Sigmund Freud's Layers of the Self

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Proofs of God

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Freud
  • 0:30 Id
  • 1:57 Ego
  • 2:29 Superego
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore Sigmund Freud's theories concerning the layers of self. In doing this, it will highlight how the id, ego, and superego play out in the lives of all of us.


Despite the fact that most of his theories have been tossed out by modern psychology, people still get a kick out of Freud. This probably has a bunch to do with his peculiar theories on human sexuality, though his work goes much further than that, and while psychology has largely gone in a different direction, Freud's works are still studied. As a famous neurologist and the creator of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud postulated there are three layers of self within us all. To highlight this part of his efforts, let's take a look at what he described as the id, the ego, and the superego.


We'll get things moving with the id. According to Freud, id is the first part of the self to develop. It's the seat of all our desires and wants. Id has no awareness other than it wants what it wants.

For the id, instant gratification is the name of the game. Id doesn't care about morals or societal norms. It just knows it wants what it wants post haste! To put it in a nutshell, id is a collection of urges fighting to be fulfilled. If you will, it's the little devil on everyone's shoulder.

To describe id, we can think of an infant. Whereas a teenager might be able to look at the clock and realize there's still an hour before dinner, a newborn will simply start to cry when it's hungry. The little one has no consciousness of time, nor does it have the capacity to reason that its urge for food might be inconveniencing another. Its little tummy is saying 'feed me now' and that's all that matters! In the same manner, our id, our unconscious collection of urges, doesn't reason. It just wants what it wants and that's all there is to it.

Of course, as a baby progresses into childhood it begins to understand that every need can't be immediately met. With maturity also comes the realization that some needs should definitely not be met, especially those that are illegal or immoral. In the same manner, we humans form another layer of self that grasps these concepts. This layer is known as the ego.


According to Dr. Freud, ego is the part of us that functions in reality. Sort of like a human tollgate, the ego regulates how many of the id's urges will be expressed. In other words, while the id is totally irrational, the ego is able to discern what is right or wrong based on context. Using our above example, the ego is at work when a teenager decides to wait for dinner rather than raiding the pantry and spoiling his appetite.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account