"Sigmund Freud's Theory is quite complex and although his writings on
psychosexual development set the groundwork for how our personalities
developed, it was only one of five parts to his overall theory of
personality. He also believed that different driving forces develop during
these stages which play an important role in how we interact with the
Model (id, ego, superego)
According to Freud, we are born with our Id. The id is an important part of
our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs
met. Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other
words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration
for the reality of the situation. When a child is hungry, the id wants food,
and therefore the child cries. When the child needs to be changed, the id
cries. When the child is uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold, or just
wants attention, the id speaks up until his or her needs are met.
The id doesn't care about reality, about the needs of anyone else, only its
own satisfaction. If you think about it, babies are not real considerate of
their parents' wishes. They have no care for time, whether their parents are
sleeping, relaxing, eating dinner, or bathing. When the id wants something,
nothing else is important.
Within the next three years, as the child interacts more and more with the
world, the second part of the personality begins to develop. Freud called
this part the Ego. The ego is based on the reality principle. The ego
understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes
being impulsive or selfish can hurt us in the long run. Its the ego's job to
meet the needs of the id, while taking into consideration the reality of the
By the age of five, or the end of the phallic stage of development, the
Superego develops. The Superego is the moral part of us and develops due to
the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by our caregivers. Many equate
the superego with the conscience as it dictates our belief of right and
In a healthy person, according to Freud, the ego is the strongest so that it
can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego, and still take into
consideration the reality of every situation. Not an easy job by any means,
but if the id gets too strong, impulses and self gratification take over the
person's life. If the superego becomes too strong, the person would be
driven by rigid morals, would be judgmental and unbending in his or her
interactions with the world. You'll learn how the ego maintains control as
you continue to read.
Freud believed that the majority of what we experience in our lives, the
underlying emotions, beliefs, feelings, and impulses are not available to us
at a conscious level. He believed that most of what drives us is buried in
our unconscious. If you remember the
Oedipus and Electra Complex, they were both pushed down into the
unconscious, out of our awareness due to the extreme anxiety they caused.
While buried there, however, they continue to impact us dramatically
according to Freud.
The role of the unconscious is only one part of the model. Freud also
believed that everything we are aware of is stored in our conscious. Our
conscious makes up a very small part of who we are. In other words, at any
given time, we are only aware of a very small part of what makes up our
personality; most of what we are is buried and inaccessible.
The final part is the preconscious or subconscious. This is the part of us
that we can access if prompted, but is not in our active conscious. Its
right below the surface, but still buried somewhat unless we search for it.
Information such as our telephone number, some childhood memories, or the
name of your best childhood friend is stored in the preconscious.
Because the unconscious is so large, and because we are only aware of the very
small conscious at any given time, this theory has been likened to an
iceberg, where the vast majority is buried beneath the water's surface. The
water, by the way, would represent everything that we are not aware of, have
not experienced, and that has not been integrated into our personalities,
referred to as the nonconscious.
Ego, Id, Super-Ego
Ego, Id, Super-Ego by
Edward P. Kardas
"The structure of the personality in psychoanalytic theory is threefold. Freud
divided it into the id, the ego, and the superego. Only the ego was visible
or on the surface, while the id and the superego remains below, but each has
its own effects on the personality, nonetheless.
The id represents biological forces. It is also a constant in the
personality as it is always present. The id is governed by the "pleasure
principle", or the notion of hedonism (the seeking of pleasure). Early in
the development of his theory Freud saw sexual energy only, or the libido,
or the life instinct, as the only source of energy for the id. It was this
notion that gave rise to the popular conception that psychoanalysis was all
about sex, sex, sex. After the carnage of World War I, however, Freud felt
it necessary to add another instinct, or source of energy, to the id. So, he
proposed thanatos, the death instinct. Thanatos accounts for the instinctual
violent urges of humankind. Obviously, the rest of the personality would
have somehow to deal with these two instincts. Notice how Hollywood has
capitalized on the id. Box office success is highly correlated with movies
that stress either sex, violence, or both.
The ego is the surface of the personality, the part you show the world. The
ego is governed by the "reality principle ," or a pragmatic approach to the
world. For example, a child may want to snitch a cookie from the kitchen,
but will not if a parent is present. Id desires are still present, but the
ego realizes the consequences of brazen cookie theft. The ego develops with
experience, and accounts for developmental differences in behavior. For
example, parents expect 3-month infants to cry until fed, but, they also
expect 3-year-olds to stop crying when told they will be fed.
The superego consists of two parts, the conscience and the ego-ideal. The
conscience is the familiar metaphor of angel and devil on each shoulder. The
conscience decides what course of action one should take. The ego-ideal is
an idealized view of one's self. Comparisons are made between the ego-ideal
and one's actual behavior. Both parts of the super-ego develop with
experience with others, or via social interactions. According to Freud, a
strong super-ego serves to inhibit the biological instincts of the id, while
a weak super-ego gives in to the id's urgings. Further, the levels of guilt
in the two cases above will be high and low, respectively.
The tripartite structure above was thought to be dynamic, changing with age
and experience. Also, aspects of adult behavior such as smoking, neatness,
and need for sexual behavior were linked to the various stages by fixation.
To Freud, fixation is a measure of the effort required to travel through any
particular stage, and great efforts in childhood were reflected in adult
behavior. Fixation can also be interpreted as the learning of patterns or
habits. Part of the criticism of psychoanalysis was that fixation could be
interpreted in diametrically opposite fashion. For example, fixation in the
anal stage could lead to excessive neatness or sloppiness. As noted earlier,
Neil Simon's play, "The Odd Couple", is a celebration of anal fixation,
with Oscar and Felix representing the two opposite ends of the fixation
continuum (Oscar-sloppy, Felix-neat)."