The Role Ego Plays in Your Personality (2024)

According to Sigmund Freud, the ego is part of our personality that mediates the demands of the id, the superego, and reality. Freud described the id as the most basic part of personality that urges people to fulfill their most primal needs.

The superego, on the other hand, is the moralistic part of personality that forms later in childhood due to upbringing and social influences. It is the ego's job to strike a balance between these two, often competing, forces and to ensure that fulfilling the needs of the id and superego conforms to the demands of reality.

At a Glance

The ego is the component of personality that strikes a realistic balance between the demands of the id's primal urges and the superego's moral conscience. Freud also believed that the ego relies on defense mechanisms (such as denial and repression) to protect us against anxiety and distress.

In everyday usage, the ego represents a sense of self-importance (think: "He has such a big ego!) Having a healthy ego means we can maintain a healthy sense of self, but an imbalance can lead to problems, including excessive self-centeredness.

Id, Ego, and Superego: Freud's Elements of Personality

A Closer Look at the Ego

So just what function does the ego serve in personality? The ego prevents us from acting on our basic urges (created by the id) but also works to achieve a balance with our moral and idealistic standards (created by the superego).

While the ego operates in both the preconscious and conscious, its strong ties to the id means that it also operates in the unconscious.

The ego operates based on the reality principle, which works to satisfy the id's desires in a manner that is realistic and socially appropriate. The term ego strength is used to refer to the ego's ability to mediate between these conflicting demands.

For example, if a person cuts you off in traffic, the ego prevents you from chasing down the car and physically attacking the offending driver. The ego allows us to see that this response would be socially unacceptable, but it also allows us to know that there are other more appropriate means of venting our frustration.

What Is the Unconscious?

Freud's Observations on the Ego

In his 1933 book New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Freud compared the relationship between the id and the ego to that of a horse and rider. The horse represents the id, a powerful force that offers the energy to propel forward motion. The rider represents the ego, the guiding force that directs the power of the id toward a goal.

Freud noted, however, that this relationship did not always go as planned. In less ideal situations, a rider may find himself simply along for the ride as he allows his horse to go in the direction the animal wants to go.

Just as a rider may not always be able to control a horse, the id's primal urges may sometimes be too powerful for the ego to keep in check.

The Ego's Defense Mechanisms

In her own 1936 book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, Anna Freud that all of the ego's defenses against the id were carried out behind the scenes. These measures against the id are known as the defense mechanisms, which are carried out silently and invisibly by the ego.

While we cannot observe the defenses in action, Anna Freud suggested that they could be observed in retrospect. Repression is one example. When something is repressed from awareness, the ego is not aware that the information is missing.

It is only later when it becomes obvious that some piece of information or memory is gone, that the actions of the ego become apparent.

Quotations About the Ego

Sometimes it helps to look at the original source of these ideas to get a better perspective on the topic. So what did Freud have to say about his concept of the ego? He wrote extensively about the ego as well as its relationship to other aspects of personality.

Here are just a few of his more famous quotes about the ego:

On the Ego's Origins

"It is easy to see that the ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world." (Sigmund Freud, 1923, FromThe Ego and the Id)

On the Ego's Influence

"The ego is not master in its own house." (Sigmund Freud, 1917, FromA Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis)

"The ego represents what we call reason and sanity, in contrast to the id which contains the passions." (Sigmund Freud, 1923, FromThe Ego and the Id)

"The poor ego has a still harder time of it; it has to serve three harsh masters, and it has to do its best to reconcile the claims and demands of all three... The three tyrants are the external world, the superego, and the id." (Sigmund Freud, 1932, FromNew Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis)

"Towards the outside, at any rate, the ego seems to maintain clear and sharp lines of demarcation. There is only one state—admittedly an unusual state, but not one that can be stigmatized as pathological—in which it does not do this.

At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away. Against all the evidence of his senses, a man who is in love declares that "I" and "you" are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact." (Sigmund Freud, 1929, FromCivilization and Its Discontents)

Other Meanings of Ego

The word 'ego' comes from the Latin word for 'I.' Freud himself referred to it as 'das Ich,' meaning 'the I' in German. The term 'ego' was added by Freud's translator.

In everyday usage, the term 'ego' is often used to describe a person's sense of self-importance. When someone says that a person has a big ego, they imply that that person is conceited or has an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

Similarly, egocentrism refers to self-centeredness and an inability to consider the perspective of other people. It is more common in childhood, but it can also occur throughout life to varying degrees.

Sometimes, this inflated sense of ego might be connected to a mental health condition. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a condition that involves having a grandiose sense of importance, self-centeredness, and a lack of empathy for others. People with bipolar disorder also sometimes experience grandiosity during manic episodes.

It is important to note that narcissism and egocentrism are not precisely the same. People with NPD also experience other symptoms, such as a sense of entitlement and preoccupation with their own success. They may also manipulate others to get the attention and acclaim they desire.

What This Means For You

Ego has a couple of different meanings in psychology. In Freud's classic psychoanalytic theory, it refers to the realistic part of personality that strikes a balance between our primal urges and moral conscience. In other cases, people use it to refer to a person's sense of identity and self-importance. Having a healthy ego is important, but having an inflated sense of self can lead to problems. An inflated ego might be a symptom of a mental health condition such as narcissistic personality disorder or bipolar disorder.

How Personality Impacts Our Daily Lives

The Role Ego Plays in Your Personality (2024)


What role does your ego play? ›

In everyday usage, the ego represents a sense of self-importance (think: "He has such a big ego!) Having a healthy ego means we can maintain a healthy sense of self, but an imbalance can lead to problems, including excessive self-centeredness.

What is the ego in personality? ›

The ego is the psychological component of the personality that is represented by our conscious decision-making process. The id is the instinctual, biological component , and the superego is the social component of our personality and conscience . Our behavior is determined by the interaction of these three components.

What is the role of the ego? ›

The ego is the only part of the conscious personality. It's what the person is aware of when they think about themselves and what they usually try to project toward others. The ego develops to mediate between the unrealistic id and the real external world. It is the decision-making component of personality.

What is the role of the ego quizlet? ›

According to Freud, the purpose of the ego is to balance the id and the superego. The id is driven by our instincts and urges, while the superego works as our moral guide. The ego's task is to harmonize the id's desires and the superego's commands.

How does ego affect your personal life? ›

Research has shown that the he ego can be held responsible for many negative human traits including but not limited to criticising and judging others,acting manipulative, being inflexible and rigid, having severe mood swings, possessing a constant need for praise and approval, need to feel superior to everyone around, ...

How does ego control you? ›

It forces us to believe that we are what we are, only in comparison to others. We spend energy believing this fiction, energy we could be using to enjoy life. Your ego can cause harm by taking away you living in the present moment. You get too stuck in your head to fully engage in the moment and enjoy life around you.

What causes ego in a person? ›

Literally meaning “I” in Latin, your ego is the internal sense of self-esteem and pride that helps you feel good about who you are. Its presence and strength are determined by a combination of: internal factors: thoughts, emotions, needs. external factors: environment, the reaction of others to you, social influences.

What are the 5 types of ego? ›

The unhealthy Ego States are: Selfish, Pleaser, Rebellious, Master Manipulator, Critical, and Enabling.

What are the 7 types of ego? ›

Here I will share with you 13 major forms of egos that hold people back in their lives.
  • The Blame Ego. Victim-mentality leads people to have the blame ego. ...
  • The Know it all Ego. ...
  • The Fearful Ego. ...
  • The Comfort Zone Ego. ...
  • The Judgemental Ego. ...
  • The Excuses Ego. ...
  • People Pleasing Ego. ...
  • The Justifying Ego.
Jun 30, 2021

Does the ego control behavior? ›

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 ...

What is the ego part of personality quizlet? ›

The ego is the part of personality that mediates the demands of the id, the superego and reality. The ego prevents us from acting on our basic urges (created by the id), but also works to achieve a balance with our moral and idealistic standards (created by the superego).

What are the three functions of ego? ›

According to the definition from psychoanalytic theory, the ego is the component of your personality that deals with the external world, enabling you to perceive, reason, conduct reality testing, and balance the demands of the id and the superego.

What are the five functions of ego? ›

Some examples of important ego functions are: reality testing; judgment; object relations; thought processes; and regulation and control of drives, affects, and impulses (Goldstein, 1995). Though ego functions are individually labeled, it is important to note that humans are complex beings.

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