When talking about personality, one must mention Freud.
pictured here with a small cigar.
Yes, even me. (Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a fan)
Despite my personal thoughts about his theory, mad props and respect has to be given to Sigmund Freud for being one of the biggest influencers of psychology, and remains so today.
I need to pause here for a sec to say that despite his HUGE influence, he is NOT the Father of Psychology- that title goes to Wilhelm Wundt and his Institute of Experimental Psychology which was founded in 1879, and established Psychology as an independent discipline and science.
HOWEVER… Sigmund Freud is considered one of the Founding Fathers of psychology (there are at least 5 of those, and more depending who you ask) or the founding father of psychoanalysis. Despite Freud's super rockstar popularity in the media, and the ‘grin and take it’ attitude of some of us in the field, the truth of the matter remains that Wundt is the one with the title in the end!
That said, let's go back to Sigmund Freud and his Theory of Personality, one of the most influential and well known.
Everyone has at least heard of the terms Id, Ego, and Superego. These are, according to Freud, the three components of everyone's personality.
According to Freud, we are not born with a fully shaped personality. This is formed as we grow and become socialized in the very beginning of our lives. (In a nutshell, he believed that humans are inherently uncontrollable beasts and society is needed to give them a polish or veneer of goodness)
We are born with the Id, which is the aspect of our personality that is (and remains) entirely unconscious. All energy and motivation originally stems from the Id, and the Id motivates one solely on what he called the Pleasure Principle: the pleasure principle strives for immediate gratification of all needs and wants. If these needs and wants are not met, anxiety and tension ensues.
According to Freud we are born with the Id because that is highly adaptive: an infant needs the Id to survive, and demand immediate gratification of all his/her physical needs. No reasoning or thought takes place for the Id's operation and reactionary motivations.
For example: if you are hungry and see a plate of french fries in front of someone else, and just grab the french fries without thinking, you are operating purely on the Id's commands- acting on impulse and no thought.
As the infant grows into a toddler, and the toddler is taught what is acceptable and what is not in the world, the Ego develops.
The Ego is the part of our personality that acts on the Reality Principle: satisfying what the Id wants but in a socially acceptable manner.
So if your Ego is working when you get the impulse to grab the other guy's french fries, you will consider that if you do that, you'll probably get punched or labeled a thief or ridiculed; and so you will curb your Id's impulse and not grab the fries. You may instead politely ask for them, or go buy your own.
The Ego is the part of our personality that operates on all levels of consciousness: the unconscious, the preconscious (or subconscious) which is that ‘just under the surface’ state of awareness that we have of ourselves, and the conscious.
Finally, as the toddler grows more into a child and gets even more socialized, the third and last part of our personality, the Superego, is developed. Freud speculated that the Superego begins to emerge around age 5. The Superego operates on all levels of consciousness as well.
The Superego is the sum of all the moral standards, ideals, and values that we have internalized as we get socialized. The Superego strives to perfect behavior and control all Id impulses and Ego decisions so that we fit the Superego's “ego ideal” (i.e. the ‘perfect self’ how you would be if you were perfectly moral, with perfect integrity, with perfect values, etc etc etc).
For our french fries example, your Superego is at work if you curb your impulse to grab the other guy's fries because you tell yourself that it's immoral, or that it's not right, or that it's beneath your standards, even if nobody is watching you.
Our personality with all its parts then looks a bit like an iceberg floating in the sea, where whatever is above the surface is conscious (i.e. we're aware of it) and whatever is below the surface is unconscious (i.e. we can't be aware of it even if we tried) or subconscious/preconscious (i.e. we're able to become aware of it if we want to), like so:
According to Freud, our minds are constant and vicious battlefields:
All three parts of our personality strive to dominate our behavior, and that friction and conflict between our three personality parts, the Id, Ego, and Superego, is what creates all of our anxiety, stress, and eventually might develop into problematic behaviors.
The Ego seeks to compromise the fierce conflict between the Id and the Superego. These can develop protective thought functions or strategies that the Ego develops to relieve the anxiety that is created from that very conflict. These are called defense mechanisms
There are several, and Freudians and Neofreudians keep adding to the list, and I invite you to explore them all, they can be a lot of fun- and you are very likely to recognize some in the behaviors of others and even yourself. HOWEVER- the fact that you may recognize a defense mechanism does NOT mean there is any problem or issue with you or the person in question: a lot of the defense mechanisms are adaptive rather than dysfunctional.
When you build a character based on Freud's Personality Theory:
While the Id is relatively uniform for everyone across cultures and race/ethnicity, how the Ego and Superego develop is entirely hinging on the child's upbringing! According to Freud, this is the iceberg layout you need to fill in for your character if you build your OC through his lens:
You will also need to decide the following:
1. Who was the primary caretaker of the character when they were born?
2. If they disciplined them strictly/consistently, they will develop a strong Ego fairly quickly.
3. If the discipline is not coupled with morality/ethics teachings, the Superego will be weak. The Ego will be operating more on the principle of doing what the Id wants acceptably for society rather than doing what the Superego dictates.
4. What are the Superego's principles? How strong is the Superego?
Play around with the strength of the three personality parts and how the character's Ego seeks to compromise the conflict between the Id and the Superego.
A serial killer that kills sinners has a very strong Superego, but he might potentially also have a strong Id (hence the impulse to kill in certain ways) and the Ego might have developed defense mechanisms to protect him from the anxiety that is created because murder is not socially acceptable (i.e. ‘they make me do it’ or ‘cleansing society is more important so murder is acceptable’, etc)
A very moral sounding character might have a very strong Id, but the strong Superego represses those impulses. Hence the Ego may allow them to manifest only when the anxiety is too strong, and only if the character's true identity is hidden from society in some fashion.
There are infinite ways to play with the interplay of the personality parts and the Ego's endless work to compromise between the Id and the Superego. While you do decide on these parts and how they were developed, you will also need to build the character's background and behavioral patterns, and again, you will have a fully fleshed out character, with all his/her visceral motivations, wants, and inhibitions laid out at your feet!
DISCLAIMER: Do NOT take Freud's theory as the one and only truth, or as truth at all. There are many psychologists who don't and criticisms of Freud's theory are literally a favourite passtime for quite a few. Psychologists do NOT take any single theory as the one and only truth! Each theory has merits and applications and psychologists use them all with due training.
And yes, I know you expected me to talk about Anal/Oral/Phallic personalities, but nope! That's for next time. Yes, Freud needs TWO posts to be just summarised. He was proliferate!
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, March 20, 2021
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