For those who had or may be having the subject Psychology 101 in their curriculum, the name Sigmund Freud and his theories should be familiar. Aside from his theory of dividing the mind into three different levels (conscious, subconscious and unconscious), he also theorized that human personality is complex and is composed of three elements which are known as the id, the ego and superego. In His theory of personality, these three elements or structures have a complex relationship with each other and they work together to create complex human behaviors. We will then take a closer look at each of these structures of personality, their individual functions and their interactions with one another.

Freud theorized that certain aspects of our personality are more primitive and might pressure you to act upon your most basic urges. Other parts of your personality work to counteract these urges and strive to make you conform to the demands of reality.

Take a closer look at each of these key parts of personality, how they work individually, and how they interact.

The id is the only structure or component of personality that is present from birth. This portion of personality is mostly part of the unconscious mind and includes our instincts and primitive behaviors. Freud theorized that the id is the source of all energy in our consciousness, making it the primary section of personality. The id is driven by the pleasure principle. This principle is one which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not met or immediately satisfied, it can result in a state of anxiety or tension. The id is very important in the early parts of life, especially infancy. It ensures that an infant’s needs are met. The id works when the infant is hungry or seeks comfort and attention; the infant will cry until the demands of the id are satisfied. However, as we grow up, the immediate fulfillment of our needs and desires will not always be realistic or even possible. If we were to allow our lives to be ruled by the pleasure principle, the world might be so much more chaotic that it is now because we’ll find ourselves grabbing the things that we desire from each other’s hands to satisfy our respective id’s desires.

The ego is the structure of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality and the realistic approach of things. According to Freud’s theory, the ego develops from the id to ensure that the impulses and desires of the id can be expressed and manifested in a manner acceptable in the real world. The function of the ego encompasses the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind. Because the ego operates based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially acceptable ways, it will need all the functions of the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious components of the mind in order to weigh the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses. In many cases, the impulsivity and immediacy of the id’s needs can still be satisfied and allowed by the ego — usually in a delayed fashion, and in the appropriate time and place.

The superego is the structure of personality that holds all of the moral standards and ideals that we acquire from our parents, our society and the culture in which we live, and thus, it is our sense of right and wrong. It also provides us guidelines for making judgments. Like the ego, the superego is present in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind. The superego serves to refine and civilize our behavior by suppressing all unacceptable urges of the id and strives to make the ego act upon morally idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles.

According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, a healthy personality is the outcome of the balance between the id, the ego, and the superego. Thus, the ego should manifest the balanced influence of the id and superego. Otherwise, it could result in a disruptive and maladaptive personality.

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