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Structural Theory of Personality and Its Dynamics By Freud

Structural Theory of Personality and Its Dynamics 

To understand the dynamics of an individual’s conflicts, Freud postulated constructs that allowed him to describe the ways in which these parts of personality originated and interacted with one another dynamically to influence behavior. He proposed three systems of the mind—id, ego, and superego—that compete for the limited amount of psychic energy available, the energy that has its starting point in the instinctual needs of the individual.


  • Id
 Freud considered the id to be the original aspect of personality, rooted in the biology of the individual, and to consist of unconscious sexual and aggressive instincts. These instincts might operate jointly in different situations to affect our behavior. For example, we might find ourselves hating and acting aggressively toward parents whom we dearly love, or we might feel sexually attracted to an arrogant and obnoxious person with whom we are continually arguing. Freud likened the id to a “seething cauldron” that contains powerful and primitive urges and desires. He believed that these urges insistently and indiscriminately seek expression in external reality. Thus, the id is amoral and unconcerned with the niceties and conventions of society. It operates according to the pleasure principle: the aim of these impulses is always immediate and complete discharge and satisfaction. The pleasure principle maintains that people always strive to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

  • Ego
 Clearly, we do not live in a social vacuum, and cannot simply do whatever we wish whenever we want something. Adults who act impulsively are called immature or childish; mature conduct demands that we control our impulses in a wide variety of situations. For Freud, this control becomes possible when the ego is differentiated from the id. The ego, in his view, is the organized aspect of the id, formed to provide real direction for the person’s id impulses. It comes into existence because the needs of the person require appropriate transactions with the environment if they are to be satisfied. The ego, therefore, develops partially to carry out the aims of the id. There is a dynamic interaction between the two structures. At the same time, it functions to keep the impulses of the id in check until a suitable object is found.


  • Super Ego
  •  The superego is the construct Freud used to describe the individual’s internalization of societal values. These values are instilled in the person primarily by parents, who teach which behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate in given situations. The superego thus represents a set of learned ideas. Freud eventually described the superego as having two major components, conscience, and the ego-ideal. Conscience is acquired through the use of punishment by the parents; the ego-ideal is learned through the use of rewards. 
    When we do something wrong, our conscience makes us feel guilty; when we obey our parents and win their approval by performing in socially accepted ways, we feel proud. The major functions of the superego are to inhibit the urges of the id, to persuade the ego to substitute moralistic goals for realistic ones and to strive for perfection. Thus, the superego interacts dynamically with the id and ego.

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