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The Structure of the Mind Pt2

The Structure of the Mind Pt2

The id also operates by the pleasure principle, demanding instant and total gratification of basic needs without regard for reality or morality. Such instinctual tension reduction can only be achieved by reflex activity or by primary process thinking (as exemplified in dreaming). The latter involves the formation of an image of the desired object (e.g., the mother’s breast) and allows some short-term satisfaction (i.e., hallucinatory wish-fulfilment).


To find more effective ways of satisfying the id’s drives, the ego develops from the id as a primarily conscious entity during the first year of life. It has been labelled as the “executive” of the personality and also represents “I”, as the infant learns to differentiate itself from the environment, and fantasy from reality. In working to satisfy id demands through adaptive behaviour, the ego obeys the reality principle (taking into account what is practical, achievable and rational) and operates in terms of secondary process thinking (e.g., decision-making, planning).

This structure of the personality also acts as “pig in the middle”, effecting compromises between id impulses (“putting a lid on the id”) and the moral influences emanating from the third hypothetical structure, the superego. In performing this important function, the ego utilises defence mechanisms – unconscious processes designed to maintain a stabilised (though not necessarily harmonious) personality.

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