The Ego in Post Freudian Theory

In Chapter 2, we pohited out that Freud used the analogy of a rider on horseback to describe the relationship between the ego and the id. The rider (ego) is ultimately at the mercy of the stronger horse (id). The ego has no strength of its own but must borrow its energy from the id. Moreover, the ego is constantly attempting to balance blind demands of the superego agahist the relentless forces of the id and the realistic opportunities of the external world. Freud believed that, for psychologically healthy people, the ego is sufficiently developed to rem in the id even though its control is still tenuous and id impulses might erupt and overwhelm the ego at any thne.

In contrast, Erikson held that our ego is a positive force that creates a self-identity, a sense of "I." As the center of our personality, our ego helps us adapt to the various conflicts and crises of life and keeps us from losing our individuality to the leveling forces of society. During childhood the ego is weak, pliable, and fragile; but by adolescence it should begin to take form and gam strength. Throughout our life, it unifies personality and guards agahist indivisibility. Erikson saw the ego as a partially unconscious organizing agency that synthesizes our present experiences with past self-identities and also with anticipated images of self. He defined the ego as a person's ability to unify experiences and actions hi an adaptive maimer (Erikson, 1963).

Erikson (1968) identified three interrelated aspects of ego: the body ego, the ego ideal, and ego identity. The body ego refers to experiences with our body; a way of seeing our physical self as different for other people. We may be satisfied or dissatisfied with the way our body looks and functions, but we recognize that it is the

Chapter 9 Erikson: Post-Freudian Theory 245

only body we will ever have. The ego ideal represents the hnage we have of ourselves in comparison with an established ideal; it is responsible for our bemg satisfied or dissatisfied not only with our physical self but with our entire personal identity. Ego identity is the hnage we have of ourselves in the variety of social roles we play. Although adolescence is ordinarily the thne when these tlnee components are changing most rapidly, alterations in body ego, ego ideal, and ego identity can and do take place at any stage of life.

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