With the introduction of the structural theory (1923), Freud postulated a tripartite division of the mind: the id, the ego and the superego. Freud never uses these terms and preferred the German, ‘Das Ich’, ‘Das Es’ and ‘Das Über-Ich’, to the Latinized versions (Bettelheim 1983). Obviously, these were not meant to refer to real things, nor do they have neurological correlates; this was a ‘model’ of the mind, not to be confused with the actual brain or with a specific mind. Moreover, these were not discrete and separate but overlapping agencies or functions of the mind. With this fundamental shift in thinking, Freud assigned to the ego the role of mediator between the id and reality, acting as a kind of regulator of the id’s urge towards expression of desire. The ego, governed by the reality principle, functions as a conductor, directing the id towards more appropriate expressions. And to achieve the repression of inappropriate desire and urge, the ego deploys ‘mechanisms of defence’ (see entry, defence mechanisms). The ego, in short, converts, diverts and transforms the id’s urgings into more pragmatic and realistic satisfactions. It moves to control and regulate the id’s influence, to achieve satisfaction despite the limitations imposed by reality. While the id forms an image of the desire or pushes towards its expression, the ego strategizes to realize desire and through time, borrowing psychic energy from the id, builds capacity and function: memory, perception, self-awareness.
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