Id, ego, superego

The Id, the Ego, and the Superego Walk into a Bar

Like most people, my life is made up of a variety of competing forces. They often seem like a mishmash of drives, doubts, and compulsions, and it can be hard to get a handle on them and how much each is controlling my day-to-day thoughts and activities, my path in life, and my worldview. I try to be very intentional about my vision for my life, goals, and aspirations—I have a document that I update regularly describing all of these—but I still struggle with who’s in the driver’s seat. I do feel like I have a good, strong moral compass that helps me develop my evolving worldview and guides my interactions with people, but I can also be selfish. I try very hard to be healthy and spiritual, but many of my thoughts and actions are driven by compulsions related to basic urges. Sometimes I prioritize working toward an ideal, while at other times, I tell myself that I should just have fun. Life is, of course, a balance, and I try not to sweat these competing forces too much, but when I stay aware of these forces, it can actually be fun to watch them fight with each other.

I’ve been thinking about these forces in terms of Freud’s id, ego, and superego[1] (more here), which has been insightful and instructive.

Spending a day with the id

I love the idea of taking a day and totally giving in to instant gratification—giving in to my infant-self and doing whatever the hell I feel like and that will make me feel good in the short term. One of my (many) struggles is my diet and weight management—I regularly seek out new diet and exercise programs, not because they necessarily teach me anything new, but because they are a different way of thinking about what I eat and how I move. The one I’m currently on allows me a “cheat day” once a week. I also have a constant struggle with alcohol, and I (currently) only allow myself to drink on weekends, and even then, in moderation. When I am disciplined about these plans, I (shockingly) feel really good, clear-headed, and energetic, and when I overindulge, my sense of regret at wasting a day feeling bad is intense. So, the idea of completely giving in to compulsions, especially if I’m truly not giving myself limits, is a little scary.

But I think taking a day for my id would allow my “higher-plane self” to regroup and come back with renewed energy and a clearer sense of purpose. It would also allow my inner child, after long periods of repression, a chance for release. I can keep just enough of my superego on duty to not kill myself or hurt others (or make myself sick), but other than that, the sky’s the limit.

Spending a (very different) day with the superego

It’s interesting to think about how much of my life is directed by my superego. The self-righteous part of me would suggest that most of who I am is consistent with my superego influence, but a quick look through my memories, near and far, reminds me this isn’t true. So, why not also spend a day alone with my superego? A day given over to my ideal self, a day where I have to act on any thought I have about making the world a better place. A day of making my mind, body, and spirit healthier and stronger, with no allowance for pleasure or comfort. A day when my very thoughts are limited to those that will better myself and the world.

My first reaction is, why the fuck would I do that? There’s nothing wrong with pleasure for pleasure’s sake, as long as it doesn’t hurt me or anyone else. Indulging in delicious food, beautiful images (and people), and fun activities actually makes me a better person, a more balanced person—a person who is relaxed, happy, and fun.

“Well of course,” I say to myself, in this increasingly bizarre inner dialogue. This isn’t a lifestyle change—it’s a day of exploration. A day to give my superego equal time with my id. A day to explore possibilities for self-improvement. “Well… OK,” my id-directed self concedes, “I guess that’s only fair.”

Spending my life with the ego

So, my day with my id (super fun, but with little chirps of guilt from that uptight superego bastard) and my superego (kind of felt like a Vulcan) were very interesting, but neither was ideal. There’s a reason people strive for balance. None of us are suited for permanent residence on a higher plane. Props to those who aspire to that ideal, but the fact is that we’re all the same species, and a species that is capable of the mountain of violence, greed, and sloth that exists in our world is not quite ready for the next evolutionary leap away from our baser instincts (yet). So, I plan on developing my ego from the best parts of my id and my superego while continuing to try to abide by the ideals my superego keeps harping on about.

And taking the occasional day with my id—that guy’s a blast…

[1] McLeod, Saul. 2019. “Id, Ego, and Superego.” Simple Psychology. URL: Accessed March 17, 2021.

“According to Freud psychoanalytic theory, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the superego operates as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.”


The Savior

Here is this drive from deep inside.
It directs my behavior I’m in need of a savior,
to loosen the grip it has on me,
and help me secure a path that is pure—
and more aligned with me. 

But who am I, and what is the lie?
The essential me, what others can see,
or something deeper—the sacred keeper
of myself at the core, of what I live for,
of who I aspire to be.  

Where is this savior? How can I find favor,
with one who can find, what is rightfully mine?
And when I do find her, will she see the finer
and greater pieces? The chaff she releases,
will reveal who I am at my core. 

But when she begins, she starts from within.
That force that allows, all I want here and now,
merged with higher ambitions, to bring to fruition
a more balanced me. Who I think you’ll agree
Is better than I was before.

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