Id, ego, and super-ego

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The id comprises the unorganised part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the "pleasure principle", seeking to avoid pain or unpleasure aroused by increases in instinctual tension.[2]

The id is unconscious by definition: 'It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle'[3]. In the id, 'contrary impulses exist side by side, without cancelling each other out....There is nothing in the id that could be compared with negation...nothing in the id which corresponds to the idea of time'[4].

Developmentally, the id is anterior to the ego; i.e. the psychic apparatus begins, at birth, as an undifferentiated id, part of which then develops into a structured ego. Thus, the id:

The mind of a newborn child is regarded as completely "id-ridden", in the sense that it is a mass of instinctive drives and impulses, and needs immediate satisfaction, a view which equates a newborn child with an id-ridden individual—often humorously—with this analogy: an alimentary tract with no sense of responsibility at either end[citation needed].

The id is responsible for our basic drives, 'knows no judgements of value: no good and evil, no morality...Instinctual cathexes seeking discharge - that, in our view, is all there is in the id'[6]. It is regarded as 'the great reservoir of libido'[7], the instinctive drive to create - the life instincts that are crucial to pleasurable survival. Alongside the life instincts came the death instincts — the death drive which Freud articulated relatively late in his career in 'the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state'[8]. For Freud, 'the death instinct would thus seem to express itself - though probably only in part - as an instinct of destruction directed against the external world and other organisms'[9]: through aggression. Freud considered that 'the id, the whole person...originally includes all the instinctual impulses...the destructive instinct as well'[10] as Eros or the life instincts.


The Ego acts according to the reality principle; i.e. it seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief.[11]At the same time, Freud concedes that as the ego 'attempts to mediate between id and reality, it is often obliged to cloak the Ucs. commands of the id with its own Pcs. rationalizations, to conceal the id's conflicts with reality, to be taking notice of reality even when the id has remained rigid and unyielding'[12].

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