Id-Ego-Superego and Unconscious Defense Mechanism

Sigmund Freud noted that the human psyche is split into distinct parts. Three main divisions are readily apparent, namely the id, ego, and superego. The id consists of the innate instinctual drive. It operates under the pleasure principle, aiming to satisfy all of its demands at the instant they are conceived. It is irrational, rooted in fantasy, and unpredictable.

The ego operates under the reality principle, trying to satisfy the demands of the id in a way that reduces overall harm to the individual, taking heed of the future harm that may be caused by indiscriminate pursuit of the id’s impulses. The relationship between id and ego can be visualized as a horse and a rider. The rider attempts to guide the horse to a destination, however, they are only partly in control. Any arbitrary action performed by the horse cannot be discounted as impossible. The horse, under a fit of rage, could turn on the rider and attack him. So to can the id overpower the ego.

The ego is developed through interaction with reality. The ego seeks to maximize pleasure and avoid tension, but does so in manner consistent with reality, as opposed to the id, which attempts to satisfy urges immediately. If the ego fails while operating under the reality principle, it employs an unconscious defense mechanism.

Unconscious defense mechanisms are methods used by the mind to reduce tension after the ego fails in its use of the reality principle. These help to reduce the stress of failure by providing exceptions and alternative outlets of emotion. Some prominent ones are as follows: regression, reverting back to actions of an earlier psychological age (bed wetting, sucking on thumb), projection, placing unacceptable emotions and feelings onto another individual (if a person hates someone, they then declare, without evidence, that the one they hate hates them), displacement, channeling repressed emotions and feelings into another object, in a way that is not societally acceptable, sublimation, channeling repressed emotions and feelings into another object, in a way that is societally acceptable, such as sports.

The superego consists of two parts, the consciousness and the ideal self. If the ego violates moral and ethical rules established through interaction with society, then the consciousness can guilt the ego. This can be seen when we feel guilty after eating unhealthily, being aggressive, etc. The ideal self is a the apogee of self’s, the greatest being out of the spectrum of beings that can possible be envisaged. This can be actively witnessed in New Year’s resolutions, when individuals decide upon certain habits or activities to uphold or dismiss based on their ideal self.

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