“Alter ego”, which comes from Latin, is defined as being another (alter) person (ego). In this scenario I am the ego (person). Explained by writer and philosopher Cicero, alter ego is a “second self, a trusted friend”. This behaviour was designated by psychologists of the 19th century as a dissociative disorder of identity.

    It was in 1730 that the existence of an "other self" was first recognised under hypnosis. Anton Mesmer used the technique to separate the alter ego from his patients. His experiences showed the existence of another behaviour, thus differentiating the personality of the individual upon awakening, and the individual under hypnosis.
This is where the identification issue happens; we can wonder what defines us and what really makes us human beings “us”. Does the alter ego necessarily have to be a human being who shares values common to mine?

    Therefore, if the alter ego responds to an unconscious way of dissociating multiple behaviours, then our first definition of the alter ego will also come from its interpretation, meaning it becomes subjective.
    If I define this second being as my alter ego, I unconsciously and consciously project myself towards it. This way, it reflects what I’d like, what I’d want and what I’d think I am. The alter ego is therefore a conscious phenomenon, which emanates from a utopia, an inspired fantasy, influenced by the real world and interpreted by the individual.
    This means that the alter ego is an interpretation of Self in an imaginary, even fantasized dimension, beyond real and thereby surreal. The root of the word, "alter," so the other, ego consequently me, refers to a duplicate, in other words a copy of oneself. Thus, it alludes to a certain confrontation, opposition, or even a duality within oneself.

    This duality is the essence of an inner world (therefore imaginary) confronted with the excitations of the real world. Indeed, if the alter defines the other, it defines what is foreign to us, that is another person. In this specific case, the projection of the ego on the alter, stimulated by my gaze, my psyche, my unconscious, leads me to deduce that this "alter" individual reminds me of my "me". We could thus consider it to be an unconscious manifestation of a desire; the ego seeking in the “alter” what it lacks, like a mirror reflection. Especially since personal projection is often linked to a self-improved image.

    In his publication "Id and Ego," Sigmund Freud stated that "the conscious Self appears as 'above all a corporeal Self,' as "not only a surface being but also the mental projection of a surface" (Sigmund Freud, Me and the Id). Furthermore, these interpretations of the Ego or personal projections on the Other arise only from a conscious or unconscious imaginary construction, allowing the subject who participates in it to express and satisfy a suppressed desire or overcome anxiety. Through the interpretation of the real world, we stage a fantasy of the Ego in a real Alter, thus satisfying its hidden impulses and fantasizing its representations of an idealized Self. Additionally, it allows us to deliver oneself internally of our greatest fears in order to cure our deepest torments. Our alter ego must therefore be an utopian Self. Hence, this imaginary representation marks a break with conscious reality.

However, should our alter ego always be a fantasized version of ourselves?

    With the alter ego, are we not searching for what we are lacking in order to learn what we’d not know? Indeed, if the other is also equivalent to “what does not depend on us” and is unknown to us, it refers to the foreigner who also refers to a certain opposition or even a duality of self. But this duality is due to an opposition of an external self and an internal self, which can then cause a conflict between the Alter and the Ego.

    This conflict is very present in surrealist works, an artistic movement of the twentieth century, comprising all the processes of creation and expression and using all the psychic forces freed (dreams, subconscious, automatisms) from the control of reason and fighting against the received values. Artists want to let their dreams come true, even if it gives strange or even absurd images or writings. They are influenced by the development of a new discipline, “psychoanalysis”.

    Salvador Dalí, with his painting The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937), weaves a link between the classical tradition of Greek mythology and the latest scientific discoveries, in this case, psychoanalysis, by re-exploiting a well-known myth, that of Narcissus, particularly meaningful for the artist who spent his life building his own image.
On this painting, confronting two opposite universes, by the representation of Narcissus and his double, we can feel an influence of Freud. Dali, tormented by his inner impulses, which he projects and translates into his paintings, and in perpetual search for a Self, like the Alter being directly linked to the Ego, influence each other as they are divided.

    The development of psychoanalysis creates a link with the emergence of surrealism provides a clear understanding of the expression of a surreal world through interpretations of one that we can experience in our dreams or fully conscious thanks to our individual imagination. Surrealism rests on a confrontation of an idealised as well as dystopian world. Inspired by realism, surrealism makes reality its own poetry. The Betrayal of Images, a painting by René Magritte, representing a pipe and a sentence "This is not a pipe" is the result of a reflection on the relationships between words and representations. In his paintings we can find the characteristics of the dream: Mixture of existing things which, however, associated together seem totally unreal. In Betrayal of Images, the surrealist painter overturns the relationship between the object itself, its representation and language. Indeed, an image is never the object "in itself" but a representation subject to interpretation. The image of this pipe, like the image we can have of ourselves, is therefore not a real Self, as in this painting not a pipe. Just as Joseph Kosuth, an American artist and major figure in conceptual art, with his work One and Three Chairs (1965), stages a chair, a common everyday object, with its definition in the dictionary and its photographic reproduction. This object, among its duplicates, then gives rise to a questioning of the image, the word and the interpretation of this object that we make of it.

    These various works and symbolism, then merge with the Alter ego, by this fictitious projection of oneself. It therefore remains an interpretation of a real self, living in a tangible world, punctuated by pictorial fictions from the imagination of the individual. All of these surreal works operate with a real complexity that allows the ego to recognize itself there, especially through the interpretation of a world that is lost after several glances. Each person's perceptions and interpretations are unique to them.

    There is a conflict between the external self and the internal self if each person interprets the world in his or her own way. Our alter ego can be an imagined reflection of a fantastical self, as we have previously seen, but it need not always be a picture of ourselves that is improving. While the limits of our external self are determined by social and physical restraints, the limits of our internal self-do not exist. Nevertheless, this external Self is directly influenced by what its senses, assimilates it directly to information specific to him. He then uses this outside world to fill his inner Self. Everyone's perception differs on the same element. "To understand Men, you have to have a notion of his reception systems and how culture transforms the information they provide.” Wrote Edward T. Hall in his book “The Hidden Dimension”. If then we have to act in the real world in a conscious and thoughtful way, despite the primitive and intuitive instincts with which each human being finds himself confronted, the Self finds himself, lulled by his impulses and interpretations of the world, in total opposite to his real Self. The balance between the real and the surreal then becomes a psychic process that comes to finding the balance between two extremes.

    An Ego present and anchored in a physical world, and an Alter on a mental side, free to be what he wants, and created by the conscious or even unconscious psyche of the individual, meets criteria imposed by this individual. The Alter ego then sees itself changed, consciously transformed by the excitations of the outside world, and unconsciously by the memories of childhood, and the cognitive memories of the individual. The alter ego then balances between opposition of the Self and complementarity of this one. Indeed, the creative freedom of the Alter, the access to a dreamlike world follows an imaginary scheme, imagined by the brain on one side, controlled by consciousness and on the other side kept free in the unconsciousness of a single subject. This swing creates the confrontation between the Alter and the Ego, between us and the other. The alter ego then becomes a way of filling what we lack, in opposition or complementarity.

    On the other hand, on a psychic level, the Alter ego can also be defined as the result of a mental illness. Dissociative identity disorder (or multiple personality disorder) is a tenfold increase in behaviour by the same individual, who suffers from this multiple personality disorder, oblivious to its behavioural changes in the way he looks at the outside world; he is the same individual but then perceives it differently. These variants belong to only one subject, so they are complementary to it, like opposite. The functioning of the brain and the behaviour of each one can be affected as we see it, but any individual under the influence of the real world will be faced with phenomena which will then push him to question his own identity. This set of symptoms can bring depression, pushing the body to the extreme by its anxieties which are primarily psychic. It then brings out a totally changed Self, which finds itself lost there, and finds itself devoid of identity, because the whole psychic identity journey from childhood is only a constant quest for the Self. We think that by the idea of who we are we then become someone, someone different as similar to another. But this constant search for a Self, sometimes going against a feeling, which will find itself repressed, can then emerge during an anxiety and transform, metamorphose the individual.

    Different emotions are constantly being presented to everyone's body and mind, which affects our behaviour. The Ego is bound to a material and constrained world and constantly engages with what the world has to offer through its senses. The Ego is in relation to an environment that receives external information that will feed its conscious. The ego is ultimately the outcome of a series of psychologically shaping events. As a result, it is an imagined perception of Self. The world is ultimately perceived by our senses, but the alter believes that the mental level—which is punctuated by conscious (information from the real is transmitted to the brain, and the latter responds with thought)—is where identification is sought. The world is ultimately perceived by our senses, but the quest for identification is, according to the Alter, a mental level that is punctuated by the conscious (information of the real is transmitted to the brain and reaction of the latter is the thought) and the unconscious (information of the real is processed, then repressed and interpreted, the dream), bringing visions of a Self-confronted by unconscious memories, fed by primitive impulses and imaginative thoughts.

    As we've already seen, the transformation of an ego during the process of trying to identify each individual becomes a representation of an ego in this fictitious dimension. The only way to give it reality and life is through language, verbal communication, or the use of visual representations. Neyraut, Michel wrote "By "identity," I mean the smallest important component of an identification that serves as both the beginning and the end. If his virtue is initially fictitious, language—like a first name—gives it body."

The Human, in his ongoing search for identity, identifies with and models himself after the outside world, which transforms it and confronts it.  His external relationships challenge him, his perceptions are always shifting, and he positions himself mentally. But why are we so eager to discover who we are? Is the need to be someone, a genuine need, being satisfied by this ongoing search for oneself?

The work "Fontaine," by Marcel Duchamp, is signed by his fictitious alter ego, R. Mutt, and brings back the ridiculous notion of a copy or duplicate. The artist claimed, "I forced myself to contradict myself to avoid adhering to my own taste."
Therefore, it is clear that the individual and his ego, as a unit, struggle between the real and fantastical worlds. They are separated by two incompatible worlds. One is physical, the other is immaterial. Since the Alter and the Ego are made up of the same individual but differ from one another while also coming together, they are therefore equal.
The alter ego, invisible to the eye, is defined by everything around us. Self-identification is a process that is satisfied in the unity it creates between the Alter and the Ego.

By the way of using words and images like Magritte or Joseph Kosuth, or by the dreamlike paintings of Dali. "Identity is above all the sensitive trace of an unconscious process. Thus the work of the dream, through the play of plastic substitutions, phonetic resemblances and equivalences of all kinds, presents Identities previously unpublished, like a revealing.” said Michel Neyraut in his book "Alter ego ".

Marcel Duchamps is the essence of a questioning, on what he defines by what he likes, but also by what opposes him. A real duality as complementarity, which are defined by this Other, R.Mutt, and Him, Marcel Duchamps, who are united only by one and the same body.

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