Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 33

A newborn infant is the personification of an id unencumbered by restrictions
of ego and superego. The infant seeks gratification of needs without regard for
what is possible (that is, demands of the ego) or what is proper (that is, restraints
of the superego). Instead, it sucks when the nipple is either present or absent and
gains pleasure in either situation. Although the infant receives life-sustaining food
only by sucking a nurturing nipple, it continues to suck because its id is not in
contact with reality. The infant fails to realize that thumb-sucking behavior cannot
sustain life. Because the id has no direct contact with reality, it is not altered by
the passage of time or by the experiences of the person. Childhood wish impulses
remain unchanged in the id for decades (Freud, 1933/1964).
Besides being unrealistic and pleasure seeking, the id is illogical and can
simultaneously entertain incompatible ideas. For example, a woman may show
conscious love for her mother while unconsciously wishing to destroy her. These
opposing desires are possible because the id has no morality; that is, it cannot make
value judgments or distinguish between good and evil. However, the id is not
immoral, merely amoral. All of the id’s energy is spent for one purpose—to seek
pleasure without regard for what is proper or just (Freud, 1923/1961a, 1933/1964).
In review, the id is primitive, chaotic, inaccessible to consciousness,
unchangeable, amoral, illogical, unorganized, and filled with energy received from
basic drives and discharged for the satisfaction of the pleasure principle.
As the region that houses basic drives (primary motivates), the id operates
through the primary process. Because it blindly seeks to satisfy the pleasure
principle, its survival is dependent on the development of a secondary process to
bring it into contact with the external world. This secondary process functions
through the ego.

The Ego

The ego, or I, is the only region of the mind in contact with reality. It grows out
of the id during infancy and becomes a person’s sole source of communication
with the external world. It is governed by the reality principle, which it tries to
substitute for the pleasure principle of the id. As the sole region of the mind in
contact with the external world, the ego becomes the decision-making or executive
branch of personality. However, because it is partly conscious, partly preconscious,
and partly unconscious, the ego can make decisions on each of these three levels.
For instance, a woman’s ego may consciously motivate her to choose excessively
neat, well-tailored clothes because she feels comfortable when well dressed. At the
same time, she may be only dimly (i.e., preconsciously) aware of previous experi-
ences of being rewarded for choosing nice clothes. In addition, she may be uncon-
sciously motivated to be excessively neat and orderly due to early childhood
experiences of toilet training. Thus, her decision to wear neat clothes can take place
in all three levels of mental life.
When performing its cognitive and intellectual functions, the ego must take
into consideration the incompatible but equally unrealistic demands of the id and
the superego. In addition to these two tyrants, the ego must serve a third master—
the external world. Thus, the ego constantly tries to reconcile the blind, irrational
claims of the id and the superego with the realistic demands of the external world.

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