An Introduction to Freuds Personality Theory

Dr. Sigmund Freud changed the world by changing the way people think about the human brain. His ideas have become so popular people often don’t even question ideas like the subconscious and the id. Yet there is more to Freud’s personality theory than most people know.

At its most basic Dr. Sigmund Freud’s personality theory explains humans personalities and internal conflicts by separating the personality into three distinct parts, the id, the ego and the superego¹. These three components create the personality. This is the basis for Freudian psychoanalysis and much of moderns psychology even if the ideas are not always accepted they should still be understood.

The id is the most basic part of who people are. This can be best explained by calling it instinct. It is the part of humans that wants pleasure and nothing else. A baby is effectively entirely id which means it is controlled entirely by its biological needs. It will cry when it wants something and doesn’t think or care about how that will effect anyone else. Although the other parts of the personality will help control the id it is always part of human nature and attempting to ignore this causes considerable problems. This id is also more or less the same in all humans and has very little

The ego begins to develop around the age two or three. The ego is the learned behavior that controls the id. The ego is what lets people make informed decisions rather than simply doing whatever is most expedient. Ideas like delayed gratification are originated in the ego. Ego follows the “reality principle”² because it helps to deal with reality by dealing with things effectively and avoiding things that are inappropriate. The ego is rational but is not moral. It adheres to social norms because that is expedient.

The superego is the moral guide of the personality. It is the idea of the conscience which make us feel guilty when we do something that goes against our morality. The superego will generally be established about the age of seven, and is controlled by parents, family, friends and society. In addition the ego ideal is also sometimes included in the superego. This is a part of the superego focuses on the overall direction of life.

What makes all of this useful is Freud’s addition of defense mechanisms for the ego in the form of the subconscious³. In this way these stop the ego from being damaged by emotionally traumatic events. This is the idea that leads to Freudian slips as the unconscious reveals information in mistakes.