Instincts drive and direct behavior, the goal of which is the satisfaction of needs derived from the instincts. Needs create tension, and behavior is directed towards reduction of this tension. This concept of needs is called the Pleasure Principle, the attempt to keep excitation or tension as low as possible. In practice this is the desire for immediate gratification. Freud ascribed the appropriate directional functioning to what he termed the Id, which included other genetically inherent features, such as the impulse to love and to seek gratification. The Id strives to bring about the satisfaction of instinctual needs on the basis of the pleasure principle. The Id represents the inner world that has no knowledge of objective reality. Its psychic processes are primary processes – undirected attempts at immediate satisfaction. It is not governed by logic; it contains contradictory yet co-existent impulses. It is the individual’s primary subjective reality at the unconscious level.
The Id can do no more than formulate a necessity, so the Ego is invoked. It develops from the Id because of the organism’s need to cope with external reality for the satisfaction of its instinctual requirements. Freud described the Ego as a regulating agent and an intermediary, registering demands and meeting requirements, which in turn necessitates coordination with the environment – the world of reality. Although it seeks pleasure and the avoidance of pain, the Ego is under the influence of the Reality Principle, which is the delay of immediate gratification in recognition of social requirements or higher needs. It operates by means of secondary processes – perception, problem solving, and repression – that is, realistic, logical thinking and reality testing.
The pleasure principle drives one to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. However, as one matures, one learns to be reasonable about this because of the exigencies and obstacles of reality, which need to be taken account of to be able to obtain pleasure in the longer term. An inner-directed person takes an objective and rational account of reality to fulfill the needs of life (see Maslow), working toward a higher goal of individuation through self-actualization.
Note: from the viewpoint of Mind Development, the Ego may be regarded as the conscious identity currently manifested by the Being: the Ego is always smaller than the Self, i.e. the complete personality comprising Id, Ego and Superego, which is itself a sub-set of the transpersonal or Higher Self.
The Ego is a mature adult function, but until the Ego is fully developed, the multifarious safety and acceptance demands of the environment are dealt with by the function of the Superego. The Superego is an internalized model of the social reality, which gives emphasis to the authority figures within that reality. It can be modeled as a storehouse of ‘tapes’ containing commands, threats and injunctions, frequently in the actual voices of the parental figures. Karen Horney, a Neo-Freudian, also talks of the Patripsyche, the internalized Father figure, the loudest of all the voices. The incorporation of parental and social standards is called introjection. When developed, the Ego may replace Superego introjections with its own ideals, based on its own reality testing.
Persons with a strong Ego (see Ego-Autonomy) can objectively comprehend both the world and themselves. In other words, they are possessed of insight. They are able to contemplate longer time spans, plan, forecast and schedule. They choose decisively among alternatives and follow their resolve. They are aware of the existence of their drives, but control them and channel them in socially acceptable ways. They resist pressures, social or otherwise. They choose their course and pursue it. The weaker the Ego is, the more infantile and impulsive its owner, the more distorted his or her perception of self and reality.
In Freud’s theory, the Ego mediates among the Id, the Superego and the external world. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives, morals, and reality while satisfying the Id and Superego. Its main concern is with the individual’s safety and allows some of the Id’s desires to be expressed, but only when consequences of these actions are marginal. Ego defense mechanisms are often used by the Ego when Id behavior conflicts with reality and either society’s morals, norms, and taboos or the individual’s expectations as a result of the internalization of these morals, norms, and taboos.
The Ego therefore is associated with a set of cognitive functions such as reality-testing, defense mechanisms, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory.
The Superego in Freud is a piece of the higher Id which has direct access to the Ego and is society’s representative in the psyche. Superego includes a psychic structure that acts in regulating the relationship between the instinctual drives and Ego, and the outside world. The concept of superego formation involves the process by which prohibitions and restraints, once externally imposed, become internalized. Then the actual presence of the original prohibiting persons is no longer required. We use the term internalization to describe that process by which the Ego forms inner or psychic representations of objects that had originally influenced the child from without.
The Superego includes a conscious set of ideals, the pattern to which the individual consciously tries to adapt his life, and an unconscious set of prohibitions which attempt to prevent the direct expression of Id impulses. The conscious ideals are formed primarily through imitation of the parents, but throughout childhood and into adolescence they are further influenced by many of the adults with whom the child has contact. The unconscious prohibitions are formed very early in life from internalized parental ideals and prohibitions.
The voice of inner guidance is pounded to silence from such a young age. Often pegged the “Id”, we are expressly informed this self of drives, immediate gratification, and desire is savage and primitive, because it seeks only pleasure, without taking into account reality. Fulfillment of instinctual needs, avoidance of pain.
But the primitive Self has so much wisdom to provide us.
The idea of the Superego holding a “conscious” set of ideals is, IMHO, false. I do not believe the internalization of society’s standards, values, and “prohibitions”, its “‘tapes’ containing commands ” as Mr. Mitchell so rightfully states, are assumed in a conscious way. These are influences that become unconscious. They are voices of others’ others which assume to be, our own, inconspicuously, and at times insidiously. We must be constantly aware that there are literally voices in our heads which are not our own.
Where does the inner voice come from? Is it the id, through the lens of the societally-aware ego? Is it the superego being quieted, and the ego peering back to the id, seeking the guidance of primal impulses that are seemingly in the DNA?
Perhaps Freud missed out a bit; his structure is all very self-contained. IMHO again, I believe there is a “higher” self, a Self outside primitive drives, the soul, perhaps – a self which encompasses all aspects of the “lower” self, and has even chosen them. Meaning, the messages you were fed as a child, thereby producing your superego, were agreements your soul made before they manifested on this plane. The “drives” programmed within you were all perfectly selected. Life is so very intricate and perfect, nothing was unchosen; that which you were given was always yours. But the self speaks through us, through the lower selves, and gives us a voice and expression that is uniquely our own, through our gut impulses. Is it indeed a drive toward pleasure?
I think so. It has often been said that your truth feels good; that which does not feel good to you is not your truth. And higher states of consciousness, well, they feel very, very pleasurable. If our Id drives us toward pleasure, there is nothing more ecstatic than that.
It’s unbelievable how hard it is to listen to that voice. Often it sends us the impulse to do things outside of our comfort zone. To turn away an opportunity, or to let something go, shed something from our lives – even if it is a thing that everyone tells us is “good” for us, or “makes sense” and is sensible – in order to create the space for something else, space for the unknown. How terrifying- the unknown!
The theme of my personal life lately has been to create space. I have been creating space in my home, clearing out the old, making room for the new, and the new has already begun its entrance. I have been creating space in my mind, uncording myself from old relationships and detaching from old beliefs. And now, my intuition is telling me to create space in my life. To not take on a particular opportunity which would provide me with some financial padding (my ego and superego are really into that guy) and further professional accolades, at the expense of a large chunk of my time. It’s telling me to keep this time open. It’s very, VERY hard to listen to such a voice. Very hard to detach from a professional image of myself which, in all honesty, has always been a path of inner resistance (albeit outer ease – a path well-traveled), but always seemed like the “sensible” route to take.
One of the most important things to do when making a decision reliant on your inner voice, is to be silent about it. It is important to give the voice a chance to speak directly to you, through you, without outside input. It has been battling the outside world all your life; and yes, the outside world has plenty of good advice to give. But if you want to truly hear it, you must listen – and that means not talking to others about it. Letting that dialogue exist within you, not even in your mind but in your heart.
This is a good opportunity to do what I consider body meditation. Rather than being mindful of your thoughts, sit mindfully in your body and examine the nature and place of the idea you’re questioning. Where is it contained? Is it heavy or light, dull or vibrant? Does it hurt, or does it feel excited? What does your gut say? Our bodies do not lie to us. In fact, they manifest truth, often truths unseen to us. So listen to it, and know that the “inner voice” does not only come through words, but also through sensations, smells, images. It conveys itself through that which you pick up around you – so for example, you might pick up on an aspect of other people’s conversation. I once was grappling with guilt over a situation on my way to work and, simultaneously, my ipod switched to a audio recording by Doreen Virtue about forgiveness, and I noticed a person across from me on the train reading a book entitled, “Forgiven.” The card deck I read from also is designed to give voice to the inner Self, because the cards do not have inherent meaning; so when I look at a spread, I automatically know the first read I get on the card is coming through my instincts.
The most important thing is to recognize that fear of the unconventional or unknown is not something to be afraid of. It is supposed to feel uncomfortable when you go down the unbeaten path. Do not build fear into fear, by being afraid of that fear. Embrace it as nervous and powerful energy. And be aware, as has been said in earlier posts, that the past has a powerful pull on your energetic body, and when it feels itself being let go, it reacts and you can feel it. Acknowledge it, and politely slip away. You know where the known path will lead. You can only imagine where the unknown will bring you.
Follow your joy, because it is your truth.
From Mitchell, Gregory. Sigmund Freud & Freudian Psychoanalysis. http://www.mind-development.eu/freud.html