The Ego and the ID, 1923, by Sigmund Freud
The Ego and the ID is one of Freud's most insightful work into the subconscious. Although Freud did not invent the idea of the subconscious, he did play a major role in popularizing it. It was an important breakthrough in treating mental conditions. Before he began to advance his theories, it was wrongly believed that all mental problems originated from physiological processes. In this book, Freud suggests the actions of man are because of two other parts of his mind. Freud suggested that these parts were the superego and the id. He also suggested that the largest part of man's mind was the id. It was his belief that most mental illness could be treated by bringing the id to the surface through psychoanalysis.
According to Freud, the id had the greatest influence on our lives, although we were unaware of it. Freud suggested that this part of our mind was the motivation for most of our sexual desires and all other activities that we passionately pursued. He further stated that this drive for our lives mainly remained hidden because we were too ashamed to face them. As a result, our minds developed a mechanism to keep them buried deep in our subconscious.
Freud suggested that the id was driven purely by needs and wants. For instance, when a child was born they tended to engage in fits of crying when they needed something. Freud suggested this was the id in its raw form without any inhibitions. The reason given was that the newborn baby had no understanding of what their body wanted, yet their brain still expressed a need. However, over the course of the child's life, they would become conscious. As a result, throughout one's life, they develop a link to the physical world, primarily designed to feed the desires and needs of the id.
However, throughout the ego's interactions with the physical world, it comes upon various hurdles as it tries to please the id. These hurdles may be in form of punishment, rewards, societal admonishment and others. As a result, a child develops a sense of fear and guilt. All these punishments, fear and guilt are recorded in a person's recent memory. However, they are suppressed from conscious thought and only emerge due to certain triggers. This part of the brain where these memories were stored, Freud referred to as the superego. The superego can be divided further into two; the first part was named the conscience, which develops because of various punishments and suggestions of consequences throughout the individual's life. The other part is called the ego ideal. This part of a person's brain originates from positive reinforcement throughout the child's life. In essence, the superego represents a way that society conditions one to fulfill their desires. However, at times the desires of the id come into conflict with what the superego wants. As a result, this leads to deviant behavior seen in human beings.
Freud further suggested that in the human mind there existed two opposing and equal forces. He named these forces the forces of life and death. Freud suggests the Eros or the force of love was responsible for life. It was his belief that this was the primary force for sex and thus procreation. Besides that, the life force leads human beings to desire to find food and shelter and comfort for their body, thus it is the force to live. However, Freud noted that all life ended in death. Consequently, he began to believe that there must exist another force, which led the human being to want to die. This force he named Thanatos'. He associated this was with aggressive tendencies in human beings, which led them to have a desire to destroy all life on earth.
Freud discussed that cruelty and aggression to other life on earth was a projection of this death force. Freud also suggested that sometimes, this force was directed inwards. For instance, the desire of human beings to engage in drug abuse, despite the knowledge of the deadly consequences they pose. Another example Freud gave is the presence of suicidal thoughts in a sizeable amount of the human population.
In this book, Freud also explains the three types of anxiety. The first type of anxiety is fear. This type of fear comes because of the body's desire for self-preservation. For instance, if someone were to point a gun at you, the first feeling one experiences is fear. It is simply a desire by the body to save itself. The second type of anxiety according to Freud is moral anxiety'. Freud explains this type of anxiety originates form the superego. In other words, this type of anxiety is simply a fear of punishment. It is also driven by guilt. The third type of fear, which requires psychoanalytical treatment, is neurotic. This type of anxiety originates from the id; it can be described as a feeling of loss of control. As a result, it was a requirement that a psychiatrist bring the cause of the fear to the conscious in order to treat it.
In order to deal with anxiety, the mind has ways of dealing with theses tense situations. One of the most rudimentary ways is through denial. For instance, a student may decide not to pick their results knowing that they performed dismally. Another common form of defense is the mind's ability to repress bad occurrences. Another form of defense mechanisms that is of great significance is undoing. In this situation, a person comes up with a made up ritual to attempt to deal with a certain situation. It is quite clear that the human mind has a way of dealing with many situations. All these defense mechanism tend to shape how a person relates to society, according to Freud.
Freud's work was greatly flawed. However, his work does have a lot of influence on modern developments in psychology. Freud's groundbreaking into talking patients back to health cannot be underestimated. His theories helped to revolutionize the way people thought of the human mind. While some of his work has been rejected, it was his investigations that led to an immense intense in psychoanalytical treatment. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that his original work has benefited humanity greatly.