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ID, Ego and Superego

Elements of Personality
Definition: the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an
individual's distinctive character.
In Psychology, it is believed that our personality is made up of three
elements or principles. These three elements together form the
complex human behavior. The three elements are :
1. Id
2. Ego
3. Superego
These three elements were proposed by Sigmund Freud in his
‘Psychoanalytic theory of Personality’. According to him, a balanced
and healthy personality would have a balance of Id, Ego and Superego.
ID (or it)
 The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It
consists of all the inherited (i.e. biological) components of
personality, including the sex instinct – Eros (which contains the
libido), and the aggressive instinct - Thanatos.
 The id is the only component of personality that is present from
 The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive
illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented.
How does id operate?
 The id is driven by the immediate fulfillment of all desires, wants, and
 If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state
anxiety or tension.
 Example: “Sally was thirsty. Rather than waiting for the server to refill
her glass of water, she reached across the table and drank from Mr.
Smith’s water glass, much to his surprise.”
Ego (or I)
 The ego is the component of personality that is responsible for
dealing with reality.
 According to Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that
the desires of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the
real world.
 The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply
if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or to
the id.
How does ego operate?
 The ego operates to satisfy the id's desires in realistic and socially
appropriate ways.
 It weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act
upon or abandon impulses.
 Example: “Sally was thirsty. However, she knew that her server would
be back soon to refill her water glass, so she waited until then to get
a drink, even though she really just wanted to drink from Mr. Smith’s
Superego (or above I)
 The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our
internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both
parents and society - our sense of right and wrong.
 The superego provides guidelines for making judgments.
 According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five.
How does superego operate?
 The primary action of the superego is to entirely suppress any urges or
desires of the id that are considered wrong or socially unacceptable.
 It tries to force the ego to act morally rather than realistically. Finally,
the superego strives for moral perfections, without taking reality into
 Example: “Sarah knew that she could steal the supplies from work and
no one would know about it. However, she knew that stealing was
wrong, so she decided not to take anything even though she would
probably never get caught.”