Sigmund Freud was one of the most outstanding psychologists of the 20th century, whose contribution in the development of psychology can hardly be underestimated. In this regard, his theory of personality is particularly significant because this theory has changed consistently views of psychologists as well as average people on the concept of personality and its development. In fact, Freud was one of the first psychologists, who suggested the idea of existence of sub-conscience and hidden desires and inclinations of individuals. At the same time, he has managed to classify accurately human personality, its development and key components. What is more important his theory of personality explains the mechanism how human personality shapes and functions as the result of the struggle between inclinations and desires of individuals, their conscious constraints, and their ego. In fact, Freud’s theory of personality was a considerable leap forward to the development of the modern psychology because this theory suggested basic concepts related to personality and the mechanism of their functioning.
In fact, Freud distinguishes three major elements of human personality, which are in a permanent interaction and struggle. The first element is the Id. According to Freud, the Id is present since the birth of an individual. As the matter of fact, the Id consists of basic human needs. The Id is close to physiological needs of humans and is driven by basic human physiological needs. The Id is deprived of rationalism and evokes strong emotions and desires which make people acting or thinking of action (Engler, 2006). The Id is often irrelevant to the reality because an individual may want something that is unachievable at the moment. For instance, an individual may want to drink but he or she may have no drink at hand. The Id comes first and is present in individuals since the birth. Therefore, the Id is the innate and exists in people since the beginning of their life.
The Ego is another element of human personality, which is shaped in the course of the development of an individual. The Ego is based on the reality principle. This means that the Ego understands the reality of circumstances and reasons prevail in the Ego. What is meant here is the fact that, unlike the Id, which is driven by basic needs of individuals mainly, the Ego considers and evaluates the surrounding reality, desires and wants of an individual and finds the way to satisfy needs and wants of an individual. In contrast to the Id, which is driven by basic needs, the Ego is rational and reasonable because the Ego helps an individual to plan his or her actions and implement the plan to meet his or her needs and wants. For instance, returning to the example of an individual’s desire to have a drink at the Id level, the Ego makes up a plan, namely to take a glass to pour a drink into.
However, the personality of an individual does not end up with the Ego. In terms of his theory of personality, Freud distinguishes one more element of personality, the Superego, or conscience. In fact, the Superego goes beyond the reason and rationalism of the Ego to develop a plan to satisfy basic needs of an individual. Instead, the Superego evaluates possible human action and behavior referring to moral norms and principles and beliefs, which an individual has acquired in the course of his or her development. Freud stood on the ground that the Superego dictated human sense of right and wrong. In such a way, the Superego is the moral judgment of an individual’s personality. Unlike the Ego, which just plans how to act and to meet individual’s goals and needs, the Superego evaluates and justifies an individual’s behavior in terms of good and bad, right and wrong (Hjelle and Ziegler 1992). For instance, in case of the Id’s desire to have a drink and the Ego’s plan to pour a drink, the Superego will consider, which drink to pour and what the effect drinking can have. To put it more precisely, at the Superego level an individual may consider drinking a gin but the Superego may oppose to it because it is bad to an individual’s health, instead, the Superego may push the individual to drinking juice because it is good for an individual’s health and, therefore, right.
However, along with basic needs that drive human desires, wants, needs and actions, Freud distinguished two major forces that drove personality: libido (sex) and aggression (Lombardo and Foschi, 2002). Freud believed that libido and aggression define human actions and affect the behavior of individuals to the extent that they can shape the major traits of the personality of an individual. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Freud viewed the personality development as a steady process which is vulnerable to change and evolution under the impact of human experience. What is meant here is the fact that an individual is born with the Id. However, the individual develops his or her Ego, which shapes reason and objective understanding of the surrounding reality and the self by the individual (Bradberry, 2007). But Freud stressed that human experience could affect how the individual perceives him- or herself. Moreover, the Superego was also vulnerable to the impact of the individual development. What is meant here is the fact that, in the course of the development, the individual acquires certain experience, knowledge, shapes his or her views and beliefs that lay foundation to the individual’s ego and superego. Therefore, the experience of an individual is crucial for the formation of his or her personality. For instance, a psychological trauma an individual has suffered in the early childhood could have had some effects in the adult life of the individual.
PERSONALITY BALANCE AND DEFENCE MECHANISMS
Finally, Freud argued that the Id, Ego and Superego were often in a state of conflict and struggle but the ultimate goal was the establishment of healthy balance between the Id, Ego and Superego. According to Freud, the Ego attempts to find the balance between the Id and Superego. In practice, this means that an alcoholic can have the desire to drink a gin (the desire is driven by the Id) but he or she takes control over his or her desire because the individual understands the negative impact of alcohol on his or her health and behavior (the refusal occurs under the impact of the Superego, which tells an individual that drinking the gin is wrong), and the final decision is taken by the Ego.
However, Freud pointed out that to keep the balance personality could use defense mechanism, including: denial, displacement, intellectualization, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, sublimation, suppression (Santrock, 2008). Defense mechanisms could be applied depending on the situation and individual’s experience. The main point of defense mechanisms is the protection of the Ego from excessive pressure from the part of the Id or Superego.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Freud’s theory of personality has opened wider horizons for the further study of human personality. Freud suggested a new, original view on personality and his innovative ideas laid the foundation to further studies in the field of psychology. At the same time, his view on personality, including its major elements, such as the Id, Ego, and Superego, is still relevant. In fact, Freud’s theory of personality is one of the fundamental theories of modern psychology.
Bradberry, T. (2007). The Personality Code. New York: Putnam.
Engler, B. (2006). Personality Theories. Houghton Mifflin.
Hjelle, L. and D. Ziegler. (1992). Personality: Basic Assumptions, Research and Applications. New York: McGraw Hill.
Lombardo, G.P. and Foschi R. (2002). “The European origins of personality psychology.” European psychologist, 7, 134-145.
Lombardo G.P. and Foschi R. (2003). “The Concept of Personality between 19th Century France and 20th Century American Psychology.” History of Psychology, vol. 6; 133-142.
Santrock, J.W. (2008). “The Self, Identity, and Personality.” In Mike Ryan(Ed.). A Topical Approach To Life-Span Development. New York: McGraw-Hill, p.411-412.