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Freud's Three Structures of Personality

Updated on September 28, 2011

The Structures

Freud discovered through his studies of hypnosis that there is a state of unconscious. In the unconscious people know the answers to certain questions that, when conscious, they have no idea as to the correct answer. This begs the quesiton, what else are they unaware of?

The Iceberg

Look to the picture to the right. What does an iceberg have to do with the conscious and unconscious? Note the shape of an iceberg. The top is much smaller in comparison to what is beneath the surface. At the top, exists the conscious. These are all of the facts and actions you are aware of. Your to-do list is here, fresh in your mind.

Next, right in the middle, is the preconscious. This is the dream state, what you know you desire. When you daydream, you normally put your mind in this area. What you have reciently been through is also here. Your thoughts are vague and dim, but still parshally aware to you. Another way to think of the preconscious, is as the world between worlds.

Last, but most importantly, is the unconscious. These are what you are not aware of. When you loose something in your home that you left months ago, mentally you know where it is. However, your mind is hidding the knowledge. Though you know, you do not know at the same time.

The Advanced Version

Freud decided knowing the different levels of conscious were not enough. He observed and found a new expansion upon his theory. Now the iceberg is still the same. The conscious, preconscious, and unconscious all still apply. However, a few new players are entering the theory. Let us start at the bottom and work our way up.

At the bottom in the unconscious exists the Id. Imagine a child without any boundaries. He runs and plays. He can do whatever he wants and say whatever he desires. For him, there are no walls. His possibilities are endless. This is the Id. He focuses on pleasure and that is his main goal. He is the constant voice in our thoughts telling us to do what we enjoy. Do what you want to do, not what you should do. The Id is hidden from us, in the lower areas of our unconscious.

Now, opposite of the Id is the Superego. In your mind, think of a judge. They follow the law, punishing where they see fit. Go against them, and you will be put in your place. They are the little voice which tells you to do what is right. What should you be doing, not what you want to do. The Superego exists in every area of the levels. He lives in the conscious, unconscious, and the preconscious.

The first and top level of the structure consists of the Ego. This is the area you know the most. This is who you are. The Ego is a balance of the Superego and the Id. A combination of the child and the judge. This level lives in the conscious and preconscious.


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    • lburmaster profile image

      Leah Lenau 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Very true. Thank you, Zakwe!

    • profile image

      ZAKWE 5 years ago



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