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Each section of the three parts of the mind develops at a particular age, first to develop is the ID. When a baby is born, it’s mind is bombarded with instinctual drives which are collectively called the ID. The ID only wants its desires fulfilled, and works on the pleasure principle where only pleasure is seeked and instant gratification is required and the baby goes into a state of panic if it does not get what it wants.
It does not consider what is realistic nor does it have the ability to be logical or to consider what is moral. These limitations arise because the ID has no real awareness, it is just a collection of urges, it influences the mind by exerting pressure upon it and gives a feeling of release when the urges are fulfilled. According to Freud, these drives express themselves as sexuality and aggression and are located totally in the unconscious.
A babys main concern is fulfilment of its biological drives until around the second or third year when the second portion of the mind develops which is the ego. The mind starts of by being totally ID but by this point the upper portion of the ID is modified by the babies experiences with the outside world forming the ego. The baby learns that it’s urges cannot always be fulfilled and the newly formed ego must control how much of the IDs urges are allowed to be expressed. Unlike the ID which is just a collection of instinctual drives, the ego can think about things, it can observe reality and decide what is rational and realistic.
The ego is what allows the mind to act, it is like our will. It exists at each of the levels of consciousness, the unconscious, preconscious and conscious. Beginning at the age of around 5, a portion of the ego is modified and becomes the third part of our mind called the superego. The superego is our conscience, it attributes our sense of right and wrong, it is a collection of moral lessons we have learned from our parents, society and organised religion. The superego uses its skills to punish the ego if it misbehaves and rewards it with pride if it complies with its wishes. Much like the ID, the superego thinks nothing about what is realistic. It wants moral perfection.
The ID and the Superego are always battling each other for control of one’s behaviours so the egos main job is to mediate between these two and chooses which one gets to express itself. Regardless of the ego being its own section of the mind, the ego finds itself constantly mediating between the two as well as taking into account the external world “We are warned by a proverb against serving two masters at the same time. The poor ego has things even worse: it serves three severe masters and does what it can to bring their claims and demands into harmony with one another.” (Freud S. 1933.)
This is done in an attempt to keep the mind in a harmonious state as if the ID expresses itself too much, a person can act in ways that are inappropriate or destructive, similarly if the superego has too much freedom a person can become a ridged perfectionist. The superego has requirements that are so severe that a person could never live upto them leading to constant feelings of guilt. Similarly to the ego, the superego is located throughout all three levels of consciousness.
Freud believes that a mentally healthy person has a strong ego, keeping the ID and superego balanced because if they became imbalanced mental illness would result. Anxiety is a signal to the ego that it is facing a situation which demands action, it could be that the ID or superego is becoming too dominant or it could be a situation in which there is a moral dilemma involved in which case, the ID and superego are battling for who is going to be expressed.
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