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Stories about the lives we've made

module:Measuring the unmeasurable

An introduction to psychology

page:Freud's concept of the personality

Freud argued that the human mind and personality are made up of three parts:

The id:
a primitive part of the personality that pursues only pleasure and instant gratification.

The ego:
that part of the personality that is aware of reality and is in contact with the outside world. It is the part that considers the consequences of an action and deals with the demands of the id and superego.

The superego:
contains our social conscience and through the experience of guilt and anxiety when we do something wrong, it guides us towards socially acceptable behaviour.

Freud's theory of the personality

According to Freud, the ego dwells in the conscious mind and the id and superego are in the area of our unconscious. Freud argued that our personality should be in a state of dynamic equilibrium (balance) and if there is too much id, superego or a weak ego then an individual will become unbalanced and possibly suffer from psychological difficulties. This is the basis of the psychoanalytic explanation of mental illness.

Dynamic equilibrium

Open question

Use the descriptions of id, ego and superego above to identify the parts of personality involved in the following scenario. You see a pair of shoes in a shop window that you want to buy, but don’t have enough money. Do you ?|a) buy them anyway, and go into debt.|b) resolve never to buy them|c) organise your finances, save enough money to buy the shoes and make the purchase?

How do the three parts of the personality identified by Freud develop? To explore this question, we will go on to look at Freud's view of the five psychosexual stages of development.

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