How children develop a personality, the ID and Superego explained

THE ICEBERG MODEL OF BEHAVIORAL DRIVES: 10% is the Conscious Mind, 90% is the Preconscious and the Unconcious.
THE ICEBERG MODEL OF BEHAVIORAL DRIVES: 10% is the Conscious Mind, 90% is the Preconscious and the Unconcious.

One of Sigmund Freud’s most enduring psychoanalytic theories is his model for how personality develops. His structural model for the ID, Ego and Superego is an important thing for all parents to understand, not just for the sake of their children, but also to understand how different driving forces during their own childhood and development play an important role in how we interact with the world.

Did that sound a little too technical? Let’s break it down a little.

The ID is the part of our personality we’re born with. It controls everything babies do and is necessary for survival. When a baby is hungry, the ID cries and demands you feed it. It is unrealistic in that it doesn’t take into account the circumstances or the needs of anyone else. The ID is said to act on ‘the pleasure principle’ acting only for it’s own satisfaction; extremely impulsive. When the baby needs changing, is hot, cold, or just in need of attention, the parents must cater to it. When the ID wants something, nothing else is important.

The Ego develops around age 3 as a child begins to interact more with the world and understand it. It is based on ‘the reality principle’. At this stage a child understands that other people have needs as well and that sometimes being impulsive is harmful to it in the long run. It is the ego’s job to meet the ID’s needs while taking into consideration the reality of the situation.

The Superego develops by age 5 and is the idealistic part of our personality. It is based on the moral and ethical constraints we receive from our caregivers. It has been equated to the conscience because it dictates our belief in right and wrong.

Freud believed that in a healthy person, the Ego is the strongest. Where it can meet the needs of the ID in a realistic manner without upsetting the Superego. Furthermore, he stated that the majority of what we experience and learn in our lives, the underlying emotions, feelings, beliefs and impulses, are not available to us on a conscious level but exist instead in an inaccessible part referred to as the preconscious or subconscious. Although buried deeply in there, these continue to impact our lives dramatically and inform approximately 90% of human behavior.

How can we hope to control our own behavior and that of our children if most of what we feel and believe is inaccessible? First, awareness that some harmful teachings such as those pertaining unacceptable sexual desires, violence, gender expectations etc are so deeply entrenched in our own psyches and that these cause us undue anxiety because they do not conform to the reality of the situation on ground. This usually leads to extreme mental conflict where we move from giving in to the primitive survival impulses of the ID straight to experiencing the shame of the Superego without any balancing realism from the ego.

Be careful what you teach highly impressionable children to avoid the heavy burden of re-education later.
Be careful what you teach highly impressionable children to avoid the heavy burden of re-education later.

 

Next, accepting that we must be careful about what we teach children because we have experienced firsthand how extremely harmful care-giving practices of teaching have negatively impacted our own lives. What good does teaching your 4 year old that babies come from a supermarket to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, when even sexual re education later in life won’t dislodge that niggling childhood belief that “No, pregnancy can’t happen to me, si babies come from the supermarket?”

 

 

 

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3 comments

  1. Eunice mwanyalo Reply

    quite informative, author based article on proved facts. thoughts flowed to the end. i like it.

  2. Rujeko Reply

    Good stuff Minnie. Very informing. Its easier to get these things right first time round when these little ones are still malleable! Thanks

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