How Freud can make life better.
Sigmund Freud is the most famous dude in psychology. He came up with all kinds of weird and wonderful theories of the mind and some of his dream interpretation is way out there. But one of his most influential theories was his structural theory of the mind. Rather than simply being a theory it is something that I use day-to-day with my clients and as a part of my own life. Freud suggested that the mind was split into three distinct parts the id, the ego and the super ego.
Okay, so let’s consider a newborn baby or toddler. As adorable as they may be they are inherently selfish. All they seek is pleasure, self gratification. They just want to be hugged or fed or wander about trying to see where their fingers fit or what that they can find to fit up their nose. But one thing they do have is emotion. Before we’ve developed language, emotion is our main tool of communication. Babies and toddlers can laugh and cry, be happy or sad they can even be jealous. Freud suggested that this inner child, stays with us and although hopefully we stop trying to see what fits up our noses (often batteries or crayons), we certainly continue a life seeking pleasure and if we don’t get it the result can be any number of negative emotions.
As our brain develops, such as our prefrontal lobe at the front of our brain, we start learning rules. We learn about control, reason, and common sense. Freud said this part of the mind is what sees reality and he called this the ego. When the id seeks pleasure the idea is that the ego works out the rules of the steps needed to bring that pleasure into reality. For example a young child in bed may really want a biscuit. The ego responds by saying I can get the biscuits but it’ll take a plan and a bit of time. It will mean slowly creeping down the stairs sneaking into the kitchen slowly opening the biscuit barrel s o it doesn’t make a sound before slowly returning back up the stairs to bed negotiating the creaky stairs, with biscuits in hand. My mum always was surprised at how many biscuits we got through as kids.
The part of Freud’s structural mind to develop is the super ego. He suggested that this device is similar to what we call the conscience. Our moral compass perhaps. As we move through life we have a lot of people who help to guide us and influence us, hopefully positively. These people may include parents, older siblings, teachers, even employees. As we grow up and become more mature Freud suggested that this super ego gradually becomes stronger and stronger. It is this super ego that stops us going off the rails. The super ego challenges and criticises the Id who always wants to do the self gratifying instantly pleasurable short-term things in life. It is the super ego that gets us to work early so we don’t start the day stressed and emotional. It is the super ego that hopefully makes us have a healthy lifestyle and keeps as a way from the vices in life. It is also the super ego that helps us strive for success.
How this affects you.
Ever felt at lost in the world? Heard of the midlife crisis? As we become more mature or adults (in my opinion something that happens in your 30s rather than your late teens or 20s) we start to lose the influence of parents and employees. We finally become responsible for most of the things in our life. We tend to become teachers ourselves either at work or with our own families. Freud called the super ego the part of our mind that identifies with the parental agency. What he meant was that we take over this mantle and the reliance on others passes over to ourselves. I sincerely believe that if we understand this concept then we can accept that it may be a bit of a challenge to reach a new level of wisdom and control in life. If we are aware of this mechanism we can learn to be more patient, to control our emotions, and to be the cool calm collected individuals that people and loved ones fully respect. If we are not content with the standard of our health, wealth or love then it is the super-ego that can take the action needed to improve whatever area you need to improve. So the next time you think about shouting at your partner or kids for not doing the dishes or you want to murder the guy who cuts you up in traffic think about the super ego and be more reasonable and patient. Succeed and you will know that you are getting mentally stronger, hurrah.
So the next time your emotion is in danger of getting out of hand, think of Freud and handle things better. It will help you have better relationships with family, procrastinate less and stay in control of everything you do.
Obviously the end result is satisfaction, happiness and peace of mind. Once we have achieved this we can retire and slowly revert back to our immature ways and nasal explorations in our old age.