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Sigmund Freud's Layers of the Self

Sigmund Freud's Layers of the Self
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  • 0:02 Freud
  • 0:30 Id
  • 1:57 Ego
  • 2:29 Superego
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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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.

Freud

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.

Id

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.

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.

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