Sigmund Freud Theory

The Id, Ego and Superego


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Sigmund Freud Theory: Id

According to Freud, the Id directs basic drive instincts. It is unorganized and seeks to obtain pleasure, or avoid pain, at times when increased arousal of tension takes place.

It is not in the conscious realm and thus its awakening and input is typically overlooked at a conscious level. Freud described the Id as such: “It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the dream-work... and most of that is of a negative character... We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle”.

Freud postulated that the make-up of the Id has always resided in an individual, in other words it exists from birth: "[The Id] contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution.” For example, a newborn child is regarded as completely "Id-ridden". That is, the mind of the child is only concerned with having its’ immediate needs met; it requires instant gratification based on its Id drives and instincts.

The Id, according to Freud, “'knows no judgements of value: no good and evil, no morality... [It is] the great reservoir of libido”. From the outset (i.e. birth) the Id includes all the instinctual impulses as well as the destructive instinct.

Sigmund Freud Theory: Ego

The Ego seeks to please the instinctive drive of the Id but only in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term. The Ego, says Freud, “attempts to mediate between id and reality”. The Ego comprises organized structure of one’s personality. In other words, the great majority of the Ego’s operative duties are at a conscious level (e.g. defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions).

The role of the Ego is to sift through what is real and what isn’t via organization of our thoughts to make sense of them and how they relate to the world we live in. With respect to this Freud wrote: “The Ego is that part of the Id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world ... The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the Id, which contains the passions.”

To further clarify this comparison between the Ego and the Id, Freud stated: “...in its [the Ego’s] relation to the Id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the Ego uses borrowed forces... Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the Id and Super-Ego [see below]. Its main concern is with the individual's safety and allows some of the Id's desires to be expressed, but only when consequences of these actions are marginal. Thus the Ego, driven by the Id, confined by the Super-Ego, repulsed by reality, struggles...[in] bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it, [and] breaks out in anxiety - realistic anxiety regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the Super-Ego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the Id.”

As stated above, Freud theorized that the Ego is constantly under the strain of causing discontent on two sides (i.e. the Id and Super-Ego). In saying that, Freud believed the Ego to be more “loyal” to the Id, in that, the Ego has a preference to water down the finer details of reality to minimize conflicts whilst simultaneously pretending to care about the said same reality. (This is where the role of the Super-Ego comes into play (see below)).

The Super-Ego is the Ego’s constant watchdog and if/when it (the Ego) steps out of line, the Super-Ego punishes it with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inferiority. However, the Ego will then employ mechanisms to defend itself such as denial, displacement, intellectualization, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, and sublimation. These mechanisms are not undertaken at a conscious level, they kick in when the Id’s behavior conflicts with reality (e.g. society's morals, norms, and taboos or the individual's perception of these morals, norms, and taboos).

Sigmund Freud Theory: Super-Ego

The Super-Ego aims for perfection. Freud said: “The Super-ego can be thought of as a type of conscience that punishes misbehavior with feelings of guilt. For example: having extra-marital affairs.” In other words, the Super-Ego, in its role of moral authoritarian, is the opposite of the Id.

Where the Id is entirely about satisfying instinctive need with no regulation over morals to achieve that objective, the Super-Ego operates in accordance with social conformity and appropriateness. Due to these extremes, the Ego (see above) is constantly striving to regulate balance between the two. In all, the Super-Ego regulates our sense of right and wrong. It helps assimilate into the social structure around us via making us act in socially acceptable ways. It acts as our conscience, maintaining our sense of morality and proscription from taboos.





Related Pages

If you enjoyed our page on Sigmund Freud theory, feel free to browse the following pages too:

* Freud's Theory on the Principles of Dreams

* Freudian Dream Analysis

* History of Dream Interpretation

* Famous Dreams



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