Senin, 15 Oktober 2007

Ego, Id, Super-Ego

The structure of the personality in psychoanalytic theory is threefold. Freud divided it into the id, the ego, and the superego. Only the ego was visible or on the surface, while the id and the superego remains below, but each has its own effects on the personality, nonetheless.

The id represents biological forces. It is also a constant in the personality as it is always present. The id is governed by the "pleasure principle", or the notion of hedonism (the seeking of pleasure). Early in the development of his theory Freud saw sexual energy only, 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 was all about sex, sex, 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. Notice how Hollywood has capitalized on the id. Box office success is highly correlated with movies that stress either sex, violence, or both.

The ego is the surface of the personality, the part you show the world. The ego is governed by the "reality principle ," or a pragmatic approach to the world. For example, a child may want to snitch a cookie from the kitchen, but will not if a parent is present. Id desires are still present, but the ego realizes the consequences of brazen cookie theft. The ego develops with experience, and accounts for developmental differences in behavior. For example, parents expect 3-month infants to cry until fed, but, they also expect 3-year-olds to stop crying when told they will be fed.

The superego consists of two parts, the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience is the familiar metaphor of angel and devil on each shoulder. The conscience decides what course of action one should take. The ego-ideal is an idealized view of one's self. Comparisons are made between the ego-ideal and one's actual behavior. Both parts of the super-ego develop with experience with others, or via social interactions. According to Freud, a strong super-ego serves to inhibit the biological instincts of the id, while a weak super-ego gives in to the id's urgings. Further, the levels of guilt in the two cases above will be high and low, respectively.

The tripartite structure above was thought to be dynamic, changing with age and experience. Also, aspects of adult behavior such as smoking, neatness, and need for sexual behavior were linked to the various stages by fixation. To Freud, fixation is a measure of the effort required to travel through any particular stage, and great efforts in childhood were reflected in adult behavior. Fixation can also be interpreted as the learning of pattens or habits. Part of the criticism of psychoanalysis was that fixation could be interpreted in diametrically opposite fashion. For example, fixation in the anal stage could lead to excessive neatness or sloppiness. As noted earlier, Neil Simon's play, "The Odd Couple", is a celebration of anal fixation, with Oscar and Felix representing the two opposite ends of the fixation continuum (Oscar-sloppy, Felix-neat).


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