Id, Ego, Superego

According to Webster’s, these are the definitions for id, ego and superego:

Id: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that is completely unconscious and is the source of psychic energy derived from instinctual needs and drives

ego: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality

superego: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that is only partly conscious, represents internalization of parental conscience and the rules of society, and functions to reward and punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt

Now… I just had an interesting conversation the other night about these concepts based on my post “Alcohol Is No Excuse”. Basically, what I said in that post, without getting into the underlying psychology is that as long as you don’t completely incapacitate yourself with alcohol, you’re doing what you WANT to do when you’re drunk, and not some crazy, off-the-wall ish that “came out of nowhere”. Therefore, Alcohol is NOT an excuse for cheating or abusive behavior or whatever.

So I’m chatting with this friend of mine, and she asks me about Freud. I’m like “What about him?”, and she brings up id, ego and superego. I don’t remember verbatim what she said, but it revolved around which of the three is actually “You”. I hadn’t thought about it before, because, to me, it’s obvious that the id is “You”… However, I realize that my whole post about alcohol was based on that particular belief of mine and that it’s worth discussing the three divisions.

According to the definition above, the id is your natural instinct… it’s what you would do without any parameters or external interference. The superego holds the rules for what you’re SUPPOSED to do in a given situation. The ego is where “You” decide what you’re going to do, taking into account the influences of the id and the superego. My impression of drinking, based on these three, is that there’s the potential for the superego to become disabled or disappear entirely, leaving the ego with only the stimulus from the id when it comes to deciding what to do.

This is why people wake up the next day talkin’ ’bout “Why didn’t you stop me?” and “I’m not that type of person” and “I don’t hook up with people I just met” and “I only screw attractive chicks” and “That’s not your twin brother’s baby… it’s yours”. They’ve tried so hard to NOT be who they really are that they don’t recognize their own behavior when the rules disappear from their minds.

So… Depending on how you see this, by alcohol removing the superego’s influence, it’s either removing what you think is “You”, leaving you ‘prey’ to your own natural instincts… or it’s ENABLING you to be “You” by removing what you’ve been taught that’s suppressing your natural way of being. Well… Sorry… You are NOT the rules your parents taught you. You are NOT what you learned in school. You are NOT the contents of your wallet. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

How do I know this? Because whomever you really are, you will be taught different things depending on what society you’re born into or come into contact with. “Morals” are different in different places. That has nothing to do with who YOU are and what turns YOU on and what doesn’t. The superego is set up for you to not make yourself a pariah or worse by disrespecting society’s standards. If your society says every guy should have ONE girlfriend and you have SEVERAL, you’re out of bounds. The superego reminds you to play it off as if you’re only messing with one chick. Are you really doing that? No. You’re maintaining your staus in society (as well as assuring a decent probability of physical safety/survival) by going along with what people EXPECT you to do and what people TOLD you to do.

How come these rules go out the window for some people when they drink? How come people don’t adhere MORE TIGHTLY to the rules that they “live by” when they’re sober? How come it’s not the id that ‘goes’, instead of the superego? How come people do more ‘dirt’ when they’re drunk than when they’re sober? How come the people that do ‘dirt’ when they’re sober don’t become pious individuals when they get drunk? πŸ˜€ It’s because the entire thing is a front, and you are who you are, regardless of the rules you’re TRYING to follow.

So the next time somebody gets drunk and does something and replies “that wasn’t me”, ask them who it was. πŸ˜€ Ask them where they got the idea to do what they did. Did they get it from television? Did they get drunk and then see something in a movie and want to see if they could do it in real life? πŸ˜€ Where did this impulse come from for your boyfriend to screw your sister or stay out all night without calling you? How come your girl was spotted at the club getting her freak on with the next man? Please… Feel FREE to ask people that tell you that alcohol was an excuse for what they did to tell you WHERE they got the idea and post it here, or on your own blog or whatever, because either they don’t want to admit or they don’t UNDERSTAND that it was actually THEIR idea from the beginning.

Also… How is it that there’s a common thread to what happens? How come people don’t get drunk and buy your mother flowers? πŸ˜€ Get drunk and paint your car? Get drunk and fund your startup?… ok, bad example. I’m sure that happens all the time, but you see what I’m saying. How come it’s always stuff that people try to excuse away? That’s because they did What. They. Wanted. To. Do, and what they would have done in the first place if they weren’t carrying their brainwashing around with them in their superegos.

You know what else is common amongst humans?


Did you notice that? Regardless of what language people speak, they tend to SMILE when they’re happy and FROWN when they’re upset. Do you know why that is? Did they ALL get the memo? Did people around the world DECIDE that they were going to teach babies to smile and laugh when they’re happy? I know *I* didn’t get that memo. Do you think it’s the superego that’s smiling? Is it morally right in lots of countries with DIFFERING moral codes to smile or laugh when you feel happy? Is it the ego that’s smiling? Do you CHOOSE to smile, because you won’t become a pariah or get attacked by society if you do so? Is it a natural reaction of the id? Is it purely physical?

So, yeah. I say the id is “You”, the superego is the set of rules that keeps you safe in the society you happen to be in and the ego handles the conscious decision-making between what you WANT to do and what you’re actually GOING to do.

Now, in some cases, the choice is the same. Some guys open doors for the ladies whether they’re drunk or sober. Some people are loud and obnoxious drunk or sober. Some people are FREAKS drunk or sober. Some people are piously religious drunk or sober. Also, like I said in the other post, people can definitely incapacitate themselves with alcohol, which is a totally different issue from drinking to the point where your superego takes a vacation. If you can’t drink, DON’T DRINK. Period. If you’re friends with someone that can’t handle their liquor, TELL THEM SO and do what you can to make them see the light. Videotape them if you have to, so you can show these “I’m not that type of person” people the type of people that they really are.

So if you’ve read this far, I’m impressed. πŸ™‚ I’d love to hear/read what you think as far as where “You” reside in your psyche, and whether you think alcohol disables the “You” or enables the “You”. Meanwhile, You can go vote for me on the Silicon Alley 100 or catch up with me at the bar! πŸ˜€

Bill Cammack