Intrapsychic Theory of Sigmund Freud

Intrapsychic Theory of Sigmund Freud : Freud remains the most influential theorist in the areas of personality. According to Freud the human mind is composed of three elements :
(a) the preconscious,
(b) the conscious,
(c) the unconscious.

The items in the mind that can be recognised only through Freud’s association methods are “preconscious”. The “conscious” element is concerned with thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires that we probe during introspection. The final component “unconscious” is basically concerned with ideas and wishes that cannot be learned through introspection but can be determined by hypnotism, analysis of dreams, and Freudian therapeutic techniques. According to Freud the “conscious” is guided by a “reasoned reality” principle and the “unconscious” is guided by the famous “hedonistic principle” of pleasure.

Freud developed an organisation of personality consisting of three structures within the human mind; the id, the ego, and the superego. These parts of the mind are primarily responsible for originating human actions and reactions and modifications.

The Id : It is the original and the most basic system of human personality. At the base of the Freudian theory lies that id that is primitive, instinctual and governed by the principles of greed and pleasure. Id represents a storehouse of all instincts, containing in its dark depths all wishes, and desires that unconsciously direct and determines our behaviour.

Id is largely childish, irrational, never satisfied, demanding and destructive of others. But id is the foundation upon which all other parts of personality are erected. Like a newly born baby id has no perception of reality. It is primitive, immoral, insistent and rash. Id is the reservoir of the “psychic energy” which Freud calls “Libido”. According to Freud id is totally oriented towards increasing pleasure and avoiding pain, and it strives for immediate satisfaction of desires.

One notable characteristic of id is that it cannot tolerate uncomfortable levels of tension within it and seeks to release the tension as soon as it develops. The methods for dealing with tension by id are primary processes and reflex actions. The former attempts to discharge a tension by forming a mental image of desirable means of releasing the tension. But his kind of tension release is temporary and mental and would not satisfy the real need. Id basically represents an individual’s natural urges and feelings.

Ego : As an individual learns to separate the unreality from reality in childhood, the ego develops. The ego is reality-oriented part of thinking; it is largely practical and works in an executive capacity. Ego is rational and logical, and in essence, it is the conscious mediator between the realities of world and the id’s demands. It constantly works to keep a healthy psychological balance between id’s impulsive demands and superego’s restrictive guidance. Ego is rational master.

The ego is said to be the executive part of the personality because it controls the gateway to action, selects the features of the environment to which it will respond, and decides what instincts will be satisfied. The most important characteristic of ego is that it has the ability to distinguish between mental images and actual sources of tension release, and it responds to the real sources of tension reduction.
The ego performs this task by :
1. Observing accurately what exists in the outside world (perceiving).
2. Recording these experiences carefully (remembering) and
3. Modifying the external world in such a way as to satisfy the instinctual wishes (acting).

Superego : Superego represents noblest thoughts, ideals, feelings that are acquired by a person from his parents, teachers, friends, religion, organisation and colleagues etc. As a child grows and absorbs parental and cultural attitudes and values, he develops superego. Super ego is the moralistic segment of the human personality.

The primary concern of superego is to determine whether the action proposed by “ego” is right or wrong so that the individual acts in accordance with the values and standards of the society. If people violate the prohibitions of superego they may feel guilty.

The superego acts as a censor on the individual and as a censor a too strong superego is likely to be in constant and pronounced battle with the id. Freud says that the ego’s role is to mediate between the id and superego. A personality becomes disorderly when either the id or superego becomes dominant. At the same time, it should be noted that when too much energy is consumed by ego in mediating between the id and superego, an individual’s personal development will suffer (or adversely affected).

Psychoanalysis, while acknowledged as having a powerful influence, has been seriously questioned as a scientific theory. This theory is criticised on methodological grounds. Further, Freud’s theory is criticised because it is largely untestable since his constructs are difficult to define and are ambiguous.


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