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What Is Ego Psychology?

What Is Ego Psychology?

Last Updated: 29-09-2023

Written by :

Ms.Urvashi Jain
Clinical Psychologist
National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil

Reviewed By:

Counselling Psychologist MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
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In the contemporary world and in casual conversations, ‘ego’ is usually used as a negative term where we refer to people as ‘egoistic,’ which further equates to them being unpleasant or rude. The term ‘ego’, its meaning, and its usage are different from what they were when they first came into existence and from how they view individuals. Nowadays, it is generally used for individuals who are perceived to have an elated sense of self-esteem and are disliked for the same. The concept of ego, however, is much wider and much more than just that. 

To better understand the true concept of ego and ego psychology, it is important to look at its birth, its development, and its current status. Ego psychology was birthed through Sigmund Freud s “The Ego and the Id” (1923). Through that, he changed the meaning of ego from self “as a whole, perhaps including the body,” to a set of related mental functions, “a part of the mind”. He thus gave birth to ego psychology, which was from its inception a study of mental functioning (Laplanche and Pontalis 1967). 

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The Human Mind And Its Components 

Freud introduced the concepts of the id, ego, three, and superego. He further divided consciousness into three categories: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Id is mostly unconscious and is referred to as the reservoir for instincts. It functions on the pleasure principle. The ego is the ‘rational master’, its job is not to give in to id impulses, and it functions on the ‘reality principle’. And lastly, the superego refers to internal morality, which consists of the rules and principles that one starts to learn early in childhood. Let s understand this through the example of Khushi 

If Khushi sees an ice cream in another child’s hand, the id impulse would say, ‘ I want that ice cream right now,’ and ask Khushi to take it from the child and eat it. Its sole purpose is to run for pleasure without caring for societal norms or values.

Superego: Khushi would see an ice cream in another child’s hand and even if she wants to have it, she will tell herself, No, it s wrong to have someone else s ice cream,’ and remind herself of her morals 

Ego: Khushi sees an ice cream in another child’s hand, wants it, and knows that it s wrong to take someone else s ice cream and buy her own instead.

The Role Of Ego

 Ego allows us to look past our basic urges and figure out a balance between morals and reality. These components of ego work together, which allows us to function in a rational manner in the society we live in. Lack of superego would mean a lack of morals and principles, which would make an individual immoral or ‘bad’. Lack of ego will cause a lot of conflict and a lack of rational decision-making. And a lack of id IDuld leave us lost and unaware of our needs. There are times when there can be a conflict between the contrasting ideas and impulses of the id and the ego, which may lead to anxiety, This is where the defense mechanisms step in 

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Ego Defense Mechanisms 

Essential to the concept of the ego are ego defense mechanisms. Do you ever hear someone say ‘no? That never happened?’ when referring to an anxiety-inducing situation or even a traumatic event? Or do you see students saying, ‘I failed that exam because the questions were tricky’? Denial is one ego defense mechanism wherein people simply refuse to accept facts or reality, and rationalization is when people try to explain an event with their own set of facts or reasoning. Ego defense mechanisms are strategies or resources the ego uses to protect the individual against the anxiety provoked by the conflicts of everyday life. Anna Freud defined these as the ‘unconscious resources used by the ego’ to decrease overall stress. Conflicts generally arise between the superego and the id. While these mechanisms are necessary to protect ourselves from feelings of anxiety and guilt, when used out of proportion, they can be damaging and may derail one s sense of reality. 

The development of the ego is a lifelong process 

Ego is a product of one s early childhood as well as the experiences one shares as they grow with people they value and even with people they are unfamiliar with. The environment that the parents provide to their children, whether it is accepting or critical, has positive regard or a  severe lack of it, all play a part in defining the ego. A healthy ego is one that can adapt to change, manage and handle stressful situations, and maintain a strong sense of self. It doesn t feel ‘lost’. Having a strong base built during the childhood years does help an individual tackle stressful situations thrown at them as they grow up, in school, in college, and later in adulthood. 

One can develop a healthy ego by maintaining healthy habits such as not comparing oneself with others, being confident in oneself, and increasing insight. That can be done by increasing self-awareness through journaling and keeping track of your mood and activities. Ego psychology aims to find a middle ground in conflicts where the individual feels confident enough in the decisions they take and can protect themselves from anxiety-inducing instances in a healthy manner

Learn More at HopeQure

HopeQure is a platform that psycho-educates people on various topics, including the one we discussed above, such as ego psychology, humanistic psychology, issues that couples deal with and so much more. Our goal is to make you self-aware! And apart from psychoeducation, we also provide assistance to our experts on any topics that are relevant to your well-being! So feel free to reach out and learn more! 

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