The Id, the Ego and the Superego

According to Freud’s Psychodynamic theory, personality development goes through various stages and is completed by the time the individual is five years of age. The personality that the individual will have at this time is the one he will carry throughout life.

Furthermore more, Sigmund Freud introduced the concept of Id, Ego and Superego whose interplay determines personality development. According to him, the child is born with certain hereditary potentials and these include amongst others, intuitions, needs etc.

Sigmund Freud proposed that personality has three components: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego.


The id is conceived as a reservoir of instinctual energy that contains biological urges such as impulses toward survival, sex, and aggression. The id is unconscious and operates according to the pleasure principle, the drive to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The id is characterised by primary process thinking, which is illogical, irrational, and motivated by a desire for the immediate gratification of impulses.


The ego is considered as the component that manages the conflict between the id and the constraints of the real world. Some parts of the ego are unconscious, while others are preconscious or conscious. The ego operates according to the reality principle, the awareness that gratification of impulses has to be delayed in order to accommodate the demands of the real world. The ego is characterised by secondary process thinking, which is logical and rational. The ego’s role is to prevent the id from gratifying its impulses in socially inappropriate ways.


This is considered to be the moral component of personality. It contains all the moral standards learned from parents and society. The superego forces the ego to conform not only to reality but also to its ideals of morality. Hence, the
superego causes people to feel guilty when they go against society’s rules. Like the ego, the superego operates at all three levels of awareness.


Freud believed that the id, the ego, and the superego are in constant conflict. He focused mainly on conflicts concerning sexual and aggressive urges because these urges are most likely to violate societal rules.


Internal conflicts can make a person feel anxious. In Freud’s view, anxiety arises when the ego cannot adequately balance the demands of the id and the superego. The id demands gratification of its impulses, and the superego demands
maintenance of its moral standards.

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