Sigmund Freud postulated that personality is based on three important factors. In his personality theory of the early 20th century, he explained that behavioral components of an individual – id, ego, superego – are involved in how a person responds to internal and external urges, needs and desires.
He labeled basic primitive and inherited drives as the “id” which are impulsive and often unconscious behaviors. Immediate gratification is a primary motivation. A child’s temper tantrum is a display of the power of the id.
As we mature, personality is shaped by development of a set of controls that Freud termed “ego” and “superego.” Ego guides a person to interact rationally with society and direct strong id emotions and impulses. Bowing to social mores, it directs wants and needs toward actions that will be acceptable to others. While ego acts as a monitor, superego integrates morality into the mix and strives for recognition, reward and idealistic behavior.
Watching the shenanigans of the political world, sometimes it is hard to understand why, in mature adults, the id dominates ego and overwhelms superego, especially in the midst of election campaigns. Our communities have, for the most part, resisted the crass and unscrupulous behavior that has marked some locales but on the scale of growth and progress, the less attractive effects of congestion and financial temptations arise and id can reign supreme.
The southeast bay area is experiencing the stress and strain of our transformation from rural/suburban to suburban/urban. And with this change, comes the question of how our political landscape and personal perspectives are affected by the conversion. Not only has the political landscape changed to include the woes and missteps of large cities and corrosive behavior, but within this environment, a selfish id can reign supreme.
National discourse has degenerated and with it, societal norms have been discarded in favor of a rampant id that suppresses ego and neglects superego. Future generations are watching and responding to this behavior.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel “A Clockwork Orange” posed the conundrum of a society that devolved into a violent, dystopian future attempting to solve unfettered ids with psychological and mechanical conditioning… it didn’t’ work. A human covering over mechanized controls cannot substitute for harmony of id, ego and superego. Using Freud’s concepts, the answer lies in strong reward system of societal acceptance. The ultimate measure of this control lies at the ballot box. The experiment of a democratic republic is under duress; it will wither if citizens shirk their responsibility at the ballot box with a laissez-faire attitude toward adequate vetting of candidates.
One month from now, every citizen in our communities will have a chance to demonstrate either the triumph or failure of peaceful coexistence of id, ego and superego. Will id dominate?