Psychoanalytic theory, the rudiments of which were extensively traced by studies of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), is a therapeutic and investigative approach to the human mind, from an immanent perspective and away from the bodily medical perspective, which pursues the mechanisms and senses on the basis of which the psyche operates.
The me, the it and the superego are three of its fundamental concepts, proposed by Freud himself to explain the constitution of the psychic apparatus and its particular structure. According to these studies, these three different instances that constitute the mind share many of their functions and are deeply interrelated at a level beyond the rational, that is, at the level of the unconscious.
- The id. Totally unconscious in content, it is the psychic expression of a set of desires, impulses and instincts, originating in some cases from the most primitive stages of human evolution. It is guided by the pleasure principle: satisfaction at all costs of its contents. For this reason it is often in conflict with the other two instances, which according to psychoanalysis would have split from it throughout human psychic development.
- The superego. It is a moral and judgmental instance of the activities of the self, built during childhood through the resolution of the Oedipus complex, the result of which is the incorporation of certain norms, prohibitions and a certain sense of duty-to-be in the individual. Much of the content of the superego, however, is managed unconsciously, so that we are not very aware of our ideal form of the ego.
- The I. It is the mediating portion between the id drives and the normative requirements of the superego, in contact with the conditions of the surrounding reality. It is responsible for the defense of the entire system, although much of its content operates from the darkness of the unconscious. Still, it is the part of the psyche that deals with reality most directly.
Even so, Freud warns that these instances do not function in an organized way, but rather as a field in tension, since, moreover, many of their demands are irreconcilable with the realities.
This conception of human psyche it is debated and argued even today, although it enjoys a very wide acceptance and popularity that, paradoxically, makes many people trivialize or misinterpret it.
Example of the self, it and superego
Since they are abstractions, useful for interpreting behavior and approaching it in depth, it is difficult to offer certain examples of these three psychic instances, but in very broad strokes one could say that:
- Aggressive situations towards others or explicit social conflict can come from the self, in its eagerness to territorialize reality, always dealing with others in a projective way.
- The complexes of guilt and unfulfilled self-demands, for example, they usually come from the superego, as a punitive and vigilant instance of behavior.
- Life and death drives that seem to come from deep within the psyche and that often lead to recurring behaviors, often come from the id.
- Dreams they are interpreted by psychoanalysis as a cryptic manifestation of the content of the id, which manages to symbolize itself in a disorderly way.
- The fulfillment of wishes and fantasies through its negotiation with the conjunctures of the real, is a work performed by the ego, besieged by the requirements of the id and the regulations of the superego.