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The ego, super-ego, and id are the divisions of the psyche according to the psychoanalytic theory developed by Sigmund Freud. The id contains "primitive desires" (hunger, rage and sex), the super-ego contains internalized norms, morality and taboos, and the ego mediates between the two and may include or give rise to the sense of self.
Most people who identify with the contemporary school of ego psychology place its beginnings with Sigmund Freud's 1923 book The Ego and the Id, in which Freud introduced what would later come to be called the structural theory of psychoanalysis. The structural theory divides the mind into three agencies or "structures": the id, the ego, and the super-ego.
Freud's structural theory
In Freud's theory, the ego mediates between the id, the super-ego and the external world. Its task is thus to find a balance between primative drives, morals and reality. Although in his early writings Freud equated the ego with the sense of self, he later began to portray it more as a set of psychic functions such as reality-testing, defence, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory.
The word ego is taken directly from Latin where it is the nominative of the first person personal pronoun and is translated as 'I myself'.
The super-ego is the part of the mind that acts as our conscience and tries to impose on the rest of the mind the expectations of society. It is responsible for our inner sense of morality and thus develops as we grow up. In his later works Freud also mentions a 'cultural super-ego' which is responsible for influencing the individual's super-ego.
The id is the part of the mind that is responsible for primative desires such as hunger. It is a completely unconcious part of the mind and thus continues to function even when we are asleep. The id works according to the pleasure principal, it seeks instant gratification to its desires.
The word id is taken from Latin where it is the nominative neuter form of the third person personal pronoun normally translated as 'it itself'.
The ego, super-ego and id work together to control the body. For example a newborn baby, when it is hungry, will cry for it's mother. This is because the id is hungry and the ego has worked out that if it cries its mother will feed it. However, when an adult is hungry, it will not cry. This is, in part, because the ego knows that its mother will nolonger come to feed it, but also in part, due to the super-ego which knows that crying is not a socially acceptable reaction to being hungry.
- Freud's Psycho Dynamic Theory
- Section 5: Freud's Structural and Topographical Model, Chapter 3: Personality Development Psychology 101.
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