When considering the id, the first thought that comes to mind is that we owe its invention, as we know it, and theoretical explanation to the work of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud(1856-1939 . Freud devised ways to treat mental illnesses and disorders, based on his belief that the unconscious and subconscious mind are what drive human behavior. Given that he developed a theory that there are three parts of each personality, the id, ego and superego, it is difficult to state the role of one without mentioning the other two. It may be useful to define the purpose of each of the parts, before considering the role the id plays in personality.
According to Freud, the id represents the unconscious fears, emotions, desires and instincts that would rise to the surface through dreams or mental illness. The ego, he believed, develops from the id, and enabled the human being, during childhood, to connect and negotiate, making sense of the world on a thinking, rational level. The superego is the more idealistic, moral aspect of personality, seeking to follow the rules and values of the society in which the person exists. The ego takes on the role of a common sense negotiator that strikes a balance between the selfish id and the sometimes unrealistic, over-careful limitations of the superego.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the id in operation is to link it to Freud’s idea that babies are all id, selfish, full of fear, instinct and emotion, demanding to be dealt with immediately. That “baby” is always present in the psyche and plays a part in every single individual personality, depending on the circumstances in which they find themselves.
The id might be thought of as the very deepest level of personality. The most primitive needs such as hunger, sex, anger, love and so on, are what are driven by the id. They all require or demand satisfaction or gratification. So the role of the id is most significant in the human personality. Even when the ego and the superego come into play in the unconscious and subconscious mind, modifying or restricting demands, there is no getting away from the powerful presence of the id.
That presence manifests itself in many ways. When we act on impulse to have what we want and damn the consequences, as indeed we all do at some point or other, then that is the id in action. Basic instincts are powerful primitive drivers that play a role in the personality. The id can motivate us to try harder so that those basic, primitive needs are satisfied, or can cause conflict, as we struggle to reach a reasonable balance with the world (ego) or to stick to higher moral values (superego). At any rate, these are the definitions derived from Freud’s theories and generally accepted in some form or another for the last century or so.
The id would seem to be the force that drives us to meet our own needs – at once – and to hell with anyone who gets in the way! On the positive side of the coin, the id could be said to act as a means of self-preservation and protection, helping the individual to survive in a harsh world. The negative effect of the id on a personality could be to make the individual selfish, immoral, uncaring and possibly even dangerous. With too much emotion, not enough rational thought, and no concern for higher values, these are aspects of the id that do play a part in the personalities of what society might consider to be problematical. Yet we all possess and use the forces of the id throughout life.
It could be said that our instincts, needs, emotions and impulses are motivational factors that originate in the id, and each of us has them within our personality. Further in-depth reading is available int the works of Freud, particularly his book,written in1923, “The Ego and the Id.”