When a child is born he has a simple undeveloped personality, consisting of primitive desires that he inherits. So, he is an aggregate of instincts (innate tendencies) and reflexes, a plurality of energy that seeks desperately to satisfy his instincts. Freud calls the newborn child’s personality ID.
He, the newborn baby, doesn’t know what means possible and impossible and has not the sense of reality. In this period, the strongest power is the immediate satisfaction of impulses – if a newborn is hungry he doesn’t wait. When a baby needs to be changed, or is cold or just wants some attention, ID announces these things until the child’s need are met.
From the first days of life, instinctual impulses of child will face reality. The instinct to eat (correlated with survival) can’t be always satisfied immediately, sometimes mother is busy and child’s needs are satisfied later. This appears a difference between what child receives and his impulses. This conflict between ID and reality develops the second level of personality, Ego.
The Ego develops when the child begins to realize what is possible and what is not possible. It is the rational level of human personality directed towards reality.
The Ego understands that other people have their own desires and needs and as a selfish behavior can have negative effects. The Ego’s duty is to satisfy the ID, taking into account the surrounding world.
Although ID requires an immediate gratification, the Ego takes these desires in the most profitable direction for the individual. It is important to note that the two levels of personality represented by ID and Ego are in opposition, but work together to achieve the same purpose: the satisfaction of individual needs and instincts.
Instead, the Superego is in contrast with the first two. This term refers to the moral aspects of personality. As Ego this third level of personality are formed in contact with reality, although Superego relates to social reality than physical reality.
According to Freud’s assumptions, Superego results from a process of identification with parents and especially same-sex parent. Child tries to be as his parents: to adopt their values and beliefs and behavior. Thus, child learns cultural and religious rules which rule parents’ behavior and these rules become a part of his Superego.
It should be that the most important religious, cultural and social rules oppose ID. Hence, Superego and ID are in conflict, fact assumed by Freud as explanation to many deviant behaviors.
Many believe that the superego is the same as consciousness, because the last one differentiates right from wrong. Freud said that Superego contains 2 parts, conscious and ideal ego. Consciousness can be expressed by the familiar metaphor of angel and devil, each sitting on one shoulder. Consciousness decides the actions that must be done. The ideal ego is an ideal vision of ourselves.
According to the Freud’s theory, a strong Superego manages to inhibit biological instincts of the ID, while a weak Superego gives up to them, Moreover, the level of guilt in those 2 cases will be higher and lower. For a normal person Ego must be the most powerful – to satisfy the needs of the ID without upset Superego and considering the outside reality.