While administering hypnosis to patients suffering from hysteria, Freud realized that this practice was not a cure, but just a temporary fix. It was this event that created the framework for Freud’s idea of the subconscious, repression vs. aggression, dreams, and civilization. The basis of his theory is that the mind is separated into two main factions: the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious being what we know to be happening and the unconscious is what is in our mind that we do not necessarily know about. Freud’s theory of the subconscious consists of three parts, the Id, the Ego, and the Super-Ego and how they interact with one another. The Id is considered to be chaotic, the center for animalistic impulses, and is governed by the pleasure principle, otherwise known as instant gratification. It is also the location of the libido, which is our “life force” or our sexual drive. The Id’s driving instinct is for self-preservation.
The Ego is quite different from the Id. It is the mediator between the Id and the Super Ego. The Ego is also the personality that we show others. It is based upon the reality principle. The Super-Ego represents our conscience or moral standards. These ideas of right and wrong are permanently instilled in our minds by our parents or other authority figures. To sum this all up: the Id demands gratification, the Ego responds to reality, otherwise known as civilization, and the Superego which is our morals and also the demands of society. The subconscious is most evident in our dreams. While we are asleep our subconscious is constantly active. We create scenarios in which our true feelings are disguised but still able to be known. It is the job of the person who is administering the process of psychoanalysis to interpret our dreams and reveal they’re true meanings, our deep hidden thoughts of our Id.
In the subconscious, many actions take place such as rationalization, denial, projection, and sublimation. During rationalization, we validate our actions with reason. With denial, we denunciate our feelings and pretend they aren’t true. In projection, much like denial, we deny what we feel and assume that someone else is experiencing the same feelings instead. Finally, sublimation is learning to overcome our basic instincts, which is basically conforming to society’s norm. As children, we are much like animals in that we only act upon instinct and our Id is our only concern. Our main agenda is to satisfy ourselves. As we grow older, we develop and mature the Ego and the Superego develop as well. We begin to have fears of losing the love of our parents or authority figures, by disappointing them. It is during this time period, that our Superego is truly developing because we are eternalizing the values and standards that our parents or authority figures are setting for us.
Considering all these factors, conflict is bound to happen. Being human, we are naturally aggressive, the Id persuades us to be this way. While on the other hand, the Superego, being the moralistic part of the subconscious, is constantly counteracting the desires of the Id. The aggression is then eternalized, sent back to the ego, and the result is guilt. Guilt is derived from our sense of a need for punishment. The Superego also creates our feeling of anxiety. Anxiety takes place when we fear that we are going to lose the love of a parent because we are not meeting their standards. Society’s demands act as the Superego for civilization. There are all sorts of unrealistic demands that members of civilization feel the need to conform to in order to be accepted, thus the title of the book, “Civilization and its Discontents”. We as individuals must suffer to be a part of the whole. We must sacrifice our own needs and desires for the good of all.
This demonstrates the Ego Instinct vs. the Altruistic Instinct. The Ego Instinct is based upon self-preservation, while the Altruistic Instinct is the preservation of others or civilization, but civilization is an unnatural state of affairs. Within it, due to the struggles in the subconscious, people develop neurosis. After reading “Civilization and Its Discontents”, many questions can be answered. Some may find out the true meaning of life or their place in the universe. Others may argue that Freud’s views are limited and only cover some individuals that reside in western regions of the world. Some may begin to question themselves and realize why they act the way they do. Even though Freud’s ideas could be considered plausible, their validity cannot be determined due to the fact that his area of study cannot be considered a true science, but a science of the mind. In essence, to accept or reject his ideas is entirely up to the reader, but without his framework of ideas, the area of Psychology might not be where it is today.