In contemporary psychosocial studies the ‘ego psychology’ of the 1920s-30s is often under-emphasised as a critical resource, in contrast with Freud’s earlier paradigm of the unconscious. But the first wave of ego psychology was quite radical in the ways it dissolved conventional assumptions and destabilised the way the ego was conceived. For Paul Federn, ‘All definitions of the ego come to grief owing to the fact that they represent the ego as a distinct entity, something opposed to external reality’. In this paper I explore the way the personality structure can be conceived as extending not only inwards, but also outwards beyond the immediate sphere of the embodied individual to include elements of the environment – i.e. these things supposedly outside become supplements, prostheses or simply functioning elements of the personality structure: literally parts of ‘myself’. Such a model allows us to apprehend certain psychical processes described by psychoanalysts in a different way – particularly those involving a notional displacement of an idea from the inside to the outside, or vice versa, including projection, internalisation, and projective identification.
Chaired by Niall Gildea; the paper will be followed by short comments and discussion from three other contributors: Daniel Pick (Birkbeck and BPS), Adam Leite (Indiana), and Julie Walsh (Essex).