Lacan, however, introduces a precise distinction between these three terms: the "ideal ego" stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the ego ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and pushes me to give my best, the ideal I try to follow and actualize; and the superego is this same agency in its vengeful, sadistic, punishing aspect.
The underlying structuring principle of these three terms is clearly Lacan's triad Imaginary-Symbolic-Real: the ideal ego is imaginary, what Lacan calls the "small other," the idealized double image of my ego; the ego ideal is symbolic, the point of my symbolic identification, the point in the big Other from which I observe (and judge) myself; the superego is real, the cruel and insatiable agency which bombards me with impossible demands and which mocks my failed attempts to meet them, the agency in the eyes of which I am all the more guilty, the more I try to suppress my "sinful" strivings and live up to its exigencies.
This figure, in its capacity as ego ideal, sets an example for the ego; in its capacity as superego, it demands that the ego live up to the example.
It will regard the anticipated punishment as the practical aspect of criticism, which it has authorized the superego to make, as the voice of the ego ideal.
Mitscherlich, after the Second World War, had suggested the link between the ego ideal and mass social movements, most notably Nazism (Kurzweil 1987).
While Helen Black Lewis, whose formulations of shame in psychotherapy are of unquestioned importance, is cited frequently by Scheff, much of the later literature, particularly the contributions of Kohut (1977), Chasseguet-Smirgel (1985) and Spero (1984), and the literature on the ego ideal and its role in shame and resultant narcissistic disorders, are not mentioned, or mentioned only in passing.
In the premodern communal society, Zizek proposes, the roles of superego injunction and the point of imaginary identification that provided the ego ideal were respectively performed by the separate figures of the patriarchal father and the monarch.
17) What tips the balance is modern reflexivity and scientific knowledge, because the Oedipus complex 'can accomplish its job of the child's integration into the socio-symbolic order only insofar as this identity'--between the pacifying ego ideal and the obscene superego figure--'remains concealed'.
The ego ideal is usually based on internal and cultural expectations to be like mother, and consequently, women must fight not only societal expectations, but strong internal expectations as well.
From a psychodynamic perspective, self-expectations are related to the ego ideal which is formed relatively early, and is consequently more central to one's experience of self than the expectations of others who are less central in one's life.
Regardless of the original source of the oceanic experience of fusion, the ego ideal and the ideal ego are twin representations of it, in which there is no distinction between self and other and the universe itself is experienced as self.
Hanly (1984) suggests that the ideal ego is relatively strong and the ego ideal is relatively weak in individuals with borderline, narcissistic and neurotic disorders, and that health comes when ego ideal begins to eclipse ideal ego.