Excerpts About Body Ego

The ego is first and foremost a body-ego, in the sense that the self-demarcations that form in our consciousness during infancy are based on our sensory experience of our bodies as distinct from other objects. The delusion is taking these body-boundaries to define and limit our sense of who and what we are. On the physical level it is true that each of us has physical boundaries and that this body is separate from that body, but on the level of consciousness these boundaries are permeable. The edges of our bodies do not define where we end and others begin, although if we have this conviction it will feel that way. When we recognize that this experience is a delusion, we see that the ego boundaries we have used to define ourselves are only mental constructs. We realize that we have been holding onto an image of our bodies in order to define ourselves as entities.
Facets of Unity, p. 104   •  discuss »

Here, Mahler shows the acuteness of her observation and the creativity of her formulation. In seeing the various grades of space, we will appreciate how accurate this formulation is. She is stating here that there are two kinds of body-image, or in her words, “the body ego contains two kinds of self-representations.” One body-image is related to the outside, in relation to the external environment. It includes the shape, the contours, the size, the texture, etc. of the body. The other body-image is related to the inside; its boundaries are in relation to the inner environment. It includes inner body and organ sensation. The first body-image contributes to the self-image, especially in its demarcation from the outside. It contributes to the sense of separateness of the self. The second body-image contributes to the self-boundaries more in terms of a feeling of self, and not as much to the sense of separateness. Of course, the sense of demarcation and separateness from the outside contributes, in turn, to this feeling of self. The sense of separateness is, in fact, an important aspect of the sense of identity. Both self-images (or as Mahler calls them above, “intrapsychic structures”) ultimately generate, and in fact form, the sense of identity. So we see here that the sense of self has in it two kinds of self-image (two kinds of self-representations) and two kinds of body-image, forming the nuclei of the self-images. We have seen that this multiplicity is a result of the body having two sets of boundaries, inner and outer.


The Void, p. 145   •  discuss »

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