Understanding your psyche 

I too had a lot of questions around this topic. Is it the holy spirit, or something in the soul. If it’s not tangible, does it really exist? What is that voice in your head that seems to know, and understand you better than anyone. Well, in one lecture room, on what seemed to be a somber day, sited next to the window overlooking a mortuary in the city, I was lost in my own thoughts of human impermanence, then someone from the back asked the same intriguing question. It was almost like a shout in the middle of an intellectual argument the class was having. This caught my attention. 

Not putting religion and beliefs in the mix, Freud’s idea of the human psyche in my opinion sums it up. Given his controversial theory on the psychosexual stages of human development that I don’t agree with on some parts, his explanation on the human conscious and unconscious mind, makes a lot of sense. See, he tries to explain that the human psyche is divided into a tripartite, the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego, that develops differently throughout the years.  

To simplify it, the Id is the part that seeks immediate gratification, we are talking, irrational and impulsive actions. It operates on pleasure principle, like libido, hunger and eating. If it gets what it wants, then we experience pleasure and tension, if not. It responds immediately to urges and needs. Because it exists in the subconscious, it does not change over time, nor is it influenced by the external world. Meaning, if not put in check, the Id can still take control. A good explanation is an adult experiencing sexual arousal, and defiles a child, because they seek immediate gratification, and nothing else makes sense to them at that moment, not even the consequences. It is a disorder, and we will cover it in a different post.

The Ego is the voice of reason, it’s the conscious part of the psyche, meaning what you are aware of when you think about yourself, and what you try to protect others from. This is the extended part of the Id, that has been influenced by the external world. Hence the Ego will try to reason with the Id’s demands to act only on the socially acceptable things. It follows the reality principle and operates in both conscious and unconscious mind. 

Now this is where it gets interesting, The super-ego. It is the moral component of the psyche, it consists of the ideal self and the conscience. (which we will also cover in a different post.) The super-ego carries all the internalized social values, which are in contrast with Id’s desires, and it does this by rewarding you with positive and happy thoughts when something good has been achieved, or guilt when these standards are not met. The way I see it, the super Ego is like the strict parent that knows exactly what you want, but always says no, insisting that it’s for your own good, and the Ego is like the fun aunt, who will always meet you halfway. A good example is, 

Id: I want this coach, because all my friends have it, and it will look good on Instagram. 

Super-Ego: I can’t have this coach because I’m broke and i have other priorities that are urgent. 

Ego: I will settle all my bills first, then save up for some time, and if I still want the coach I can get it then. 

Interestingly, the Ego uses defense mechanisms to control the super-ego, when it becomes overbearing. Same way a parent puts a child on time out,. However, when either of them gets very dominant over the other, and too much psyche energy is used, we develop mental illnesses. The point is there has to be a balance. 

When you go through therapy, tracing your steps back to that time of your life where these issues first developed, and identify the causes. Then you change the maladaptive defenses, that you adopted in response to the imbalance, and everything is brought to an equilibrium. Subsequently, you begin to see positive changes because the incongruence has been solved.

I hope this gave you some insights, you can read in detail about Freud and his theory of personality below.

link- Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc





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