Why Can’t the Apple Fall Far from the Tree?

For Freud, our parental figures are extremely important to the development and interactions of our consciousness. His model of consciousness is a little different from the others we have encountered so far in that it takes into deeper account the internalization of our external experiences and influences. Unlike the slave consciousness in the Hegelian Dialectic which eventually transcends external objects, Freud describes a process of token keeping in which external influences like our parents, culture, and “what is taken over from other people” are internalized and ever present in the “psychical province” which he calls our superego (An Outline of Psycho-Analysis 147).

In An Outline of Psycho-Analysis Freud describes the our conscience/superego as the part of our consciousness which sort of takes the place of our parents when our external world is internalized after our early development (An Outline of Psycho-Analysis 205).

“This new psychical agency continues to carry on the functions which have hitherto been performed by the people [the abandoned objects] in the external world: it observes the ego, gives it orders, judges it and threatens it with punishments, exactly like the parents whose place it has taken. We call this agency the super-ego and are aware of it in its judicial functions as our conscience.” (An Outline of Psycho-Analysis 205).

I hope I wasn’t the only one who read that and realized how awful that sounds. I can barely handle my mom’s judgement outside my head much less inside my head. More than that, I do not like the idea that my morality and sense of right/wrong are all things I have “taken over from other people”; that at the end of the day I am doomed to become like these “other people”. It takes away any sense of autonomy and originality I thought I had been living under.

However, after thinking of my own experience I realized that things don’t always end up that way. There are many cases where the ego overcomes the superego, where the superego is the very facilitator of this deviation. In a study published in The British Journal of Political Science researchers found that although children of very politically engaged parents are likely to initially acquire the same political views, they are also most likely to later abandon these initial political views as a result of their own political engagement which their parents values facilitated. So maybe in the process of internalizing external influences we personalize more than is initially thought. In which case the superego is more of a dynamic facilitator than a replacement for a chastising parent. What do you guys think this internalizing process and the function of the superego?

3 responses to “Why Can’t the Apple Fall Far from the Tree?

  1. Parental influence is definitely an influence on child development, but whether we mirror our parents is not entirely determined. My parents are somewhat politically active as they sometimes discuss it in front of me but have not done any advocacy recently. I share some of my political views with them but disagree on others, mostly on economic issues. The study from the British Journal of Political Science can explain some people’s political views (such as the liberal Ron Reagan being the son of the conservative Ronald Reagan) but does not answer why we have political dynasties (such as the Republican Bush family or Democratic Kennedy family).

  2. I happen to disagree with Yang. From my experience, I can determine if my ways of thinking are influenced by my parents, or something I have learned elsewhere, or even something driven by my instincts. It all boils down to the classic Nature vs. Nurture Debate.
    Upon reading the British Journal of Political Science article, it made me consider whether political activism is a nature or nurture experience. Using what I know from Hegel, through negation, it is not nature, but nurture, for politics is indeed a human societal construct and therefore is not recognized in nature.

  3. I agree with you Trieste that the superego acts more like an internalizing process as opposed to an internal version of our parents. I believe that whether or not we realize, we do indeed adopt a lot of the ideals our parents live by. I personally have realized that I understand more and more why father has raised me the way he has and why he yelled at me that one time or told me I wasn’t allowed to do go to a party or any other instance. It all comes back to experience and him going through very similar things at my age that I go through now. I often think about how strict he is but then I also think about how well his “crazy rules” helped me to prepare for certain real life situations. Do I agree with everything he’s ever told me? Of course not, but I do feel like my super ego is much more influenced by my father than I would have previously imagined.

Leave a Reply