Id, ego and super-ego  

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Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organised, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralising role.

"The ego is not sharply separated from the id; its lower portion merges into it. . . . But the repressed merges into the id as well, and is merely a part of it. The repressed is only cut off sharply from the ego by the resistances of repression; it can communicate with the ego through the id." --Sigmund Freud, 1923

In psychodynamics, the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego are the divisions of the psyche according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud's "structural theory." In 1923, Freud introduced new terms to describe the division between the conscious and unconscious: 'id,' 'ego,' and 'super-ego.' He thought these terms offered a more compelling description of the dynamic relations between the conscious and the unconscious. The “id” (fully unconscious) contains the drives and those things repressed by consciousness; the “ego” (mostly conscious) deals with external reality; and the “super ego” (partly conscious) is the conscience or the internal moral judge (The Freud Exhibit: L.O.C.).


The terms "id," "ego," and "super-ego" are not Freud's own. They are latinisations by his translator James Strachey. Freud himself wrote of "das Es," "das Ich," and "das Über-Ich"—respectively, "the It," "the I," and the "Over-I" (or "Upper-I"); thus to the German reader, Freud's original terms are more or less self-explanatory. Freud borrowed the term "das Es" from Georg Groddeck, a German physician to whose unconventional ideas Freud was much attracted (Groddeck's translators render the term in English as "the It"). The word ego is taken directly from Latin, where it is the nominative of the first person singular personal pronoun and is translated as "I myself" to express emphasis.

Figures like Bruno Bettelheim have criticized the way 'the English translations impeded students' efforts to gain a true understanding of Freud' by substituting the formalised language of the elaborated code for the homely immediacy of Freud's own language.

Notable appearances in popular culture

  • In the classic 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, the destructive forces at large on the planet Altair IV are finally revealed to be "monsters from the id" -- destructive psychological urges unleashed upon the outside world through the operation of the Krells' 'mind-materialisation machine'. The example is of significance because of the unusual degree of insight it demonstrates: the creature eventually revealed follows classical psychological theory in being literally a dream-like 'condensation' of different animal parts. The cast of its footprint, for example, reveals a feline pad combined with an avian claw. As a crew member observes: "Anywhere in the galaxy this is a nightmare".

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