Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (2023)

Freud's personality theory

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

Freud's theory of personality (1923) saw the psyche structured in three parts (ie, tripartite), the id, the ego, and the superego, all of which develop at different stages of our lives. These are systems, not parts of the brain or physical in any way.

Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (1)

AccordinglyFreud's psychoanalytic theory, the id is the primitive, instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive impulses and hidden memories, the superego functions as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the superego.

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

Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (2)

In this article

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

What is identification?

OI WENTit is the primitive and instinctive component of the personality.

The id is a part of the unconscious that contains all impulses and urges, including what is called the libido, a type of generalized sexual energy used for everything from survival instincts to art appreciation.

The id is also kind of stubborn, because it only responds to what Freud called the pleasure principle (if it feels good, do it), and nothing else.

It consists of all the inherited (ie, biological) components of the 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 (andunconsciously) Part of our psyche that responds directly and immediately to basic drives, needs, and desires. The newborn's personality is entirely id and only later does it develop an ego and a superego.

The id remains childlike in function throughout a person's life and does not change with time or experience because it is out of touch with the outside world.

The id is not influenced by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it works within the unconscious part of the mind.

Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (3)

The id operates on the basis of the pleasure principle (Freud, 1920), which states that every impulse of desire must be immediately gratified, regardless of the consequences.

When the id meets its requirements, we experience pleasure, when denied, we experience "displeasure" or tension.

The id deals with primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and imaginative. This form of procedural thinking has no understanding of objective reality and is inherently selfish and anxious.

(Video) Freud's Id, Ego and Superego Explained

What is the me?

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 is the only conscious part of the personality. It is what people are aware of when they think about themselves and what they usually try to project onto others.

The ego evolves to mediate between the unreal id and the real external world. It is the decision component of the personality. Ideally, the ego works with reason while the id is chaotic and irrational.

The ego operates according to the reality principle and devises realistic ways to satisfy the id's needs, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences for society.

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

Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (4)

Like the id, the ego seeks pleasure (ie, relieves tension) and avoids pain, but unlike the id, the ego is committed to working out a realistic strategy for gaining pleasure.

The ego has no idea of ​​right or wrong; Something is simply good when it achieves its purpose of gratification without harming itself or the id.

Often the ego is weak compared to the rebellious id, and the best the ego can do is stay there, steer the id in the right direction, and end up demanding some credit as if the deed was its own.

Freud made the analogy that the id is a horse while the ego is the rider. The ego is "like a man on horseback who must control the superior power of the horse."

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

(Freud, 1923, S. 15)

When the ego fails in its attempt to apply the reality principle and fear arises,unconscious defense mechanismsare used to ward off unpleasant feelings (e.g. fear) or to make good things seem better for the individual.

The ego engages in secondary process thinking that is rational, realistic, and problem-solving oriented. If an action plan does not work, it is rethought until a solution is found. This is known as reality testing and allows the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-mastery through ego mastery.

An important feature of clinical and social work is to enhance ego function and help the client to reality test, helping them to consider their options.

According to Freudians, some types of abnormal parenting (particularly when there is a cold, hostile, "weird" mother) can result in a weak and fragile ego with limited ability to contain the id's desires.

This can cause the ego to "split" by trying to contain the id, allowing the id to retain overall control of the psyche.

What is the superego?

The superego embodies society's values ​​and morals learned from parents and others. It develops around 3-5 years of age during the phallic phase ofpsychosexual development.

The superego is seen as the provider of rewards (feelings of pride and contentment) and punishments (feelings of shame and guilt), depending on which part (the ego tract or the conscience) is activated.

The superego is a part of the unconscious that is the voice of conscience (doing the right thing) and the source of self-criticism.

It to some extent reflects the moral values ​​\u200b\u200bof society, and a person is sometimes aware of his own morals and ethics, but the superego contains a huge number of codes or prohibitions, most often unconsciously in the form of commands or "No". be uttered”.

The function of the superego is to control the id's impulses, particularly those that society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moral goals and pursue perfection, not just realistic goals.

(Video) id, ego, & superego

Freud's id, ego and superego: definition and examples (5)

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

  • OConscienceit is our “inner voice” that tells us when we have done something wrong.

Conscience can punish the ego by creating feelings of guilt. For example, when the ego gives in to the id's demands, the superego can make the person feel bad out of guilt.

The superego is also a little tricky, as it tries to portray in grand and glowing terms what it wants from the person, what Freud called the ego ideal, which arises from the person's first major love attachment (usually a parent). .

  • Oideal me(or ideal ego) is an imaginary image of how you should be, representing career aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave as a member of society.

The assumption is that parent-raised children experience love conditionally (when they do something right), and the child internalizes these experiences as a series of real or imagined expressions of judgment.

Behavior that falls short of the ideal self may be punished with guilt by the superego. The superego can also reward us with the ideal self when we behave "correctly" by making us feel proud.

Guilt is a very common problem because of all the urges and urges that come from the id and all the no's and codes from the superego. There are a variety of ways in which an individual deals with guilt and these are nameddefense mechanism.

If a person's ideal self is of a very high standard, then everything that person does will fail. The ideal self and consciousness are largely indeterminateinfancyof your parents' values ​​and how you were raised.


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

Freud, S. (1923).the me and the it. SE, 19: 1-66.

(Video) Sigmund Freud | Structure of personality | id, Ego, Superego


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