The Ego, The Superego and The Id.

Essay by suzanna_p October 2005

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The structure of the personality in psychoanalytic theory is threefold. Freud divided it into the id, the ego and the superego. Only the ego is visible, or on the surface one may say, while the id and the superego remain 'hidden', below the surface of what we show of our personalities to others, but each has its own effects on the personality nonetheless. This essay seeks to explore these three layers of personality and how they work with one another.

"In Freud's structural hypothesis, the id is generally recognised as the psychic representative of the drives." (Berger 1995 p.106) The id represents biological forces and is always present in the personality. The id is governed by the 'pleasure principle,' or notion of hedonism (seeking of pleasure). Early in the development of his theory Freud saw sexual energy, or the libido or the life instinct, as the only source of energy for the id.

It was this notion that gave rise to the popular conception that psychoanalysis is all about sex. After the carnage of World War I, however, Freud felt it necessary to add another instinct, or source of energy to the id. So, he proposed 'Thanatos,' the death instinct. Thanatos accounts for the instinctual violent urges of humankind. Obviously the rest of the personality would have somehow to deal with these two instincts. It is interesting to note how Hollywood has capitalised on the id; box office success is highly correlated with movies that stress sex, violence, or both.

"We can come nearer to the id with images, and call it chaos, a cauldron of

seething excitement. We suppose that it is somewhere in direct contact

with somatic processes, takes over from their instinctual needs and gives

them mental representation. These instincts fill it with energy, but...