsibility for making these decisions.
It seems fatuous to assume that by rational process we can analyze our behavior into determined and chosen components, as Farber48 points out. As I have indicated previously, one's moral choices are a cornbination of conscious and unconscious motives and norms, and a combination of determined and free choices. I suggest that we never know, in any conscious rational sense, fully what our motives are or why we choose the way we do. The concept of a rational man is at best a partial truth-the only people that seriously attempt to live by reason alone are paranoidsl I assert that we need to rely upon and utilize in an integrated fashion our unconscious and irrational aspects of self as well as our conscious and rational self.
Furthermore, I submit that we are often faced with situations where we cannot determine either beforehand or afterwards whether the alternative we chose was more moral than the other. In Sartre'S49 analysis, we often cannot look to arbitrary external norms, or to others, or to a scientific analysis. Rather, we must accept the fact that existential choice is made by us. That alone may on occasion define our choice as moral. I have chosen with integrity and that makes it moral. In terms of psychotherapy, LeWy50 concludes: "A person must be able to take the consequences of and be willing and able to answer for what he thinks, feels or does; to acknowledge and feel that this is a part of himself." Ego morality implies that one makes one's choices with as much integrity as one has and accepts the consequences of those choices with the same integrity.
We are responsible for what we are and do. But responsibility does not imply that we should be punished even if guilty, in the sense of blameable. Superego moralism condemns the self as worthless and bad; whereas ego morality appraises oneself with integrity without rejecting or punishing oneself. Superego moralism says, I feel guilty;" whereas ego morality says, I am guilty."
The task of the psychotherapist then is not to assuage guilt feelings, although that is often a necessary preamble to successful therapy. Rather the therapist seeks to help the patient to see himself and his relationships with others in the light of how the patient violates the relationships to which he is committed. The resolution of guilt feelings does not change the basic violation of relationship which is existential guilt. Patients would quite willingly settle for pacification of their superego, but are reluctant to undergo the pain of changing their pattern of relationship so that they no longer need to feel guilty!
This then leads to the problem of forgiveness (cf. my previous formulation).51 Psychological guilt-feelings can be resolved by appeasement, restitution, paying back, or, making up. Here punishment is the price one pays to the superego to stop making us feel guilty. This is what I call the punitive model of forgiveness, which is not forgiveness at all. But one must learn to stop punishing oneself for it is of no value to anyone. Rather, one needs to face up to one's existential guilt. As a result, this sense of guilt may be more deep, for one must stop making pretenses and acknowledge oneself for what one is. Only when one has come to grips with the sort of person that one is can one hope to be a responsible moral person, instead of merely evading or placating one's superego. Punishment is no solution to the problem of existential guilt, for it is the hostile, defiant rejecting attitude towards authority, one's own integrity, and one's true being. Here it is leaming to accept oneself when one realizes that one is unacceptable; and seeking reconciliation from the estrangement one's behavior has brought. This is what I call the reconciliation model of forgiveness.
In terms of ego morality, the question is not one of guilt feelings, but rather the assessment of what one is and how one behaves in order that one may modify one's behavior in terms of one's conscious moral commitments. Guilt feelings are of value as signal affects which the ego must then assess as to their validity and use as spur to action. The resolution of a situation in life where one has violated one's moral commitments is not via punishment but rather via reconciliation.A Recapitulation
In looking back, we can outline the nature and conquences of ego morality:1.The ego is the final common pathway for making moral commitments and decisions. Ego morality is the process and mechanism by which we make our moral choices.
Conscious and unconscious aspects of personality participate in the values we choose and the
moral choices we make. The personality deals
with a spectrum of relative to absolute sociological values in this process. Moral decisions are a
contrapuntal enterprise between the individual
and his socio-cultural milieu.
3. It is impossible and unnecessary for us to fully appreciate the motives for our behavior or the consequences of our behavior. They are ambiguous, opaque and relative. The fact that we choose with integrity is central to ego morality.
4. We are responsible for what we are and do. But this does not imply that we should punish ourselves for being guilty. Rather, ego morality asserts that we must respect and accept ourselves at the same time that we assess our state of existential ego guilt-seeing ourselves for what we are and what we do. The resolution of existential ego guilt comes from a reconciliation of the estrangement we have incurred with others.
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