Freud's 3 components of personality

Updated April 17, 2017

In the early 20th century, physician and pychologist Sigmund Freud attempted to explain the structure of the mind in order to better understand human psychological development and abnormal mental conditions. Freud divides the mind into three components, the id, ego and superego, each responsible for distinct personality traits. These three components work together to regulate the behaviours that define an individual's personality.

Levels of Consciousness

Freud's components of personality are based on three levels of consciousness -- preconsciousness, consciousness and subconsciousness -- and the ability of impulses or memories to travel from one level to another. Preconsciousness incorporates information an individual is aware of but not immediately focused on. Consciousness is the focus of an individual's immediate attention. Subconscious information is out of reach of the conscious mind, allowing the subconscious mind to think and act independently and resulting in uncontrollable behaviours.


The id is the most primitive component of personality, having no perception of reality and relying on what Freud refers to as the "primary processes" to satisfy an individual's basic needs and urges. Examples of these primitive urges include pleasure-seeking behaviours and aggression. The id is ruled by the "pleasure principle," which is a demand for instant gratification of needs and urges without concern for possible consequences.


Using the "reality principle," the ego evaluates actions and their potential consequences and determines appropriate solutions to the id's urges. To accomplish this, the ego employs the "secondary processes" of perception, recognition, judgment and memory. The ego acts as a middle ground between the id and the superego, working to satisfy the urges that originate in the id under the moral constraints originating from the superego.


The superego contains an individual's values and social morals, which are learnt through childhood training and experiences, according to the ChangingMinds website. It employs enforcement emotions, such as guilt and pride, to regulate an individual's behaviour based on past training and experience. The superego works to counterbalance the id by repressing urges instead of seeking instant gratification.

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About the Author

Kelly Smith has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes for various websites, specializing in health and literature. Smith is a certified pharmacy technician with more than five years of professional experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in multimedia communications from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.