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The Ego,

Super-ego and Id

The “I” of the Soul


By Frank A.J. Braun

Published by Ruah Publishing

Distributed by Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Frank A.J. Braun

This paper is extracted from the author’s e-books, The Spirit and Me and The Unruly Spirit published by Ruah Publishing and distributed through Smashwords. Copies of this partial overview may be made for personal use, but all other copyrights are reserved as stated in the author’s books.

Ego, Super-ego and Id

To grasp an understanding of the ego, super-ego and id it is helpful to view the human soul as mind, spirit and body united under the control of the psyche, the “I.” A pyramid model illustrates the concept.

The ego, super-ego and id distinguish the three separate paths the psyche (“I”) utilizes as it interacts with “self” and “other” through the intellect, instinct and senses of the mind, spirit and body, respectively, and their norms, functions and faculties. The following model of the cognitive system, viewed as the sides of a pyramid, illustrates this theory.

Psalm 19 tells us that everything in creation speaks and in turn hears. There is a constant interaction with a stream of radiated forces in the form of stimuli flowing within and between all things, be they atoms, organic cells or animate beings. Composed of the attributes of God—knowledge (omniscience), power (omnipotence) and presence-mass (omnipresence)—everything in creation radiates the nature of its identity, energy and substance through abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence. Primal objects such as atoms, organic cells and even animals are basically encoded with fixed autonomic norms that monitor and regulate their internal and external interactions. Humans, too, are born with pre-encoded norms. However, with their unique intellects, instincts and senses seated in the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brainstem, respectively, they have the ability to transmit abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence back and forth between self and other, and to act, react and/or interact as they choose. With their God-like “I,” in coordination with their intellect, instinct and senses, humans can carry out their mental, spiritual and physical interactions in conjunction with their naturally encoded norms and/or as they rationally determine appropriate.

As the monitor over the norms, functions and faculties of the intellect (mind), the “I” as ego perceives all incoming abstract knowledge (stimuli) originating from both internal and external sources and can act, react and/or interact with conscious thoughts in two ways: intuitive thinking and effortful thinking. Intuitive thinking (System 1 thinking) is thought formed spontaneously and directly from the intellectual faculties of knowledge, wisdom and counsel previously affirmed by the conscience as norms and stored in the memory structures of the cerebral cortex. Effortful thinking (System 2 Thinking) is thought formed deliberately through the rational faculties of awareness, understanding and conviction. Both modes of thinking are carried out consciously by the “I” through the volitional faculties of choice, covenant and assent.

The ego, in forming intuitive thinking, normally provides what may be called common sense and righteous reasoning. On the other hand, conscious thinking can be expressed, withheld, or changed rationally through effortful thinking as personally deemed appropriate, e.g. the hypocrite who says one thing and does another. With this leverage, the ego not only forms and changes its own conscience, but also encodes the behavioral habits of the instinct and some of the conditioning of the neural sensory system, as will be further explained. In this regard, the ego may be considered the master over not only its own conscious thoughts and interactions, but also over the emotions of the super-ego (activated through the instinct) and the reflex actions of the senses (motorized through the id).

The super-ego, the “I” over the norms, functions and faculties of the spirit, is triggered and guided by the habits (behavioral norms) encoded in the limbic structures of the brain, the seat of the instinct. The super-ego discerns the radiated behavioral power of stimuli received from internal or external sources and autonomically reacts with emotion in accord with how it may affect the faculties of the instinct—survival, community (bonding) and creativity. Of equal importance is the fact that behavioral habits provide more than an autonomic response to internal or external stimuli. They also provide the instinctive drive for humans to carry out their motivational faculties of work, service and charisms. Sigmund Freud used the term “repetition compulsion” when referring to some egregious types of habits, but to a degree it can be applied to all behavioral habits.

The encoded behavioral habits of the instinct, stored in the structures of the limbic system, are acquired naturally, generationally and from learned behavior. With maturation they are added to or changed by every behavioral interaction experienced consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously, and then categorized and catalogued in the structures of the limbic system. Unlike the ego over the intellect, the super-ego unconsciously acts and reacts emotionally in accord with the encoded instinctual habits stored in the limbic structures when triggered by internal and/or external stimuli, e.g. pain in chest, an encounter with danger, anger, depression, etc.

Instinctive behavioral habits are moral in nature, being formed as vices and virtues. Thus, they can be carried out in both positive and negative ways: faith, hope and love or fear, indifference and noxiousness, or the many derivations of each. Carried out through the super-ego, behavioral habits of the instinct are spiritual forces that activate a good portion of human interaction. They can take on the power of demonic forces or righteous motivation. Being autonomic, instinctive habits can be triggered by virtuous or vicious behavioral power within self or outside sources. When strong enough, instinctive habits can unconsciously override the conscious will of the intellect or the subconscious conditioning, propensities and desires of the physical body, e.g., aiding a drowning victim or maliciously injuring another; hence the title super-ego.

The “I,” as id, when triggered by the physical conditioning norms of the body, autonomically activates reflex actions (motorized responses) upon sensing stimuli that may affect the faculties of the body – the neuro, generative and musculoskeletal organs. Unlike the norms of the intellect and the instinct, conditioning of the body is primarily encoded by its physical constituent, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and even light. Thus, a good part of its encoded conditioning is not through conscious intent, e.g. learning to perform a task, but from physical needs and natural maturation.

Freud theorized that the id acts in accord with the “pleasure-principle”; reacting to pain or unpleasure, as posited by some psychologists. However, it is more. The id is the sum of encoded forces which alert the body to its needs, desires, sexual impulses, and aggressive drives. Contrary to Freudian thought, the actions and reactions instigated by conditioning are largely subconscious, not of conscious or unconscious origin, as the body’s norms (conditioning) are basically formed in accord with its atomic and cellular components.

Scientific research has revealed that stimuli carried by the neuro system first alerts the physical senses, then the instinct and lastly the intellect. Thus, if a person touches a hot object, the sensation upon reaching the structures of the brain stem will bring about a subconscious response through the id before it is discerned instinctually by the super-ego or perceived intellectually by the ego. However, conditioning for humans is not fixed. Through intellectual and instinctual practices, physical conditioning can be reprogrammed and changed. The hand can be trained to handle objects, the ring of a bell can initiate motor movement, etc.

It is a unique phenomenon how the ego, super-ego and id monitor the pursuits of the intellect, instinct and senses, especially their response to incoming stimuli. A portion of stimuli forces are recognized and/or responded to consciously through the intellect, but a substantial part of the psyche’s reactions are unconscious or subconscious. The myriad ongoing interactions operating on various levels of consciousness create many chances for errors such as outbursts, miss-communications, wrong turns and even cognitive afflictions. Nevertheless, the ego, super-ego and id can be thought of as marvels with which humans are gifted.

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