Freud's Theory on Structure and Functioning of Personality

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Sigmund Freud developed his ideas about the structure and functioning of personality from work with mental patients. He believed that personality has three aspects: the id, the ego, and the superego, all developing at different stages in life.

Firstly, Id is the primitive mind, the part of the personality which contains our primitive impulses such as sex, anger and hunger (basic needs and feelings). At birth a baby’s mind is all id. Id is the source for libido (psychic energy) and it has only one rule: the “Pleasure Principle”: The id demands immediate satisfaction of our two main instincts (Eros and Thanatos). In Freud’s view, the id is totally unconscious; it has no contact with reality. It functions in the irrational and emotional part of the mind.

Secondly, the Ego is the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego). It is the Freudian structure of personality that deals with the demands of reality. The ego develops out of growing awareness that one can’t always get what he wants and realises the need for compromise. It functions with the rational part of the mind, relates to the real world and operates via the “Reality Principle”. The ego's job is to get the id's pleasures but to be reasonable and devise a realistic strategy to make decisions and obtain pleasure. The ego has a conscious and an unconscious part. The id and the ego have no morality. They do not take into account whether something is right or wrong.

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Thirdly, the Superego is the part of the personality that represents the conscience. It is the last part of the mind to develop. It is the Freudian moral part of the personality and develops as an internal, self observing judge. It operates according to the “Morality Principle”. The Superego tries to copy perfection the young child saw in its parents. It stores and enforces rules and puts impossible strict restrictions on us, creating anxiety. The superego takes into account whether something is right or wrong. It punishes us through a conscience and makes us feel proud when we behave “properly”.

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