The Blue and Gold

The Id, Ego, And Superego

Nadia M., Editor/Journalist

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Have you ever wondered what made you… you?

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, wondered the same. He believed there were numerous forces at play that were important to understanding the development of one’s personality. In an attempt to describe how the mind works, he proposed a theory, now widely known by psychologists and students of psychology, about how three parts of the personality influence you and your decisions.

He introduced to us the devil, the angel, and the inbetween.

 

 

 

What is the id?

The first of three parts of the personality is the id, which is established immediately after birth – because of the id, the basic needs of an infant are met. The personalities of newborn children are all id, and only later do they develop the ego and superego. Freud claimed that the id is based on something called the “pleasure principle.” What he meant, essentially, was that the id wants whatever feels good at the precise moment, and that every impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of any consequences. For example, when babies are in need of something (perhaps they are thirsty or need their diapers changed), the id drives the babies to cry until their needs are met. When you’re hungry, your id gives you the urge to eat immediately. The id does not have any concern for the feelings of others, and although people learn to control the id over time, it always remains the same primal and infantile force throughout life, since it is not in touch with the external world. When one satisfies the id’s demands, he experiences pleasure, and when he doesn’t, he experiences anxiety. It is due to the development of the ego and superego that people learn to control the instincts of the id and behave in socially acceptable ways.

 

What is the superego?

When you’re hungry and your id tells you to eat the box of chocolates on your counter, your superego might be the one to remind you that you’re on a diet. The superego develops at the age of five and contains all our morals and ideals that have been placed on us by society and our parents. This is the part of the personality that judges right from wrong. The superego’s job is to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and provide rules and standards. Unlike the ego, the superego focuses on the ideals and not reality. Behavior that doesn’t match ideals may be punished by the superego through guilt. The superego can also reward you when you behave accordingly by giving you a sense of pride.

What is the ego?

Most people think of the term “ego” as the self-worth one possesses – but in psychology, this means something completely different. The ego is the part of the personality that satisfies the id’s urges in a realistic and socially appropriate manner. The ego comes to realize that there are other people around who also have desires, and that impulsive behavior can lead to harm. It develops after three years, when a child begins to interact with the world around him. Similar to the id, the ego seeks pleasure – but unlike the id, the ego is reasonable and not chaotic. When you’re hungry and your id tells you to eat the box of chocolates on your counter, your superego might be the one to remind you that you’re on a diet and you shouldn’t eat any. Your ego tells you to just eat a small amount, balancing both sides.

In a healthy person with a well-developed personality, there would be a balance between all three parts. If the id is overly dominant, a person will be uncontrollable and will seek pleasure over morality, possibly ending up causing great harm due to impulsive decisions. Sexual assault is an example of pleasure-seeking overpowering morality and is an indicator of a strong id. An adult with a strong id might seem self-absorbed. If the superego is most dominant, a person will be guided by very strict morals and could possibly be overly judgemental. People with an excessively dominant superego might seem guilt-ridden or self-righteous. Also, there are situations where the ego is way too dominant – In this case, one would be excessively focused on reality, seeming distant, rigid, rational, and lacking of a personal sense of right and wrong.

The iceberg metaphor

You might’ve heard of the terms conscious and unconscious before – but Sigmund Freud claimed there was more than just that. He identified three levels of consciousness: unconscious, preconscious and conscious. Freud emphasized the importance of unconscious motivators, claiming that our feelings, beliefs, impulses, and underlying emotions were all buried in our unconscious, and therefore unavailable to the waking mind.

Sounds confusing?

Maybe an easier way to understand his theory is by using an iceberg.


The water surrounding the iceberg would be considered the “non-conscious,” or information we haven’t discovered yet, and experiences we never had. These are things we aren’t at all aware of and therefore don’t shape our personality.

At the tip of the iceberg, there’s the conscious. This part of the mind consists of your thoughts and perceptions, and it’s the only part of yourself that you’re actually familiar with. The conscious makes up only a small portion of your personality, estimated at 10%  – meaning that the majority of your personality is actually unknown to you!
This is where part of the ego and superego is.

Beneath the conscious lies the preconscious, which stores memories and knowledge. If prompted, things stored inside the preconscious can be retrieved into conscious awareness (it requires a little digging), but it isn’t actively part of our conscious mind. Things such as the name of  your preschool teacher, or your old computer password from six years ago, and other deeply stored memories are kept here. This part of the mind makes up 50-60% of your personality. The superego and part of the ego can be found here.

Finally, at the bottom of the iceberg, there’s the mysterious unconscious, which is believed to be incredibly large, making up 30-40% of your personality. This is where the buried, inaccessible layers of your personality are, normally unable to be retrieved into conscious awareness. The unconscious mind consists of fears, immoral urges, irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires, selfish needs, shameful experiences, and violent motives. The is also where the id can be found, and once again, part of the superego.

So, if you ever feel the urge to steal your friend’s bag of Halloween candy but then refrain, knowing it’s the wrong thing to do (or maybe steal just one or two) – Consider the forces that are at play. Your id, ego, and superego are at it again.

Sources: Psych101, Paul Kleinman

https://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-id-ego-and-superego-2795951

https://www.dummies.com/education/psychology/understanding-the-id-ego-and-superego-in-psychology/

 

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