Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (2023)

By Saul McLeod, updated 2021

Id, Ego and Superego

Id, Ego and Superego

Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (1)

Perhaps Freud's single most enduring and important idea was that the human psyche (personality) has more than one aspect.

Freud's personality theory (1923) saw the psyche structured into three parts (i.e., tripartite), the id, ego andsuperego, all developing at different stages in our lives. These are systems, not parts of the brain, or in any way physical.

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The Id The Ego The Superego

(Video) Sigmund Freud: Id, Ego & Superego (Examples)

According to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.

Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (2)

Although each part of the personality comprises unique features, they interact to form a whole, and each part makes a relative contribution to an individual's behavior.

What is the id?

The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. The id is a part of the unconscious that contains all the urges and impulses, including what is called the libido, a kind of generalized sexual energy that is used for everything from survival instincts to appreciation of art. The id is also kind of stubborn, for it responds only to what Freud called the pleasure principle (if it feels good, do it), and nothing else.

It consists of all the inherited (i.e., biological) components of personality present at birth, including the sex (life) instinct – Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct - Thanatos.

The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to basic urges, needs, and desires. The personality of the newborn child is all id and only later does it develop an ego and super-ego.

The id remains infantile in its function throughout a person's life and does not change with time or experience, as it is not in touch with the external world. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind.

Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (3)

The id operates on the pleasure principle (Freud, 1920) which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of the consequences.When the id achieves its demands, we experience pleasure when it is denied we experience ‘unpleasure’ or tension.

The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.

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What is the Ego?

The ego is 'that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.'

(Video) Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory on Instincts: Motivation, Personality and Development

(Freud, 1923, p. 25)

The ego is the only part of the conscious personality. It's what the person is aware of when they think about themselves, and is what they usually try to project toward others.

The ego develops to mediate 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 unreasonable.

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. The ego considers social realities and norms, etiquette and rules in deciding how to behave.

Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (4)

Like the id, the ego seeks pleasure (i.e., tension reduction) and avoids pain, but unlike the id, the ego is concerned with devising a realistic strategy to obtain pleasure. The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or the id.

Often the ego is weak relative to the headstrong id, and the best the ego can do is stay on, pointing the id in the right direction and claiming some credit at the end as if the action were its own.

Freud made the analogy of the id being a horse while the ego is the rider. The ego is 'like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superiour strength of the horse.'

(Freud, 1923, p. 15)

If the ego fails in its attempt to use the reality principle, and anxiety is experienced, unconscious defense mechanisms are employed, to help ward off unpleasant feelings (i.e., anxiety) or make good things feel better for the individual.

The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem-solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is known as reality testing and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego.

An important feature of clinical and social work is to enhance ego functioning and help the client test reality through assisting the client to think through their options.

According to the Freudians, some types ofabnormal upbringing (particularly if there is a cold, rejecting ‘schizogenic’ mother) can result in aweak and fragile ego, whose ability to contain the id’s desires is limited. This can lead to the egobeing ‘broken apart’ by its attempt to contain the id, leaving the id in overall control of the psyche.

What is the superego?

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 years during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. The superego is seen as the purveyor or rewards (feelings of pride and satisfaction) and punishments (feelings of shame and guilt) depending on which part (the ego-deal or conscious) is activated.

The superego is a part of the unconscious that is the voice of conscience (doing what is right) and the source of self-criticism. It reflects society's moral values to some degree, and a person is sometimes aware of their own morality and ethics, but the superego contains a vast number of codes, or prohibitions, that are issued mostly unconsciously in the form of commands or "don't" statements.

The superego's function is to control the id's impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.

Id, Ego, and Superego | Simply Psychology (5)

(Video) id, ego, & superego

The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self.

The conscience is our 'inner voice' that tells us when we have done something wrong.The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to the id's demands, the superego may make the person feel bad through guilt.

The superego is also somewhat tricky, in that it will try to portray what it wants the person to do in grandiose, glowing terms, what Freud called the ego-ideal, which arises out of the person's first great love attachment (usually a parent).

The ideal self (or ego-ideal) is an imaginary picture of how you ought to be, and represents career aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave as a member of society.

The assumption is that children raised by parents experience love conditionally (when they do something right), and the child internalizes these experiences as a series of real or imagined judgmental statements.

Behavior which falls short of the ideal self may be punished by the superego through guilt. The super-ego can also reward us through the ideal self when we behave ‘properly’ by making us feel proud.

Guilt is a very common problem because of all the urges and drives coming from the id and all the prohibitions and codes in the superego. There are a variety of ways an individual handles guilt, and these are called defense mechanisms.

If a 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 in childhood from parental values and how you were brought up.

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How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2019, September 25). Id, ego and superego. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

APA Style References

Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

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How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2019, September 25). Id, ego and superego. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

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FAQs

How do you explain the id, ego, and superego? ›

According to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.

Why is it important to study about the id, ego, and superego? ›

The primary benefit of learning about the id, ego, and superego is from a historical perspective. Examining different theories that psychologists have proposed through the decades demonstrates how our understanding of the mind has evolved. It also helps recognize why some theories fall out of use, while others survive.

How does the id, ego, and superego work together? ›

The id, ego and superego work together to create human behavior. The id creates the demands, the ego adds the needs of reality, and the superego adds morality to the action which is taken.

What is the most important between id, ego, and superego? ›

Answer and Explanation: Freud believed that a healthy person should have the ego as the strongest component of his or her mind. This is because the ego needs to moderate between the desires of the id and the superego, either of which can be destructive in the extreme.

How does ego affect behavior? ›

Research has shown that the he ego can be held responsible for many negative human traits including but not limited to criticising and judging others,acting manipulative, being inflexible and rigid, having severe mood swings, possessing a constant need for praise and approval, need to feel superior to everyone around, ...

How is the id most beneficial to you? ›

The id is very important early in life because it ensures that an infant's needs are met. If the infant is hungry or uncomfortable, they will cry until the demands of the id are satisfied. Young infants are ruled entirely by the id; there is no reasoning with them when these needs demand satisfaction.

What happens when the id and superego are in conflict? ›

Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego). This conflict creates anxiety, which could be dealt with by the ego's use of defense mechanisms.

What happens when the ego fails to restrain the id? ›

If the balance of energy isn't evenly distributed it can lead to intrapsychic conflicts and problems in behavior. If the Id takes control, and the weakened Ego and Superego can't restrain it, the person experiencing this will start to act impulsively and will without postponement try to satisfy his/her needs.

What will happen if an ego fails to use his reality principle? ›

If the reality principle fails to develop, a different dynamic takes its place. The super-ego asserts its authority, inflicting guilt on the individual because they do not have the ability to placate both reason and pleasure.

Does the superego balance the id and ego? ›

Ultimately, though, it's the ego that serves as the mediator between the id, the superego, and reality. The ego must determine how to meet the needs of the id, while upholding social reality and the moral standards of the superego. A healthy personality is the result of a balance between the id, ego, and superego.

What age does the id ego and superego develop? ›

In Freud's theory of psychosexual development, the superego is the last component of personality to develop. The id is the basic, primal part of personality; it is present from birth. The ego begins to develop during the first three years of a child's life. Finally, the superego starts to emerge around age five.

How does Freud explain the structure of personality? ›

Freud proposed that the mind is divided into three components: id, ego, and superego, and that the interactions and conflicts among the components create personality (Freud, 1923/1949). According to Freudian theory, the id is the component of personality that forms the basis of our most primitive impulses.

Is the ego conscious or unconscious? ›

The ego operates mainly in conscious and preconscious levels, although it also contains unconscious elements because both the ego and the superego evolved from the id. Ruled by the reality principle, the ego takes care of the id urges as soon as the adequate circumstance is found.

Why the ego is important? ›

Ego is necessary and important because it does the work to assemble your personality. It manages your fragile identity while you figure out who you are. It protects you from the onslaught of societal expectations and motivates you to work hard and achieve great things.

Is superego conscious or unconscious? ›

Lesson Summary
IdEgoSuperego
Completely unconsciousConscious, preconscious, and a small part unconsciousPartly conscious, preconscious, and mostly unconscious
ImpulsiveDecision makerStrives for perfection
Infantile in functionWorks with reasonIncorporates values and society morals
2 more rows
13 Aug 2021

Is it possible to not have an ego? ›

It's not possible to fully eliminate your ego, nor should you try to. The ego serves important purposes, and when used correctly, can help you build confidence in yourself. Learning to keep your ego in check can also transform your relationships for the better.

How does the ego protect us? ›

Repression is the primary way the ego protects itself. In this process, distressing and uncomfortable memories and feelings are kept from your consciousness. However, these may later surface when triggered by certain situations or when the adult psyche is ready to handle them.

Does everyone have an ego? ›

Everyone has an ego. There are many definitions of the ego, but to put it simply, it's your sense of personal identity or feelings of self-importance. It helps you to identify your 'uniqueness', to stand up for yourself and to put plans into action.

What is a healthy ego? ›

A healthy ego allows you to perceive people as being a rich combination of many values, attributes, strengths and challenges.

Is superego good or bad? ›

The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates. The superego's criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person's conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one's idealized self-image, or “ego ideal.”

Is id better than superego? ›

ID is significant as it acts as the driving force of a person's personality. It not only strives to fulfil the basic human urges, and it also provides all necessary energy to drive personality. Superego, on the contrary, is significant as it acts on the critical analysis based on the person's acquired moral guidance.

Why does id and ego conflict with each other? ›

The id and superego are in constant conflict, because the id wants instant gratification regardless of the consequences, but the superego tells us that we must behave in socially acceptable ways. Thus, the ego's job is to find the middle ground.

How does ego affect conflict? ›

Healthy ego serves to resolve conflicts, to nurture cooperation and mutual respect, to encourage solidarity and contribute to overall team success, while bad ego put us in fight-or-flight, finger-pointing and blaming mode, destroys cohesiveness and is often destructive.

Does the id protect the ego? ›

The ego prevents us from acting on our basic urges (created by the id) but also works to achieve a balance with our moral and idealistic standards (created by the superego). 2 While the ego operates in both the preconscious and conscious, its strong ties to the id means that it also operates in the unconscious.

How does the id cause anxiety? ›

According to Freud, anxiety is caused by the conflict between the id's powerful impulses and the modifying forces of the ego and superego. The more id-driven impulses are stifled through physical reality or societal norms, the greater the level of anxiety.

Is the id unconscious? ›

The id supplies the energy for the development and continued functioning of conscious mental life, though the working processes of the id itself are completely unconscious in the adult (less unconscious in the child).

What is the opposite of id? ›

The book deals primarily with the ego and the effects these tensions have on it. The ego—caught between the id and the super-ego—finds itself simultaneously engaged in conflict by repressed thoughts in the id and relegated to an inferior position by the super-ego.

What were the three main causes of human suffering According to Freud? ›

According to Freud, what are the three general sources for human suffering (i.e., human unhappiness)? 1) our body; 2) the external world; and 3) our relations to other men.

What anxiety resulted from the battle between id and ego? ›

Neurotic anxiety results from the ego feeling overwhelmed by the id, which threatens to express its irrationality in thoughts and behavior. There is a fear of external punishment for such expression.

In what manner does id works in human mind? ›

The id operates based on the pleasure principle, which demands immediate gratification of needs. The id is one of the three major components of personality postulated by Freud: the id, ego, and superego. An understanding of Freud's psychodynamic perspective is important in learning about the history of psychology.

How does Freud explain the structure of personality? ›

Freud proposed that the mind is divided into three components: id, ego, and superego, and that the interactions and conflicts among the components create personality (Freud, 1923/1949). According to Freudian theory, the id is the component of personality that forms the basis of our most primitive impulses.

What are Freud's 3 theories? ›

Freudian theory postulates that adult personality is made up of three aspects: (1) the id, operating on the pleasure principle generally within the unconscious; (2) the ego, operating on the reality principle within the conscious realm; and (3) the superego, operating on the morality principle at all levels of ...

What is an example of ego? ›

An example of ego is the way that you look at yourself. An example of ego is thinking you are the smartest person on earth. In psychoanalytic theory, the division of the psyche that is conscious, is responsible for our feelings of selfhood, and most directly interacts with external reality.

What is id in personality? ›

According to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the id is the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires.

Why is Freud so important in psychology? ›

Considered the father of modern psychology, his theories and ideas on the connections that exist between the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, the body, and the world around us are still as widely known as they were when he first espoused them at the turn of the 20th century.

Is the ego conscious or unconscious? ›

The ego operates at conscious, preconscious, and unconscious levels. The ego's consideration of reality is conscious. However, it may also keep forbidden desires hidden by unconsciously repressing them.

How does personality develop? ›

According to social cognitive theory, personality formation occurs when people observe the behaviors of others. This leads to adaptation and assimilation, particularly if those behaviors are rewarded.

What is Freud theory in simple terms? ›

Freudian motivation theory posits that unconscious psychological forces, such as hidden desires and motives, shape an individual's behavior, like their purchasing patterns. This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud who, in addition to being a medical doctor, is synonymous with the field of psychoanalysis.

What is the main idea of Sigmund Freud theory? ›

Sigmund Freud emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind, and a primary assumption of Freudian theory is that the unconscious mind governs behavior to a greater degree than people suspect. Indeed, the goal of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious.

What is Freud's most famous theory? ›

Freud's theories include: Unconscious mind: This is one of his most enduring ideas, which is that the mind is a reservoir of thoughts, memories, and emotions that lie outside the awareness of the conscious mind.

Is ego positive or negative? ›

Although the word ego often carries a negative connotation - as in egocentric or egotistical -- in actuality, the ego has both positive and negative aspects. From the positive perspective, ego simply means a solid, healthy and strong sense of self. Ego in this regard is essential in business.

What is superego in psychology example? ›

The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates. The superego's criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person's conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one's idealized self-image, or “ego ideal.”

Does everyone have an ego? ›

Everyone has an ego. There are many definitions of the ego, but to put it simply, it's your sense of personal identity or feelings of self-importance. It helps you to identify your 'uniqueness', to stand up for yourself and to put plans into action.

What is a healthy ego? ›

A healthy ego allows you to perceive people as being a rich combination of many values, attributes, strengths and challenges.

What happens if the id is too strong? ›

If the id is too strong, it can lead to self-centredness. An over-developed superego can mean high levels of guilt and anxiety, while a strong ego can lead to over-rationality and a lack of spontaneity.

What is id example? ›

Id Examples

If the need or want is not met, the person will experience anxiety, anger, or even tension. The baby was crying because it was hungry. It cried until it was fed.

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