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What is Ego?
The ego is basically our identity, as a person we have many different identities in this world. Our identity as a father, mother, son, daughter, employee, employer, etc. The ego is needed for us to function on a daily basis in this society.
It functions as the parent to our natural instincts we got when we were born, natural instincts that is closely related to instant gratification. As a baby the moment we became hungry we cried and screamed until we got what we wanted. Of course such behaviors are not tolerated when we have become an adult and a responsible citizen of the society. The ego helps us in dealing and taking care of our urges to make sure that they are acceptable to society. For example, you have the urge to pee, but the ego will make sure that you do not pee in your pants and do it in an acceptable manner in an acceptable place. Although the experience of peeing can be rather gratifying, the ego delays our gratification for a moment until the situation is acceptable for us to pee.
The ego is one of the three components that is contained in Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality. The Ego is the second component and is between The id, which is the first component and the Superego which is the third component. Those three components has to be in order to make sense.
The id is present from the day we are born. It also forms the base of our personality. It is made up of our urges, instincts, desires. If you see a newborn baby, they do not have ego yet, they simply have what Freud called the id. The moment they have an urge of hunger or thirst they will instantly cry, they will be in a state of tension until their needs are met and they calm down. We can safely assume that the id seem to want instant gratification aside from anything else. They do not want delay, they want to get whatever they want, immediately. This maybe possible as long as you are a baby. Such things cannot be always possible when you are an adult. This is where the ego plays a very important role.
As I have explained earlier, the ego acts as the parent of the id, always striving to make sure that we behave in a socially acceptable manner in society. If we didn't have ego, and only rely on id, we would be like animals, the moment we become hungry we will just grab whatever food there is on another person's hand and eat it, which is not acceptable (although I have never tried to pull such a stunt in public I am pretty sure, from the way things seem to stand in society, that such behavior is not acceptable).
The ego is very reality based and reacts accordingly to the reality of the given situation, and will guide the id to express its urges in a suitable manner and a suitable time according to the given situation. The ego will eventually give the id a chance to express it's a urges (and thank god for that otherwise I don't know how we can possibly fulfill our sexual urges), and if it comes to a situation where the urges is too strong and an acceptable situation has not yet presented itself it will allow the id to express it some other slightly subtler way (masturbation comes to mind....be right back).
The superego is part of the personality that stores our moral standards, beliefs and ideals that we get as we are growing up in this society, it can be from our parents, teachers, priests, etc . The superego is the part of personality that gives us a guide to make judgment to any given situation based on our moral ideals, beliefs and facts that has come from our parents, teachers, etc. It is divided into two parts:
the ego ideal, which is made up of rules and manners for good behavior. Good behavior is of course a relative term, since the good behavior are simply those behavior that was approved by your parents, teachers, etc. So if your parents were a bunch of robbers and they approve you doing the same as them, you might store this criminal personality in your ego ideal and will rob with no guilt.
The conscience is made up of information about behaviors that is not acceptable in society, and forbidden and can lead to guilt and punishments.
Considering the fact that our personality is governed by these three strong factors, it is easy to understand how and why a person can go through stress and why we all have different sorts of personality. We have different personality because we all have different balances of id, ego and superego and how these three factors interact with one another. Some people have personality that has a strong id, some a strong ego and some a strong super ego According to this, an ideal person is one who can maintain a balance in all the three factor of his/her personality. A person whose personality has a stronger id will yield easily to a chance of instant gratification. Whereas a person who has a strong super ego will be to rigid and not flexible at all (the 40 year old virgin comes to mind).
People are different from one another because their egos have different way of dealing with the pressure it gets from the id and from the superego. Its somehow pretty similar like having a small devil standing on our left shoulder and whispering things to your left ear and having an angel on your right shoulder and whispering things to your right, and you, the middle, the ego, the one dealing with the reality is the one who has to find a way to entertain both of them, to be equally acceptable in the society as well as be able to fulfill your personal needs and urges.