Introduction to Sigmund Freuds I’d Ego and Super Ego Concepts

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Most readers will have some understanding of the term psychoanalysis', and the work of the Austrian psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). One of the many things Freud was made famous for was his division of mind theory, which was based on the way innate desires and repressed emotions shape individual human behaviour'. For example, according to Freudian thinking, violent, aggressive or sexually deviant acts could be seen as expressions of buried internal conflicts that are the result of traumas or deprivations experienced during childhood.

This theory can be linked to many scenarios, but for purposes of this article, attention will be focussed around violent, aggressive and sexually deviant behaviour. When trying to understand the thought processes of those individuals who participate in such activity, Freud's division of mind theory plays an integral part, and potentially provides sought after answers as to why they do.

To fully appreciate Freud's division of mind theory, one must first understand how Freud perceived the human mind. In simple terms, Freud argued that the mind was comprised of three provinces: the ego, the id, and the super-ego. He described the id as representing the primitive, instinctive, animalistic portion of the unconscious mind'. Furthermore, it is felt that this is where the primeval human desires reside, and fundamental biological and physiological concerns such as innate sexual urges present themselves.

The id is seen to be primarily concerned with the life instinct or drive for life, the destructive death instinct, and the desire to eat, sleep and be comfortable. As it can be seen here, the goal of the id is to simply gratify instincts at any costs. Freud identified that unconscious desires and urges that are driven by the id are completely dismissive of the demands of reality, and are instead governed by what he termed the pleasure principle'. If consideration is given to violent, sexually or aggressive deviant acts, that potentially result in criminal activity, it can be seen that if the id is left to its own devices, it will very much be the driving force in carrying out such activity.

Freud's second province relates to the ego, and primarily relates to the conscious mind'. The ego is seen to act as a sort of mediating device' between the id and the super-ego. Because of the conscious recognition within the individual that every act has a consequence', Freud claimed that the ego was driven by the reality principle'. Here, when considering violent, aggressive or sexually deviant acts, the development of the ego plays an essential part, as it can be seen as the voice of reason. It will make a balance between what is right and wrong, where the outcome will ultimately depend on an individual's concept of reality.

Finally, the largely conscious super-ego is seen as the repository of moral values and the seat of guilt within the individual'. Freud thought that the best way to describe the super-ego was to consider it as a sort of internal nagging parent or moral or ethical guardian'. The super-ego is considered to develop as a result of a series of early childhood social experiences, which has the purpose of shaping an individual into adulthood, and is based on self-criticism and the production of guilt'. Furthermore, when considering violent, aggressive or sexually deviant acts, it can be seen that early experiences in an individual's childhood may contribute in shaping the way those individuals act in certain situations. However, if those early childhood experiences are not positive ones, then this is the foundation an individual is stuck with when developing into adulthood. If this is the case, it would appear that this either initially opens the door, or keeps the door open for certain deviant acts throughout an individual's life. Furthermore, due to the fact individuals will have already been exposed to certain behaviour, this will be considered their norm'.

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