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Freud’s Theory of Id in Personality

Freud’s theory of id in personality is one of the three systems of the psyche and governs the primitive instincts of the mind. The theory of id in personality is the source of unconscious desires and flight or flight reflexes according to Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud. A person’s id functions as a way to quell discontent and return them to a more basally satisfying state of being.

Sigmund Freud Id Theory of Personality
Analysis of Sigmund Freud’s tripartite model of id

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian Psychologist who theorized the id’s existence in the topographical map of the human psyche. Freud first mentioned the id in his paper The Ego and the Id and describes the id as the basis for psychic energy, or drive. The id acts alongside the ego and the superego to describe the mental processes that drive a person’s personality. The id is important for personalty development because it’s the foundation for the ego and superego to base their conscious responses. The ego and superego develop to balance the impulsivity of the id. For example, the id is the force behind your desire to yell after getting hurt. The ego and the superego are there to combat the id’s irrational response and direct the psyche to an appropriate response.

The theory of id states that unconscious thoughts are controlled by the pleasure principle, which is the id’s driving force to satisfy primal desires. Exploring primal desires of the id to develop the ego and superego requires introspection of behaviors and dreams to pinpoint areas of focus. Channeling primal urges is a challenge that involves examining personal choices, emotional responses, and unconscious impulses.

There are two main characteristics of the id. Firstly, the id lacks a sense of morality. The id is a base response to stimuli that develop at birth before social influence. Developing a sense of morality requires a person to self-reflect on their beliefs and ethics. Id exists in the unconscious realm that lacks the morality structure of the higher realism of consciousness. Secondly, id encourages a person to be demanding and incessant. The id has no concept of patience or sacrifice and requires instant gratification. The demanding nature of the id causes a person to act in an impolite way to alleviate their problems.

Below we examine Freud’s theory of id and its interplay between the ego and superego.

What is the principle of id?

The primary principle of id is the pleasure principle, which works to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires. The pleasure principle is a Freudian concept that describes an instinctual desire to avoid pain while pursuing basic satisfaction. For example, the principle of id is the unconscious force behind the urge to cry out after getting injured. There’s no realistic solution attached to crying after an injury, but the id focuses on immediately fixing the painful situation rather than considering the logical solutions or morality. The term id is Latin for “it” and is the chosen translation from the German “das es”. Freud’s “das es” utilizes the neuter gender and references innate emotional responses present in children. For example, the id draws out infantile emotions, such as crying over hunger or thirst. Id is a reservoir of psychic energy that culminates in the release of basic instincts that precede conscious thought. The id is a metaphorical devil on the shoulder that influences an impulsive response to emotional triggers. The desire to satiate the pleasure principle outweighs the higher conscious influence of the ego and the superego.

What is the history of Freud’s theory of id in personality?

Freud’s theory of Id in personality first appears in the paper The Ego and the Id published in 1923. Sigmund Freud developed the concept of the id to give a name to the function he describes in his paper Beyond the Pleasure Principle published in 1920. The pleasure principle is the force that motivates the id into action. Freud argues that the id is driven by the libido or psychic energy that seeks to curb instinctual desires. Establishing a firm concept of id was important for Freud to explain the topographic model of the psyche’s three systems. Duane P. Schultz’s book Theories of Personality outlines the topographic structure of Freud’s unconscious, preconscious, and conscious systems to explain the id’s influence on the psyche. For example, the ego and superego develop from the unconscious level of the id. The unconscious level of the psyche is a mystery that’s only accessed through dream interpretation and the assessment of abnormal behavior. Therefore, Freud expanded on the notion of definite primal traits and emotions that drive human behavior.

What are the contents of the theory of id of a person?

The theory of id of a person has three main contents. Firstly, the theory of id contains fight or flight responses. Fight or flight responses are stress responses that encourage people to flee danger or fight to live another day. The id contains fight or flight because the innate stress response provides insight into the driving force behind the id. Secondly, the theory of id contains primary process thought. Primary process thought is a concept within the pleasure principle that promotes the free use of psychic energy to bring about the fulfillment of desires. For example, the brain resorts to primary process thinking by producing the mental image of a glass of water while experiencing extreme thirst. Thirdly, the theory of id holds unconscious desires. Unconscious desires are the basic wants and needs that are defined by the psyche at birth. For example, the unconscious contents of the id are an assemblage of primitive desires such as hunger or thirst.

What is the function of the theory of id?

There are two main functions of the theory of id. Firstly, the theory of id functions to prevent displeasure, pain, and suffering. The id is present at birth and controls the most primitive instincts and desires. For example, a baby has yet to establish a basis for social etiquette and is unable to verbalize their needs. An infant’s id causes them to cry if they’re experiencing displeasure, pain, or suffering. The id is a necessary reflex that drives the baby to protect itself from pain in the absence of conscious thought. Secondly, id functions as a foundation for personality to develop. Freud’s theory of id is a reservoir of psychic energy that acts as a basis for emotional development. The ego and superego both develop from the foundation of the id’s drive. The ego begins to develop to add a realistic perspective to the id’s impulses. An individual begins to develop a personal concept of reality as they age, which interferes with their id’s instinctual emotional responses. Progressing through life establishes the superego’s sense of morality to accompany the ego’s reality principle. For example, a baby’s id causes them to cry as a response to instinctual urges. A toddler learns from the ego that asking for help is a better solution to their problems than crying over instinctual urges. A psychologically developed person’s superego urges them to ignore their impulses to gain self-control.

What are the examples of id in personality?

The following three examples showcase id in personality. First, consider the example of a baby crying because it was hungry. The baby cried until it was fed. Freud’s theory of id maintains that hunger is the driving force behind the baby’s tears and without realistic intervention or self-control, the baby cries until the problem is solved. The baby is unable to develop self-awareness and is entirely driven by their unconscious urges until they start to develop rational thought and mortality. Secondly, imagine that a young professional remembers they need to pay a bill and steps away from their work to take care of their payment. The young professional lets their id takeover and they ignore the social cues that suggest they ask permission to take a break or wait until they’re home and deal with the consequences of late bill payment. The fear of utility shutoff or financial repercussions outweighs the realistic solutions to the late payment and the potential consequences of slacking off at work. The third example showcasing id in personality is an elderly person who wants immediate attention from their nurse at the doctor’s office becomes angry and insists on being seen. The elderly person is angry until someone satisfies their request. Freud says that anger forces the incessant request for the medical staff’s attention, and the elderly patient lacks the realistic sensibilities or control to calm their id. The desire to have medical attention supersedes the logical response of patiently waiting or asking for an update.

What are the characteristics of the id?

Below are the seven characteristics of the id.

  • Unorganized: The id is an amalgamation of unorganized inherent desires that incite people to respond to stimuli with base reactions. The unorganized id follows no realistic plan and strives to ameliorate the pain with immediate pleasure. For example, a person experiencing emotional distress showcases an unorganized id by ignoring responsibilities to reduce the pressure they feel. However, ignoring responsibilities exhibits id’s disorganization through procrastination that leads to haphazard last-minute attempts to confront their responsibilities at a later date.
  • Demanding and insistent: The id causes people to act in a demanding and insistent manner as a response to their primal needs and emotions. The id directs the mind to focus solely on the individual’s needs and fails to consider patience or finding a more polite route to fulfilling their needs. For example, a customer at your work is growing impatient due to the long line and lack of associates to assist customers. The customer begins to demand and insist that they be helped and yells for a store associate to help them at once. The customer’s id is directing them to demand attention and make a scene in the store despite the easiest solution being to wait or act with kindness.
  • Illogical: The id is illogical and displays a lack of sound reasoning for their actions. Illogical responses to negative stimuli are a result of the id reaching out for the quickest solution to their problems, which doesn’t always follow logic. For example, your friend is short on cash and needs a dollar to pay for their lunch. The id tells your friend to satisfy their urge by taking the cash from your nightstand. The logical response is to ask to borrow a dollar. However, your friend’s id forces them to ignore social etiquette in favor of their basic needs.
  • Amoral: The id characteristically lacks morals due to the primitive nature of the emotional reflexes it elicits. Morality develops as a person ages and the id is the innate drive that reflects the undeveloped psychological components of a person. For example, a woman is jealous of another woman at a party and decides to purposefully spill her drink on the other woman to cause her to leave. The id compels the jealous woman to act in an immoral way by spilling the drink rather than minding her own business or going to a different party because she felt uncomfortable.
  • Instinctual: The id operates instinctually without thinking of other people or the repercussions of the actions. Instinctual responses seek to fulfill unconscious desires by directing an individual to react without needing to prepare their response. For example, a person goes to scare their friend by sneaking up on them from behind. The friend’s id causes them to react by hitting the person sneaking up on them out of fear. The instinctual characteristic of the id takes over and results in reactive behavior as opposed to calm acceptance.
  • Selfish: Selfish behavior is characteristic of the id taking control due to a lack of concern for other people. Everyone is born with basic desires and feelings such as compassion or conscientiousness develop as a person ages. The id encourages selfishness as a solution to problems because taking time to consider other people takes away from self-gratification. For example, there’s only one slice of pizza left in a box you’re splitting with friends. You notice the last piece of pizza first and reach for the slice to eat it. The id takes over and directs you to grab the pizza instead of selflessly asking the others if they want it.
  • Unconscious: The id resides in the unconscious and brings forth deeply rooted primitive responses. The unconscious quality of the id directs an individual despite their conscious awareness of social etiquette or proper solutions to their problem. For example, an adult refuses to eat green vegetables because they claim vegetables cause them to feel sick and gag. The person might be unable to pinpoint a reason for their aversion, which means their id is directing them to avoid the food based on an unconscious motive.

How does the id interact with other components of personality?

The id interacts with the other two components of personality by requiring the ego and superego to balance unconscious urges. The ego and superego components work alongside the id in separate ways according to Freud’s personality theory. Firstly, the ego interacts with the id to find realistic solutions to innate urges. The ego is a component of personality that operates on the reality principle. The reality principle counteracts the id’s pleasure principle to diminish pain from the id’s dissatisfaction. For example, id compels you to fulfill your desire to be warm during cold weather, prompting you to take another person’s blanket or space near a heat source. The ego interacts with the id to pressure you into asking other people before you take from them. Secondly, the superego interacts with the id to enforce moral restraint against unconscious desires. The superego balances the id by utilizing the morality principle, which works to stop the impulsivity of the id by reinforcing correct social behavior. For example, id drives you to remedy your hunger by stealing a snack from the store. However, the superego intervenes with the id to direct you to ignore hunger and temptations.

How does the theory of id affect the personality?

The theory of id affects personality by forming base instincts and impulses. The instinctual impulses impact an individual’s personality by defining their core identity and influencing their character development. A person’s id drives them to mindlessly react to stimuli and exposes them to different behaviors and varying degrees of the aspects of personality. Firstly, the id affects the development of conscientiousness by causing distractions from reality. For example, a person driving to work is running late but their hunger distracts them from their route to work. The person’s id guides them to stop to pick up food before they arrive at work, despite the risk of punishment. The lack of consideration for others displays a low level of conscientiousness brought on by the employee’s reactive id. Secondly, the theory of id affects personality by influencing neuroticism. For example, a friend tells you they need to talk later, which causes you to question the intentions of the talk. The id causes you to worry your friend has something negative to say and your neuroticism increases, causing you to become anxious about the scenario. The id’s influence causes a higher level of neuroticism to distract from the reality of the situation.

What is the importance of the theory of id to an individual?

The theory of id is important to an individual because it elucidates complex notions regarding personality development and behavior. Recognizing the unconscious desires that drive an individual is the key to understanding the intricacies of identity. Firstly, taking a deeper look at innate urges provides a basis to gauge personal development. The theory of id is beneficial because it provides insight into ways a person should balance their traits. For example, an id response compels a person to act without self-control and show no consideration for others. Accepting that the id controls primal responses prepares an individual to anticipate potential issues and solutions before they erupt. Secondly, it’s important to understand the theory of id to challenge impulsivity and consider proper social behavior. The id interacts with the ego and superego to curb the unconscious urges from controlling behavior. For example, the id is a psychic force that compels an individual to act based on basic instincts. Challenging the impulsivity of the id requires strengthening the ego and superego by practicing mindfulness and developing personal morals.

What are the differences between id, ego, and superego?

Below is a table that describes the three main differences between id, ego, and superego.

Id, Ego, and Superego Differences
Id Ego Superego
Consists of the unconscious mind Mainly driven by the conscious and preconscious mind, and partly by the unconscious Comprises elements of the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind
Present from birth Develops during the first three years of childhood Begins to develop after the ego at age five
Evokes basic instincts and impulsivity Elicits a sense of responsibility, self-control, and consideration for others Prompts a didactic response to stimuli that seeks to quell basic instincts
Functions by the pleasure principle Functions by the reality principle Functions by moral principle
Motivates an impulsive response to stress Encourages the consideration of reality and logic Inspires the suppression of base desires in favor of moral standards

Can you access and evaluate id in personality through introspection?

Yes, you can access and evaluate id in personality through introspection. Introspection in psychology is the act of looking at your psychological state and assessing the findings. Elizabeth L. Auchincloss’s book The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind argues that introspection is possible through analyzing motives and memories. For example, introspection of a person’s id response to negative experiences is to binge eat their favorite food. Taking the time to examine their actions after a bad day is a form of introspection and reveals the motives behind their actions. Accessing and evaluating the id requires examining the unconscious parts of the mind. The effect of introspection on Freud’s psychoanalytic model is dependent on studying dreams and a person’s neuroticism. Firstly, accessing the id through dream interpretation provides a lens through which to view the unconscious. For example, dreams utilize imagery and thoughts from waking life to construct the landscape of the dream. Taking note of the images and emotions brought forth by your unconscious mind provides insight into the dark corners of your mind. Secondly, examining your neurotic behaviors and responses helps access and evaluate your id in personality. For example, neurotic behaviors stem from the unconscious mind and desires. Examining your impulsive behaviors gives you clues to map your primal responses to stimuli.

Do we have to open and explore our id?

No, we don’t have to open and explore our id. Opening and exploring the id is a process that depends on the individual and their intentions behind developing their personality or analyzing their behavior. The id lies in the unconscious and exploring the id requires assessing dreams or neurotic behavior beyond your conscious grasp. Proper exploration of unconscious dilemmas and emotional turmoil fuels the balancing act between id, ego, and superego. However, developing your ego and superego is key to opening your psyche to explore the id. The ego and superego act as a guide to reverse engineer your psychological map and discover your unconscious motivations.