The idea of the ego has seeped far enough into our common discourse now for us to be aware of, if not its exact Freudian tuning, its approximate and accepted meaning. But what of the superego? Sounds like a superhero, and superpowers it does have, but unlike any caped crusader’s; its power is to command, to demand – it is the unconscious centre of the demands made of, and on, a subject. Žižek often says of these demands, or injunctions, that they are ‘obscene’: obscene in that they can often be gratuitous, and even sometimes impossible. It may be the villain that thwarts us, rather than the hero that saves us.
Here is an impossible superego injunction: Find God’s match for you! Searching through the eligibles on ChristianMingle we might meet with a few difficulties. Firstly – knowing of the unconscious and its desires – we might be troubled by wondering whether our choice really accords to God’s masterplan or whether it comes from somewhere else, somewhere within us, more than ourselves: the kingdom of the unconscious. Whilst this predicament begs the fighting question: is God a match for the unconscious? our answer to it can be put back into dating terms; with Lacan we can say: yes! a perfect match! because, as he puts it, ‘God is unconscious’; that is, God is the superego.
So if we really believe that whatever choice we make is made through guiding grace, the superego will take its vengeance. In his seminar on anxiety Lacan reads the biblical commandment – to Enjoy! – as ‘an origin of anxiety.’ Why? When commanded to enjoy(!) by a higher – i.e., super, ‘above’ – power, we have to obey, but – as Lacan says – ‘naturally I do not enjoy so easily for all that’ (Seminar X, 1962-3). So, whether it really is God’s commandment or the superego’s injunction, to enjoy, the function is the same; that of the ‘goads, and nails fastened by the masters of assemblies’ in Eccl. 12:11. Our anxiety is provoked by knowing that we must enjoy, but under supervision; with someone above watching to make sure that we do!
Knowing this should make us weigh up just how free we are to browse before clicking.