How do the Id, Ego, and Superego Interact?

Id, Ego, and Superego Interactions Video

Hi, and welcome to this video on the interaction of the id and ego!

One of the single most important concepts postulated by Sigmund Freud to explain the working of the human mind (psyche) is his structural theory of human personality. Based on his observations, Freud proposed that the human psyche is extremely complex and is divided into three distinct but interrelated components or agencies–the id, ego, and superego. Each of these separate but interacting agencies influence and are influenced in return by the other two elements to uniquely contribute to the development of a person’s personality. As a manifestation of personality, behavior (a person’s thoughts, actions, and reactions) is the product of the interactions of these three components.

The Id

Let’s take a look at the personality components of the id:

The id is present at birth and is entirely unconscious. It is the earliest part of the personality to emerge and is the most primitive component. It works to satisfy basic urges, bodily needs, wants, and desires, including those of a sexual or aggressive nature, and it operates on the pleasure principle, seeking instant satisfaction.

The Ego

Now let’s look at the ego’s personality components:

The ego evolves from the id. It begins to emerge between the ages of 1 and 2, and operates on all three levels of consciousness, mostly in the conscious mind. It works to modulate the desires and impulses of the id, in relation to the demands of the superego and reality. It also operates on the reality principle, striving to satisfy the demands and urges of the id, while avoiding any negative consequences.

How the Ego Achieves Balance

The ego mediates and balances the opposing motives and drives of the id and superego with reality. The dynamic interaction of these three structures produces tension and conflict. How the ego achieves balance and resolves the conflict between the id and the superego defines how we behave in any given situation and cope with reality. According to Freud, a healthy personality results when the ego maintains this balance. With unresolved conflict or an imbalance among the id, superego, and reality, anxiety and/or psychological disorders occur.

The Ego’s Defense Mechanisms

In an attempt to maintain control over the id, the ego employs defense mechanisms, which are automatic, unconscious mental strategies or coping styles, utilized to reduce the anxiety and/or guilt associated with the situation or unresolved conflict, and protect the person from their own dangerous impulses, unacceptable behavior, and unpleasant thoughts or feelings. It also helps mitigate the threat to the individual’s self-esteem from the demands of the superego and reality.

There are many different defense mechanisms used by the ego. Among the more common are:

  • Denial – refusing to accept reality
  • Rationalization – justifying behavior with a socially acceptable reason as opposed to the real reason
  • Sublimation – converting unacceptable behavior to a more acceptable form
  • Displacement – satisfying an impulse with a substitute
  • Projection – attributing undesired impulses, thoughts, or feelings, onto others
  • Repression – blocking a painful memory or unacceptable impulse

The use of defense mechanisms is both normal and healthy, and, according to Freud, necessary to effectively function in everyday life. However, the persistent use of or overuse of defense mechanisms may lead to dysfunctional behavior that can adversely affect the physical and/or mental health of the individual and become intolerable and harmful or unsafe to the people around him or her.


Let’s finish up by looking at the superego:

This is the last agency to develop. The superego evolves from the id, emerging between 3 – 5 years of age, as family and societal ideals and values are internalized. It works to control or restrain the impulses, feelings, actions, and fantasies of the id. Partly working on a conscious level, the superego predominantly operates on the unconscious level. It operates on the morality principle, that is, it strives for perfection, regardless of reality. It serves as our moral compass. It is also comprised of two parts: the ego-ideal (personal excellence) and the conscience (rules for behaviors).


Now, let’s go over some review questions:

1. Which of the following best describes what defense mechanisms are?

  1. Genetically-wired responses to emotional threats from the superego
  2. Unconscious mental strategies used by the ego to reduce anxiety produced by the interaction between the id and the superego
  3. Abnormal coping mechanisms used by the ego to maintain control over the id
  4. All of the above


2. According to Freud’s structural theory, which key structures interact as the source of all behavior?

  1. Psyche
  2. Ego
  3. Id
  4. Personality
  5. Superego


3. Which of the following is not true about the interaction of the ego with the id?

  1. Is commonly referred to as the moral compass because it maintains control over the id
  2. When id behavior conflicts with reality and/or society norms, employs defense mechanisms
  3. Modulates the desires and impulses of the id
  4. Acts according to the reality principle; seeking to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will avoid negative consequences


Thanks for watching, and happy studying!


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: July 27, 2023