Perhaps Sigmund Freud’s most enduring idea was the division of the human psyche into three parts: Id, Ego, and Superego; all developing during different stages of our lives.
The Id (It)
The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It consists of all the inherited (i.e. biological) components of personality, including the sex (life) instinct – Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct – Thanatos.
The Id is our impulsive side and unconscious side of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts. The personality of the newborn child is all id and only later does it develop an ego and super-ego.
The Id demands immediate satisfaction, and we experience “pleasure” when its needs are sated, and “unpleasure” or pain when they’re not. The Id is not bound by neither logic nor reality, but by the pleasure principle (coined by Sigmund Freud) which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be fulfilled regardless of the consequences
The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented.
The Ego (I)
Initially the ego is ‘that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world‘ (Freud 1923).
The ego develops in order to negotiate between the unrealistic Id and the external real world. It is the decision making component of personality. Ideally, the ego works by reason whereas the Id is chaotic and a force of desire.
The ego operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences of society.
Like the Id, the ego seeks satisfaction but it is searches a realistic way to obtain it.
Often the ego is weak, and can only try to aim the strong Id towards the right direction and try to claim some credit at the end.
The ego doesn’t have a concept of right or wrong, something is good simply if it brings satisfaction without harming itself or the Id.
It engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving.
The Superego (Above-I)
The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. It develops around the age of 3 – 5 during the phallic stage of psychosexual development.
The superego’s function is to control the Id’s impulses, especially those society forbids like sex and aggression. It also has the tools to redirect the ego towards moralistic goals instead of just satisfying ones.
The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through guilts when it gives in to the impulses of the Id.
The ideal self is our idealistic representation of how you ought to be. Behaviour that falls short of our idealistic self may be punished by the superego through guilt, while it can rewards us when we behave “properly” by making us feel proud.
If the person’s ideal self is too high a standard, then whatever the person does will represent failure. The ideal self and conscience are largely determined by how you were brought up and parental values.
Our true self
Are you really in control? Or are you, the weak Ego, a slave of the Id’s chaos and Superego’s morals, torn between the opposing desires of two forces whose clash results in our personality?
McLeod, S. A. (2008). Id, Ego and Superego. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html
Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.