social icons graphic

The Structure of the Mind

The Structure of the Mind

Freud’s so-called structural hypothesis proposes three different “force-fields” in the human mind: id, ego and superego. These psychological structures correspond approximately to desire, reason and conscience respectively, although the last mentioned is only half of the story. What a person thinks, feels and does is suggested to be determined by the actions and interactions of id, ego and superego.  In his main work on this theme, The Ego and the Id, Freud countered concerns of reification (confusing abstract and concrete) by emphasising that these structures are merely hypothetical and useful qualities and processes of the mind, not discrete entities or things. Id, ego and superego have, for example, no clearly defined neurological basis and are not manikins (little people) that operate the personality.


The id is the only structure present at birth. It is entirely unconscious and interfaces most closely with a person’s biological needs, being infused with their energy. This structure has commonly been described as the motor or dynamo of the personality, as a reservoir of psychic energy and as the biological bedrock of motivation. Sexual and aggressive drives (refer to instinct theory outlined later) are a basic feature of the id, with Freud describing the id as “a chaos, a cauldron of seething excitations” (SE, XXII.73-4).

Recent Posts