The Id, the Ego and the Superego, Simply Explained

Often tortured, man's psychological trauma

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The fight for sex, survival and perfection.  Id, Ego and SuperegoMan and his three advisers in constant conflict
The fight for sex, survival and perfection.  Id, Ego and Superego
The fight for sex, survival and perfection. Id, Ego and Superego
Man and his three advisers in constant conflict
Man and his three advisers in constant conflict

The Id had me by the throat for 40 years


It has unfortunately become unfashionable to discuss the above prime movers of the mind, according to Freud and others, which combine to create a successfully functioning human person.

Where intellectual giants are concerned, such as Sigmund Freud and Einstein, to name but two, lesser mortals spend too much time trying to overturn marginal parts of their theories, giving rise to people saying. "Oh, Freud and all that rubbish, that's been disproven long ago." We see the same happening to Albert Einstein as I write, his theories on the speed of light now under question as if he was some amateur and not one of the greatest men who ever lived, right or wrong in this instant.

When I was at school and in subsequent years, there were many books on the matters flagged in my headline. One of the things that has always upset politicians, police and the justice system is that the apparent conflict, especially between Id and Superego, to a great extent takes free will out of the scenario of why we do this and that - commit crimes, for example - a manifestation which, in most cases, sees the Id winning the skirmish.

I'm sure my readers all have some idea of what the three contenders for control of our minds are (note: not our brains, that's the province of neuroscientists).

First we have the often villain of the piece, the Id. The Id is the pleasure seeker at any cost. He demands satisfaction right now for any desire we might feel, such as sex, food, booze, or anything that means pleasure. Rather like the actions of the reptile brain, the Id might be seen as acting out needs hard-wired in our genes, originally to do with procreation and survival at any cost.

The Id dominates our childhood. You see the baby and immature child demanding anything that comes into his/her mind with no attention to etiquette or control. We might describe the drive of the Id as "A chaotic stew of unfulfilled yearnings," (author). If these aren't controlled in the adult, we can have the psychotics: rapists, murderers for gain; the world's Hitler's.

Without the Id, there would be no strong masculine sex drive, no bravery, none of the virtues of being a male animal. But, unchecked, in a modern world, the Id would destroy us. Fortunately, the Id does have a couple of strong governing influences.

The Ego. The Ego is the more rational part of the mind which acknowledges the Id's needs and attempts to introduce the reality of cohabiting in the planet with other who also have needs. If left to its own devices, our Id would have us in constant war with out peers in order to get the goodies of life before they did!

So the Ego allows - and, in truth, could not end - the Id's satisfaction it craves, but inhibits the crazed pleasure-seeker from causing the organism to act out behaviour which would soon see the host dead or in jail for life. (as Id dominated folk often are in the end).

You might say that the Id is the engine that drives the F1 racing car, while the Ego is the driver who moderates the speed so the unit can negotiate bends and employs the brakes and accelerator to get optimum performance and allow the vehicle to survive to the end of the race.

The Id, and to a certain extent, the Ego are both reactionary; the Id flat out “gimegimegime!” while the Ego acts from reason and logic, saying, "OK, Id, we'll let you have great sex with this lovely lady, but let's persuade her to want it too, rather that just leaping over the table and ravishing her." Haven't all men considered rape with some fascination? But only Id-dominated and badly flawed men actually treat women like this. What is more common is the Id suggesting, and the Ego controlling..."You wanna go to jail, idiot?" Indeed, if there were no consequences, perhaps all would be Id-driven, I cannot say.

Watching this often tormented battle going on between the forces of desire and the forces of reason, is the last of the prime movers in the equation, the Superego.

While the Id raves on, after its pleasure-fix, and the Ego battles ceaselessly to contain its appetites, the Superego adds the calming influence that contains the collective wisdom of the world. The Superego whispers, "Now be the best you can be; get a good education, surround yourself with beneficial peers, study art, read, read, read. Rid your life of influences which might stimulate your Id into more destructive behaviour like drug taking, drunkenness." And much more. The Super Ego is the influence that gives us necessary feelings of guilt when we "know." instinctively when we are not doing the right thing. Don't we suffer the agonies of remorse when we cheat on a mate, for example, we feel terrible guilt and swear never to do it again; we find ourselves confessing everything and begging for forgiveness? Without these feelings, no marriage would last, as the Id screams, "Shag that one - that one- that one!" “Eat anothernothernother chocolate eclair, go on!“ Yes, chaps, it would be nice, but, how long would you last unless you paid heavily for such behaviour (yes, money works unfortunately, but that depends on Id-dominated women, and too many eclairs means obesity).

So the Superego can be seen as the conscience, adding the obedience to laws, the wisdom of philosophers, the tried and true gospel of teachers, the caring advice of parents and more experienced friends.

In the end - maybe around age 25 or so - most find peace as their desires and reason are in balance. To some, such as myself, this happened much later in life as I was very Id-driven until about 45.

This meant I drank as much as I thought I wanted, screwed as many women as I could get equally legless and in my bed, tooted coke, puffed weed (but never tobacco), behaved violently, went through three marriages and more. If only I could have seen the picture the world saw of me. But people like I was aren't short of like company and I roamed the world, one step ahead of several police agencies in three continents, my sad and idiotic life fuelled by short lived “businesses,“ petty white-collar crime...

I was more a “happy” go lucky drunk, more fool to myself than dangerous to others. Huntsville, in 1983, written about within HP, bought me up short and allowed me to finally get back on track. Too late in many way, but finally in uneasy peace and understanding of why and what I am...

I hope some of you find something good in this article...


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Comments 16 comments

PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

You know Bob most of us probably know this stuff but don't want to. I guess when you get to be our age knowing these things give us a good excuse not to do them. That's because now we know from experience that other than eating and sex, it's not worth it. Your friend in time, Peter


Joan Whetzel 5 years ago

I love the way you explain it all. You use great words to describe what's going on and don't dumb it down. Great article.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Perhaps shades of the theory of "Dualism?" The dynamic univsersal polarized forces ...

Given the above, is it possible to simply "be?" Perhaps we can seek pleasure. Perhaps we can reward our egos. Perhaps the key is to have the wisdom to seek a dynamic "balance."

Thanks for sahring!


diogenes 5 years ago

Thanks for visits Peter, Joan and Dallas...In haste...Bob


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

This id-ego-superego theory of Freud is perhaps one of his bests and still applicable, though by now developed into many divarications. Understanding others is not possible before one understand him/her self as id-ego-superego. I prefer to use my own elementary concept, based on this theory of Freud but also modernized according to new theories. Whatever, it helps me to understand the behavior of myself and fellowman. Regrets are never easy to live with, but fortunately we reach the stage where we accept our past and wrong choices as part of our essential core. We would not have been who we are today if it was not for who we were and what we have done in our past. Thanks for this article; it was an enjoyable read.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Excellent and informative remarks, Martie, you are a wise woman...Bob


angelica 5 years ago

your article is great, the way you describe a Freud. saludos


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago

Thanks, Bob. very genuine, humble and honest. not much difference between id and animal behavior. I'm really glad you're better now, and for the opportunity to get to know all of you better via this hub; the good, the bad and the ugly:) Thanks.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Kim...yes, the ID is closest to the so called "reptile brain," the knob that sits on the top of the spinal column and contains our primitive drives. Bob


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

Your honesty, diogenes is what makes this hub so special. There are all sorts of names for the aspects of ourselves that you so eloquently describe here and though many have sought to better their (Freud & Einstein) theories they were the ones with the ability to suspend the ego to the extent that it allowed them to see beyond our collective belief system. Thank you.


diogenes 5 years ago

Succint comment as usual SW. Thanks for visit Bob


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

I liked your hub so much that I posted it to my Facebook wall. Keep up the good work Bob and thank you for the reply.


diogenes 5 years ago

Nice of you to do that and to tell me...Bob


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Not having had high school I always find articles like that fascinating. Great job. Bob, Thank you.


diogenes 5 years ago

Thanks Hanna, glad you found it interesting...Bob


P.Flower 4 years ago

I enjoyed your article! I've been confused for a long time about the id, ego and superego but not anymore, thanks to your explanation!!! I'm glad I stumbled upon your article and the many wonderful comments.

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