Freud believed that information in the unconscious emerges in slips of
the tongue, jokes, dreams, illness symptoms, and the associations people
make between ideas.
The Id, the Ego, and the Superego
Freud proposed that personalities have three components: the id, the
ego, and the superego.
- Id: a reservoir of instinctual energy that contains
biological urges such as impulses toward survival, sex, and aggression.
The id is unconscious and operates according to the pleasure
principle, the drive to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The
id is characterized by primary process thinking, which is
illogical, irrational, and motivated by a desire for the immediate
gratification of impulses.
- Ego: the component that manages the conflict between
the id and the constraints of the real world. Some parts of the ego are
unconscious, while others are preconscious or conscious. The ego
operates according to the reality principle, the awareness
that gratification of impulses has to be delayed in order to accommodate
the demands of the real world. The ego is characterized by
secondary process thinking, which is logical and
rational. The ego’s role is to prevent the id from gratifying its
impulses in socially inappropriate ways.
- Superego: the moral component of personality. It
contains all the moral standards learned from parents and society. The
superego forces the ego to conform not only to reality but also to its
ideals of morality. Hence, the superego causes people to feel guilty
when they go against society’s rules. Like the ego, the superego
operates at all three levels of awareness.
Freud believed that the id, the ego, and the superego are in constant
conflict. He focused mainly on conflicts concerning sexual and aggressive
urges because these urges are most likely to violate societal rules.
Internal conflicts can make a person feel anxious. In Freud’s view,
anxiety arises when the ego cannot adequately balance the demands of the id
and the superego. The id demands gratification of its impulses, and the
superego demands maintenance of its moral standards.