Quirky Books: The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud

Frequently referred to, yet rarely read, "the Ego and the Id" is one of Freud's most notorious books. This edition was translated by Joan Riviere, revised by James Strachey and introduced by Peter Gay. As a young man Freud's family moved to Vienna so he would be free to become a great man. He married Martha Bernays, had many children and became a leading force in behind the formation of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. His parent's predictions came true.

The rather lucid, yet difficult passages are esteemed because the content provides a basis for modern scientific theory which remains relatively truthful despite criticism. In the second chapter he refers to how the Id (unconscious) speaks to the Ego (preconscious) though sound, sight or feelings. Now it is the basis for auditory, visionary and kinesthetic learning styles. Note he is insensitive to people who feel thoughts, calling the activity instinctual. However, the overall premise survived scientific tests.

He refers to the father and mother identifications. While he refers to the Oedipus Complex these are two separate topics, yet he does not explain the Oedipus Complex, making the points haphazard. In one instance he states, "The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipus Complex was and the more rapidly is succumbed to the repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading)." He assumes the reader is familiar with Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex."

The Oedipus Complex is defined as parental fortune telling of the child destiny. In other words the parental opinions of the child impact the child's ego. This coincides with self-fulfilling prophecy which is developed by the individual (child). It is their conscious or unconscious prediction of their future which develops personal identity. It is an important concept supporting many other topics.

A topical point relates to how Freud assumes everyone has a desire to breed. The Oedipus Complex and ego may impact which parental identification the child chooses to follow. If they cannot obtain a successful marriage, they pacify needs by taking on the opposite gender identification. For example a boy, unable to find a mate compensates by developing maternal traits like home decor or cooking. A woman decides to go to work to afford expensive tastes. He also states oedipal hierarchy can be passed down through generation making it appear as though men make money and women look pretty is hereditary, though it is only the product of a successful Oedipal Structure.

Other conclusions revolve around the passage of information between unconscious and conscious mind. One tendency of instinct is sited as a constant conflict between survival and sadism: wanting love and to be loved, verses wanting control and hatred. This takes place internally and externally creating the foundation of final chapter of the book. People with criminal behavior hide guilt; therefore, secretly wish to be caught or acknowledged.

Freud's obsession with sexual references sells books and his mother knew he would be a Great Jewish Man. The topic could be expressed equally with analogies and hypothesis, yet sex sells. Perhaps libido sold books, though it is the content that kept them as worthwhile reference material. The average reader will find "the Ego and the Id" perplexing unless the reader has an excellent attention span. It is long-winded and the sentence structure is appalling.

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