Human psychology has always been considered as a complex mystery. Sigmund Freud, one of the prolific thinkers of his time with his analysis of the psyche tried to explain the complex structure of the mind. Freud believed that early childhood experiences are filtered through the three stages of the psyche that shapes personality in adulthood.
Freud’s personality theory of 1923 cites that personality is structured into three different parts. He names them Id, Ego, and Superego. These are not parts of the brain or physic rather these are the stages of systematic development of personality. Here the id is regarded as a part of the unconscious mind, whilst the ego and superego engage conscious, preconscious, and unconscious aspects of the mind.
The Id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It is the rawest part of the psyche which requires immediate gratification. It is associated with the basic urges, needs are desires. It is inherited with birth and remains infantile throughout its life because it’s an unconscious entity. The id operates on the pleasure principle (Freud, 1920). The Id engages the primitive process of conceiving which may include irrational, fantasy-oriented thoughts. If the desires are not met it leaves individuals with tension. A newborn’s behavior is driven by 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 ego rises from the Id and modifies itself to present the individual in a socially acceptable way. The ego operates through societal principles and norms and tries to satisfy the Id in the most acceptable way. Ego can be referred to as a secondary process of thinking which engages a person to a rational decision-making process and enables him to acquire self-control. Ego also seeks pleasure but in a sophisticated way so that it gives more pleasure and causes less pain. 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 superior strength of the horse’(Freud, 1923, p. 15).
The superego is the moral compass of personality which determines the rights and wrongs for an individual. A person squanders superego throughout life which generally starts from the moral education one receives from family. Superego is formed with two components: the conscious and the ego ideal. The conscious generates the feeling of guilt when one does something which forbidden or unethical. The ego-ideal or ideal self generates the feeling of pride when someone makes himself to adhere to the moral standard or good deeds. The superego is the ultimate state of personality building which forms an early age of 3-5 which Freud calls the phallic stage in his analysis of psychosexual development.
The Id, Ego, and Superego have their own roles in building a personality but they are very correlated and interact continuously with each other. If any of these stages of personality lack cohesion and gets dominant over other a difficult personality may form. As in, if Id gets dominant one will drive himself by wild instinct, he may get aggressive, cause harm to others, and may end up raping or even murdering. If the superego gets dominant one may get toxically moral and judge the others for not reaching his or her standard of morality. Finally, if the ego gets dominants one may experience hardship distinguishing the right and wrong and may get inflexible with change.
This theory of Sigmund Freud helps to understand the complex structure of the mind quite simply. Though not empirical it has been very influential in the field of psychoanalysis.