Falling Ever Upwards With Lee Siegel

07/13/2007 12:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"A common reaction to psychological trauma is the construction of what psychologists call the 'ego-ideal,' a kind of counterself, grand, inflated, magnificent, free from imperfections, and impervious to the kind of injury that created it in the first place."

-- Lee Siegel, Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television (Basic Books, 2007)

This is, of course, wrong.

The term "ego-ideal" refers to part of the superego that concentrates all the highest standards and agonizing demands that one has introjected from parents, the culture, recognized authority.

They are standards and demands that one will -- pretty much by definition -- never meet. Not really; never in full. And the ego-ideal does not fail to notice this failure. (The relation between one's sense of self and the ego-ideal is an experience of constant misery.)

It is not to be confused with the "ideal ego," which is the part of you that feels mighty thoughtful and special and powerful and smart and full of piss and vinegar and chock full of sprightly sprezzatura.

The ego-ideal forbids. The ideal ego forbids itself nothing.

For what it's worth, I did say it was a matter of time.