Main points Freud further divided the conscious and unconscious mind into three structures or systems that performed different roles. These systems he named the id, ego, and superego. Freud viewed human beings as energy systems, where only one system can be in control at any given time, while the other two systems give themselves over to the psychic energy of the one in control.
The id is the original system of personality and the dominant one at birth. In German, the word was literally translated as the "it." The id is primarily the source of psychic energy and the core of all instincts. It is infantile in the way it manifests and functions on the unconscious level. It lacks organization and is demanding, insistent, and impulsive. The id cannot tolerate tension and works to discharge tension as quickly as possible and return to a balanced state. Therefore the id operates according to the demands of what Freud called the pleasure principle. That is, it wants to satisfy its desires so as to relieve the tension.
The ego, in contrast, works not by the pleasure principle but rather by the reality principle. In other words, there is a real world out there that must be reckoned with. The ego (literally "I") is the personality structure that develops to deal with the real world and solve the problems of life. It acts as the "executive" branch of the personality that governs, controls, and regulates matters of life. The ego functions as part of the conscious mind.
The superego is the judicial branch of the personality. It imposes a moral code, concerning itself with whether a particular action is good or bad; right or wrong. It represents the ideal, rather than a reflection of reality, and strives for perfection instead of pleasure. The superego represents the ideals of society as they are passed from one generation to another. The superego can be represented by both the unconscious and conscious mind depending on the particular function it is serving.
Explanation The id never matures, remaining infantile in its impulses and urges while seeking pleasure and avoiding tension at all costs. If it had its way it would forever seek indulgence, the same way a young child seeks only to get his or her selfish needs met. If left to its own appetite, the id would be unable to function in the world.
To temper the id's urges, the ego steps in to acknowledge an objective reality that must be dealt with. Other people, for instance, also have needs that must be considered. While it is the job of the ego to help satisfy the id's inclinations, it also must mediate how serving those needs will affect one's reality. Over time, the ego's efforts create a "dialogue" of sorts with the real world that transforms into actual skills, competencies, and memories. These resources are then internalized into what Freud referred to as the "self," an emerging sense of personhood, instead of a bundle of urges and needs.
The superego works to inhibit the id's impulses while persuading the ego to substitute moralistic goals for realistic ones and to strive for perfection. The superego works off the basis of psychological rewards and punishments. If a person responds in the "right" manner, the reward might be a feeling of pride or self-love. If the individual deems their action as immoral or "wrong," the resulting punishment might be guilt or feelings of inferiority.
Example Freud conceived the mind as being in constant conflict with itself. He understood this conflict as the primary cause of human anxiety and unhappiness. His classic example is the patient Anna O., who displayed a rash of psychological and physiological symptoms: assorted paralyses, hysterical squints, coughs, and speech disorders, among others. Under hypnosis, Josef Breuer, a fellow physician and close friend of Freud, traced many of these symptoms to memories of a period when she cared for her dying father. One symptom, a nervous cough, they related to a particular event at her father's bedside. Upon hearing dance music that was drifting from a neighbor's house, she felt an urge to be there, gone from her father's bedside. Immediately, she was struck with guilt and self-reproach for having the desire to leave him. She covered this internal conflict with a nervous cough, and from that day on, coughed reflexively at the sound of rhythmic music. Freud's investigations into internal conflicts such as this led him to eventually construct the divisions of the mind now known as id, ego, and superego.
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