EGO and Personality development

The ego, a word that is arbitrarily used by mean, has a quite distinct and significant meaning. Ego development is an aspect of psychology that has been discussed by a number of authors and psychologist. Many different authors have concluded a variety of theories behind the ego and its many stages and its effects upon one’s personality. According to Zimbardo (1992) Freud’s theory showed that personality differences arise from the different ways in which people deal with their fundamental drives. To explain theses differences, Freud pictured a continuing battle between two antagonistic parts of the personality, the id and the superego. The id is conceived of as the storehouse of the fundamental drives. The superego is considered to be the storehouse of an individual’s values, including moral attitudes learned from society.

This researcher, a supporter of Freudian psychology and Freudian theory of psychoanalysis, to be unbias will be difficult. This researcher will try to present both the supporters as well as the critics to Freud’s theory of the connection between the ego and personality as best possible. One must not evaluate or criticize Freud’s theories or to examine them in comparison with other theories unless one completely understands all of the proposed psychological theories.

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Zimbardo (1992) states that Freud’s work assumes that one’s personality is shaped and behavior is motivated by powerful inner forces. In addition, Zimbardo suggests that “…Freud’s theory of personality boldly attempts to explain the origins and course of personality development, the nature of the mind…” The total personality consists of three systems, the id, the ego, and the superego. In a mentally healthy person, the three systems work in harmony and unity together to form one complete organization. The harmony enables one to create positive transactions with the environment. On the other hand, if the systems are fighting with each other, one is said to be maladjusted and dissatisfied with himself and with the world. The function of the id is to provide for the immediate discharge of quantities of excitation, including energy or tension, that are released in the person by internal or external stimulation. The earliest form of the id is a reflex system that releases immediately by motor pathways any sensory excitations reaching it.

…when a very bright light falls upon the retina of the eye, the eyelid closes

and light is prevented from reaching the retina. Consequently, the

excitations that were produced in the nervous system by the light quiet

down and the organism returns to a quiescent state.

If all the tensions that occur in an organism could be alleviated by reflexes, then any psychological development beyond that of the simple reflex would be unnecessary and not needed. However, this is definitely not the case; an example is when hunger contractions appear in the stomach of a baby, the contractions do not produce food. Actually, they produce crying and restlessness, which indicates to one that the baby must be fed or over time, the baby would die from starvation. Through the schedules, training, and discipline, the baby experiences some degree of frustration and discomfort. All of these experiences stimulate the development of the id. The most used function of the id, the primary process produces a memory image of an object that is needed to reduce a tension. In addition, the id is more in touch with the body and its processes than the external world. The id cannot be modified or changed with time like the ego and the superego. Finally, as Frank (1995) states “… the id is not governed by laws of reason or logic, and it does not possess values, ethics, or morality. It is driven by one consideration only, to obtain satisfaction for instinctual needs in accordance with the pleasure principle” Id must discharge in action or wish-fulfillment, or it must succumb to the influence of the ego.

The transaction between the world and the person require the initiation of a new psychological system called the ego. In a well – adjusted individual, the ego is the executive of the personality, controlling and governing the id and the superego and the external world. Maladjustments and disharmony will engage if the ego abdicates too much of its power to the id, the superego, or the external world. The ego relies mostly on the relies mostly on the reality principle, which states that one’s actual need will exist but the discharge of energy must be postponed until the actual object that will satisfy the need is found. The ego must tolerate this tension on the meantime. In order for one to find the object or answer that will meet the need, one must use the secondary process consisting of thought and reason, cognition. Finally, the ego may be thought of as an intermediary between the id and the superego (Novy 1993).

The last system of one’s personality is the superego, which is the moral or judicial branch of personality. The superego presents the ideal rather than the real. The superego, the moral code of a person, develops from one’s ego as a result of what a child assimilates as good and bad based upon his parents’ standards. The superego consists of two parts, the ego-ideal and the conscience. The ego-ideal is what a child believes his parents consider to be good established by rewards, and the conscience is what a child believes his parents feel is morally bad realized through punishments. The superego will take on the roles of the parents and society by creating rewards and punishments such as feelings of pride or feelings of guilt or inferiority. Novy (1993) states that the ego becomes full of pride when it has behaved virtuously or thought virtuous thoughts, and it feels ashamed of itself when it has yielded to temptation. Finally, the superego places inner restraints upon lawlessness and anarchy enabling a person to become a law-abiding member of society.

One’s personality is constantly changing and developing especially throughout the periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence. The ego becomes more differentiated and controls more of the sources of energy. According to Novy (1993), “… through elaboration of behavior patterns, a proliferation of object-cathexis in the form of interests and attachments, and a development of the psychological processes of perception, memory, and thinking, one’s whole personality becomes integrated ” The three structural systems and the external worlds are better integrated and unified. Through learning, one develops greater skill in dealing with frustrations and anxieties. Other conditions that one is faced with include maturation and learning, painful excitations arising from internal conflicts, and personal inadequacies (Bellak 1983). The way in which one meets and attempts to overcome and adjust to there obstacles shape his personality. Five major methods exist according to Freud to deal with these frustrations, conflicts, and anxieties. The methods include identification, displacement, sublimation, defense mechanisms, and the transformation of instincts by fusion and compromise.

Identification includes the formation of the ego and the superego. Identifications will be defined as the incorporation of the qualities usually those of another person into one’s personality. Adams and Ascione (1993) stated that for Erikson (1968), a healthy personality is based upon active control of one’s environment, autonomous and independent functioning, and similarity between what one wants to be and the acceptance by significant others of what one is and plans to become is viewed as a positive identity resolution. The more active form of identity that one possesses results in a greater score on locus of control, cognitive development, and ego development measures (Adams and Ascione 1993). According to Loewenstein (1994), one might create a “false self:” as a “…protective but lifeless envelope shielding and holding a hidden authentic core. The false self develops in response to an environment that is less than good enough, one which dies not enable the child to consolidate a stable ego.” Also, Loewenstein (1994) presents the accepted idea that one tends to identify with individuals that one admires, respects, wants o be, or desires. Through one’s development, he identifies with many individuals including the mother, the father, a lover, a baby sitter, worker, etc. The motive force for identification is provided by frustration, inadequacy, and anxiety.

The development of one’s personality greatly involves the displacement of a energy from one object to another object. The source and aim of the instinct remain the same when energy is displaced; it is only the goal object that varies. A displacement will take either of two different courses. First, society acting through its principle agents, the parents, influences the direction of displacement by sanctioning certain object – choices and prohibiting others. Second, the degree of resemblance between the original and substitute object, or the extent to which the objects are identified with one another. This researcher believes that the ego controls all aspects of decision including which final object is selected after a series of displacements. An example of a series is when a boy/girl perceives his mother/father as an ideal person but then finds faults. Consequently, the individual will continue to look elsewhere for the ideal person. When the substitute is when that represents a higher cultural goal, this type of displacement is called a sublimation. Examples of sublimation are the deflection of energy into intellectual, humanitarian, cultural, and artistic pursuits. Sublimation does not always result in complete satisfaction because as Freud (1923) states “…that a person never actually relinquishes his original object-cathexis. A person is always looking for his first love in the substitute object; however, one must compensate for the original goal object. This researcher believes that the ability to displace energy from one object to another is the most powerful instrument for the development of personality. If psychological energy were not displaced and distributed, there would be no development of personality.

A major threat of the ego is to deal with the threats and dangers that fall upon a person and stimulate anxiety. The ego attempts to resolve the conflict by adopting realistic solving methods, or the ego will deny, falsify, or distort reality and impede personality development. The latter methods are called defense mechanisms. The first mechanism is repression, the restraining of a cathexis of the id, ego, and superego, by anticathe

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EGO and Personality development. (2018, Jun 09). Retrieved from