Friday, July 15, 2011

Id, Ego and Superego

After I read the post Nevets made on his blog, I decided to spring into action.  So today, I’m going to jump into a random non-writing related topic.  (Okay, so it’s not ENTIRELY non-writing related, as it can be applied to characters, but I thought it best to ease you guys into the idea.  Also, it’s not really random, since psychology has always interested me.)

Side Note : If you are confused as to why I am doing this, read Nevets’s post here.


This specific approach to explaining personalities – there are quite a few theories – is based on work that Sigmund Freud, the Hemingway of psychoanalysis, did.  There are a whole lot of things surrounding it, but I’ll talk to you about the id, ego and superego.

According to Freud, every human psyche can be divided into three parts, the id, ego and superego.  The id and superego is basically in an eternal battle with the ego as mediator.

The id is primal instinct.  Your uncontrolled and selfish desires.

The superego is societal norms and repercussions as well as conscience.  It takes the consequences of your actions into account, stopping you from doing things simply because you want to.

Your ego then mediates between the two.  You could say that the id and superego both plead their cases to the ego and then the ego makes a decision.

To explain, here is a scenario.
You are homeless and very hungry.  An old lady with a bag of apples walks past you.  If you were controlled by your id, you would jump up, grab the bag of apples from the lady, and start eating.  If you were controlled by your superego, you would sit there and do nothing.  However, you are controlled by your ego, which takes into consideration both things: 1) You’re hungry and the lady has food, and 2) It’s not right to take other people’s things.  It finds a middle ground, and prods you to ask the lady for an apple.

If you are hungry enough and you know the lady won’t give you anything because you look scruffy, your id might ‘take over’ per se, making you grab the apples and run.  However, your superego will still have its go, making you feel guilty afterwards.

In conclusion, the ego must find a way to satisfy the primal desires of the id in a way that is acceptable for the societal rules as specified by the superego.  This is only present in humans.  Other animals are ruled solely by their id.

Note: I have taken this information from my Psychology 101 course, so it might not be 100% accurate.


  1. In conclusion, the ego must find a way to satisfy the primal desires of the id in a way that is acceptable for the societal rules as specified by the superego.

    This is a great summary of how the three balance out in struggle. Equilibrium in psychology, as in forces of nature, is not static harmony -- it's a dynamic wrestling match of force, counter-force, and opposing feedback mechanisms.

    Psychology is interesting to me, but I haven't had much formal study. It's interesting, though, for me to compare this to some of the ideas that anthropology uses to describe individual behavior within a cultural and societal context.

    Great post -- if I helped inspire you to step out and put this up, I'm glad I did!

  2. It would be interesting for me to see the similarities between the anthropology and psychology. You should make a post about that.

    Thanks for reading.