Exploring Id, Ego, and Superego in Personality


What makes us all unique? Our traits, behaviours, and preferences intertwine and delve into our complex nature of us, as humans. Most of us say ‘She is a good doctor’ or ‘I like someone’, what do we see or understand? It’s Personality. Personality has always been a topic of discussion since then. Personality is from the Latin word persona- the mask used by Roman actors while performing in theatres. Put together, Personality can be defined as the individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” There were many theories proposed by many researchers about personality. Among many theories, the Psychoanalytic theory of Personality by Sigmund Freud remains the most significant one.

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The most prominent finding of Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory is the Structural model of Personality. This remained as the ground-breaking model of personality. Freud compared the ocean of personality with an iceberg. Like the iceberg, only a slighter tip is visible while almost all of it is inside or hidden under the water. He means the visible part of the iceberg as the one that remains conscious or is aware of individuals while the invisible part is what contributes majorly, which is called the unconscious. Freud has given the triad of psychological forces as the three major structures of Personality which are: the Id, Ego, and Superego.

This article will guide you through Unlocking of the Psyche: the Id, Ego, and Superego Imagine you’re in the middle of a very important meeting while you get to see a tempting and delicious slice of chocolate cake dipped in ice cream. What thoughts you would go through? You will get a thought that provokes you to impulsively grab the cake and eat which is what we call the act of Id. The other thought would say you resist having the cake as your discipline and morality have been so which we call the Superego. There is one mediator within ourselves that would convince you by weighing the consequence of having the cake in the middle of a meeting like health and self-control which we call an Ego.

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ID: The Pleasure Seeker

This part of the personality operates unconsciously- without our awareness. It acts as the driving force of personality. It involves basic urges that most of us have. It is the basic component of personality and one of the first personality aspects. This remains as the urge, need, or desire. It is from the Id that other personality components- ego and superego emerge. The Id works on the pleasure principle. It is the idea that the need has to be satisfied immediately.

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The Id is the need that evokes you to eat when you are hungry or drink water when you are thirsty. This begins in childhood and it remains right until it is basic or significant. But, you cannot satisfy all the needs just the moment or just like that. Individuals may have to wait for the right time to fulfil their needs at the right time. Id wants to gratify the needs immediately. The Id follows two major driving forces: Eros- life force or pleasure and Thanatos- death force or death instinct, responsible for negative feelings like aggression or violence and hate. The Id does not get affected by the reality logic or morality of everyday life.

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The Ego: The Realistic Mediator

The ego is the part of personality that operates from the conscious mind or to put it simply comes from our awareness or operates from the realistic aspect. This remains as the mediator between the individual’s instincts or desires and values or principles. It would strike a balance between impulsive needs and the reality of the world. The ego works on the reality principle.

The ego develops from the Id. The ego is “that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.” – (Freud, 1923, p. 25) The goal of the ego is to satisfy the Id’s unrealistic or instinctual demands in a socially acceptable manner. It operates between both the conscious and unconscious mind but drives decisions merely from the conscious or realistic perspective. It is the decision-making component of the personality.

If the ego isn’t able to resolve the demands of the Id and reality, it would create tension or anxiety in the individual. To wear off this anxiety, individuals use certain mechanisms to better cope with the situation which are called Defense mechanisms. These include many strategies used by individuals to protect themselves from anxiety.

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One of the defence mechanisms is Projection – one defence mechanism that involves directing unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and motives to another person or situation. For example: When we fail in exams, we might direct that failure to either the question paper was tough or to the teacher who taught the subject was inefficient.

The Superego – the Moral Driver

It is the moral driver or moral guru of the personality. It works under the moralistic principle. It is something that is based on the learnings since childhood- the appreciation and punishment that we have gained through is what drives us. It develops the societal, moral, and, ethical aspects of the individuals. It develops during early childhood. It is the part of the unconscious mind. It is a part that involves conscience and the ideal self. Conscience is the voice that tells us when we do something wrong. Its role is to punish or create a negative impact on the individual through feelings of guilt depending on the behaviour. It’s mainly done when individuals break the moral values or ethical standards they have gained.

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The ideal self is the picture that an individual wishes to be. When an individual deviates from the self they have wished for, it creates a feeling of guilt in the individual. So, the superego can simply said to be the stern and guiding parent emphasizing the importance of discipline and conscious decisions about their life and its decisions. These psychological elements or triad personality structures are not separate islands that are isolated, instead, they are an interplay of all three elements that engage in shaping the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. The trio navigates the challenges and complexities of our minds unlocking our personality.

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