Freuds Theory of the Ego

For a long time, I believed that the ego was something rather negative. To be described as having “a big ego” or needing the “ego massaged,” suggested a person full of their own importance who demanded to be given the utmost attention. Some celebrities come to mind. In simple terms, the ego can be defined as that part of the mind that reacts to, and processes reality, along with a well-developed sense of personal individuality. Which, I suppose, is where misunderstanding comes from, as well as the meaning of ego as a form of self esteem. If somebody respects their own individuality and has self esteem in plenty, they may be misinterpreted as selfish or self-centered. That is not the case, as will be seen when answering the question, “What is an ego?”

The concept of ego comes from the theories of Sigmund Freud and is one of three parts of the human personality, the others being the id and the superego. According to Freud, as babies and small children, we humans are very much id, meaning that we are driven by unconscious, instinctive impulses that demand immediate gratification. Think of how a baby screams to be fed, reassured and loved, demanding its basic needs of hunger and emotions are satisfied. Nothing else matters, that is the id working. Then along comes the ego, as the baby grows to childhood.

That ego allows the child to find its way through the ways of the world, consciously weighing things up, taking a realistic view of life experiences and events. The child comes to understand the “I” of him or herself, beginning to know who and what he or she is, in relation to the world they encounter. The ego is, in fact, the rational, conscious part of the mind, fully aware, able to understand internal and external situations.

The wonderful power of the ego, Freud believed, is that it acts to mediate between the excessive selfishness of the impulsive, unconscious instincts of the id, and the often unrealistic idealism of the superego. The superego is constrained by morality and societal values that place limitations on the personality and integrated functioning of the individual.

Thus it would seem, that no matter what we call it, having an ego is good. It allows us to think clearly and rationally about everything the world throws at us, without letting too much emotion or too much restriction impede our judgement. It helps us to be more self-aware and to value the “I” that is our integral personality, as well as increasing self esteem. The ego will create a balance between the selfishness of basic, driven instinct and the demands of an over-censorious conscience.

The ego is the thinking self, the vital component that helps to define the individual. It helps us to manage life, to understand ourself and the world. If somebody wants to massage it to make us feel better, then just enjoy the praise. Be glad your ego is in place and working to full capacity. That way lies a happier, more balanced progression through life.