Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego Explained - Deepstash

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Sigmund Freud's theory of personality

Sigmund Freud's theory of personality

Freud proposed that the human psyche comprises three separate but related parts that form a person's personality.

  • The id
  • The ego
  • The superego

Freud suggested that the three parts develop at different times and have different roles but work together to form a whole.

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Freud's highly influential work

Freud's work is often viewed with scepticism as it was based on observations and case studies of his patients, not on empirical research.

However, Freuds' theories are still thought of as important and used as the foundation of psychoanalysis.

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Id: The earliest part of personality

Id is already seen at birth and is directed by instinct, desire and need.

The id is fuelled by the pleasure principle and wants all impulses immediately satisfied. The id drives newborn's behaviour - their immediate needs drive them. Since the id is an unconscious entity, it never considers reality and consequently remains illogical and selfish.

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Ego is the second part of personality

Just like the id, the ego strives for pleasure, but realistically. Ego ensures to keep id in check and express it in socially acceptable ways. The ego may delay gratification, compromise, or anything else that will avoid the negative consequences of going against the norm.

Freud used the term ego to refer to one's sense of self. However, the word now refers to functions like judgment, regulation, and control.

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Superego is the moral compass

The superego controls the id and tries to get the ego to aspire to moralistic standards. The superego emerges between the ages of 3 and 5 and differentiates between right and wrong.

The superego consists of:

  • The conscious. This part forbids unacceptable behaviours and punishes with feelings of guilt.
  • The ego ideal or ideal self. This includes rules and standards of good behaviour one should follow.

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The Mediating ego

The ego is the mediator between the id, the superego, and reality. The ego works out how to meet the id's needs while upholding social reality and the moral standards of the superego.

When there is a balance between the id, ego, and superego, Freud claimed that it resulted in a healthy personality. If one of the parts of personality dominated over the other, difficulties would result. For example, if the id dominates, a person may act on their impulses and disregard the rules of society.

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Critique of Freud's theory of personality

  • Freud's theory oversimplifies the complexity of human nature.
  • Freud taught that the superego develops in childhood because children are afraid of punishment and pain. But research shows that children who fear punishment the most do not develop morality, but just want to avoid being caught and punished.

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