The Ego And The Reality Principle

The Ego And The Reality Principle

According to the original psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, our ego is part of our personality that is between the id (our primal, animalistic instincts), our superego (the mature personality formed by the kind of upbringing and social influences in one’s life) and reality.

The ego works based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id's desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. The reality principle analyses the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses.

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The ego has its one internal, silent and invisible measures, known as defense mechanisms to curb the ‘id’. These measures are not visible and can only be known retroactively, like repression, for example.

Our basic and primal instincts are regulated by our ego, and our more moral and idealistic standards, set by the superego, are also kept under check. The ego operates in the preconscious, unconscious and conscious states of the mind. Example: The ego is a safety valve that prevents us from getting out of the car and attacking the driver that has offended us for some reason, however satisfying that may seem at the moment.

Sigmund Freud
"The ego represents what we call reason and sanity, in contrast to the id which contains the passions."

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A trait is a stable characteristic or "blueprint" that causes specific behavioural patterns.

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  • Later researchers suggested five dimensions of personality (known as the Big 5 theory): openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

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Suppression (often confused with repression) is a type of defence mechanism, where a person consciously tries to forget or not think of certain unwanted impulses or thoughts.

With repression, this activity happens automatically without any conscious effort or intention.

The objective of hiding our undesired thoughts in our unconsciousness is to feel less anxious.

However, Freud stated that this process can backfire at any point, as these hidden thoughts or feelings can still create anxiety, eventually leading to psychological distress.

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