Sigmund Freud's Concept of the Id, Ego, and Superego: A Psychological Trinity
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, revolutionized the understanding of the human psyche by introducing the tripartite model of the mind: the id, ego, and superego. Born in 1856 in what is now the Czech Republic, Freud's work laid the foundation for modern psychology, and his exploration of the unconscious mind shaped how we perceive the complexities of human behavior.
Freud's model, developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, proposes that the human mind is not a singular entity but a dynamic interplay of three distinct forces, each with its unique functions and drives.
The Id: The Primal Instincts and Desires
At the core of Freud's model is the id, representing the most primitive and instinctual aspects of human nature. The id operates on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification of basic needs and desires. It is the impulsive, unconscious reservoir of energy that demands satisfaction without consideration for social norms or consequences. Think of babies and toddlers, whose reactions are guided solely based on carnal needs and ways of iterating those needs: hunger results in crying, want for an item results in grabbing or stealing; and dissatisfaction may result in outright tantrums of protest.
The id can be likened to the body (flesh) in the trinity of man. It embodies our innate, bodily desires and impulses, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. This raw and unfiltered aspect of the psyche is present from birth, driving fundamental needs such as hunger, thirst, and sexual gratification. Furthermore, the flesh has no restraint through the establishment of logic, rules, nor morality: “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it,” as Ariana Grande writes in her hit song, "7 Rings". The Id (or flesh) is always seeking but never satisfied: it’s a purely instinctual force to be reckoned and requires discipline to restrain.
The Ego: The Rational and Conscious Self (Soul)
Contrasting the Id, the ego establishes itself as the referee to mediate between the unconscious desires of the id and the external world. The ego operates on the reality principle, seeking ways to satisfy the id's impulses in a socially acceptable and realistic manner. It represents the conscious, rational aspect of the mind, making decisions based on reason and weighing the consequences of actions.
For example, say someone is tempted to steal a chocolate bar at the local grocery store. The Id is the primal force that seeks the gratification to take that succulent bar: it is the flesh that desires something sweet to eat without payment, regardless of the consequences that stealing may present. It’s the Ego’s job to intercede: one’s own awareness of self and knowledge of right of wrong, in other words, the part of the human mind which makes the final decision in choosing not to steal the chocolate bar.
The ego aligns with the concept of the soul in the trinity, encompassing the mind and emotions. It is the seat of conscious awareness, responsible for logical thinking, problem-solving, and managing emotional responses. The ego allows individuals to navigate the complexities of the external world while balancing the demands of the id and societal expectations. The Ego is ‘Your final decision-maker’ and ultimately, the you, which you identify with and are usually aware of!
The Superego: The Internalized Morality (Soul/Spirit)
Completing Freud's trinity is the superego, which develops because of socialization and internalization of societal norms and values. The superego acts as a moral guide, representing the ideals and moral standards instilled by parents, culture, and society. It strives for perfection and operates on the moral principle, often leading to feelings of guilt or shame when its standards are not met. I’d say this construct by Freud can masquerade easily as a born-again ‘Spirit’, because it appears often better than what it is. There’s no reference in Freud’s model about the Superego being possibly corrupted (which, if it’s Freud’s answer to the Spirit aspect of Man’s trinity, then it’s lacking the idea of original sin). People can have moral codes and regulate their sinful desires, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they're ‘Walking in the Spirit’ or born-again.
Bear in mind, the world has established its own sets of rules, which Freud claims the Superego is established upon. Homosexuality, fornication, oral sex, and the usage of drugs have all become mostly acceptable to most Americans’ superegos.
However, the Lord uses one’s born-again experience to properly cleanse His chosen: He provides His own ‘SUPEREGO’ in the form of the Holy Spirit to reclaim His Elect and change their moral standards to His own.
If fornication and homosexuality are deemed acceptable by the world and then contaminate one’s superego as a result—These instinctual sins are purged by the Holy Spirit upon rebirth and restrained by one’s Ego. The Id (the flesh) may attempt to bring this darkness back to the surface as it is one of habit and gratification, but by walking in the Spirit (or as Freud has dubbed ‘Superego’) the darkness can be resisted, if not neutralized over time.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
In the trinity of man, the superego can be equated with the spiritual dimension. It embodies the moral and ethical aspects that go beyond immediate desires or rational considerations, reflecting a higher level of awareness towards society and one’s effect on others. The superego encourages individuals to strive for moral excellence and adhere to societal norms, connecting them to a broader sense of purpose and ethical responsibility. However, it does not account for original sin, the inherent evils of men, or the world’s depravity.
Implications and Critiques:
Freud's trinity model has had a profound impact on psychology. It provides a framework for understanding the complexities of human behavior. However, it has not been without criticism. It does not consider the flaws of the superego. Not everyone has a ‘justifiable’ moral code to keep themselves in check—Otherwise, there would be no human depravity. In other words, Freud’s model fails to acknowledge one’s ‘evil within’. What happens when the Superego chooses to delight itself in the evil of the Id? What happens if the Superego itself is corrupted?
M. Scott Peck: "People of the Lie"
M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and author, embarked on a unique exploration of the human psyche that extended beyond conventional psychological boundaries. Known for his work in psychotherapy and spiritual psychology, Peck made a significant impact with his book "People of the Lie," where he delves into the concept of evil and the human capacity for self-deception. This venture led him to collaborate with Catholic exorcists, providing a distinctive perspective on the three-part nature of man: body, soul (mind, will, and emotions), and spirit.
Born on May 22nd, 1936, in New York City, Peck initially trained as a psychiatrist. His career took a transformative turn as he delved into the intersection of psychology and spirituality. "The Road Less Traveled", his ground-breaking book published in 1978, gained widespread acclaim for its insights into personal growth and human behavior. However, it was "People of the Lie," published in 1983, that marked a departure from conventional psychiatric discourse.
Peck's Exploration of the Three-Part Nature of Man
While Peck's work does not explicitly delve into the physical aspect of man, his emphasis on the human experience acknowledges the importance of the body in the overall framework. The body serves as the vessel through which individuals navigate the challenges presented by the mind, emotions, and spirit.
Soul (Mind, Will, and Emotions)
Peck's exploration of the soul aligns with previously established concepts on the mind and emotions. However, in "People of the Lie", he investigates the nature of evil, not merely as external forces but as a manifestation of internal deception and self-delusion. The soul, in Peck's view, grapples with the complexities of human behavior, including the capacity for deceit and malevolence: narcissism, cruelty, and greed in the foreground.
The spiritual dimension takes center stage in Peck's collaboration with Catholic excorcists and his discussions about "People of the Lie". While not explicitly aligning with a particular religious doctrine, Peck acknowledges the existence of evil and posits that confronting this evil requires a connection to a higher spiritual truth. In this sense, the spirit becomes the battleground for the struggle between truth and deception--a need for a savior, JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH!
"People of the Lie" and Speculations about Evil
Peck's engagement with Catholic exorcists and his reflections on "People of the Lie" provide a unique lens through which to understand the spiritual dimension of human existence. The concept of "People of the Lie" refers to individuals who engage in persistent self-deception, constructing a false reality to avoid facing uncomfortable truths about themselves.
Peck speculates that evil is not merely an external force but a deeply ingrained aspect of human nature. He suggests that acknowledging the existence of evil is crucial for personal and spiritual growth.
Truths Unveiled by Peck
The Reality of Evil Within
Peck's recognition of evil within individuals challenges the notion that evil is solely an external force. By exploring the concept of "People of the Lie," he sheds light on the human capacity for self-deception and the internal struggles that lead to dark, malevolent behavior. In other words, he highlights individuals who act on negative, twisted emotions; usually, they blame others for their failures! Peck is keen on understanding and acknowledging the existence of narcissists.
Spiritual Dimensions of Healing
Peck's collaboration with Catholic exorcists suggests there is value in acknowledging the spiritual dimensions of healing and personal growth. While not exclusively tied to a religious framework, Peck's work encourages individuals to confront deeper truths about themselves and engage in a transformative journey. Someone cannot fix a problem without looking at the root cause, usually starting with themselves.
Integration of Psychology and Spirituality
Through examining the realm of spirituality and collaborating with exorcists, Peck demonstrates the potential for an integrated method towards understanding human nature: Psychological insights and spiritual exploration offering an improved way of treating individuals holistically in terms of all three aspects of one’s ‘trinity.’
At EIC, we have already bridged this gap in the form of ‘Deliverance Counseling’. We offer our services to individuals who desire to examine their inner evil through the eyes of the Lord and acknowledge their need for His help to cleanse themselves of their inner darkness.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
He will provide the insight and the ways of doing so. Yet, it is up to the client to receive these truths about themselves for progress to be made, and hopefully—a born-again experience to be made!