The Animal in Us

| May 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Mrs. Freud

Last month I kicked off the new column with one of Freud´s three parts of the personality structure: “ID – Ego – Super-Ego” (find at This month I continue with the second one, the ID. The ID is all about primitive and animalistic drives, desires and pleasure. It contains our instinctive behavior and our aggression as well as our sex drive. It contains our wants and our impulses. Without it the human species might have gone instinct. It helps us to avoid pain and find pleasure, focused on the pleasure principle of instant gratification of any impulse. “I WANT IT NOW!” it would shout in its purest form. Without the involvement of the super-ego, the ID inspired behavior would not contain morals or ethics. It also does not know judgments like “good” and “evil.”

These instincts and drives are like animals. Waiting patiently in line would be impossible. If hungry and at a restaurant, we would grab food off our neighbor’s table instead of waiting for our own to arrive. Children are still very governed by the ID, so as they grow up, we as adults, as society, socialize, teach and raise them. They learn to delay gratification. For example, a two year old has a hard time sitting through a theater performance, while a ten year old can manage, even if it is not an attention grabbing piece.

In the original German language the ID function is called “Es,” which translates into “It.” That makes it easier to grasp the instinctive, non-personal, animalistic nature of it. According to Freud, our energy, our drive is mainly of sexual nature, in the form of instincts. He calls it libido. Thanks to the evolution of man and the ability to delay satisfaction, this primitive instinct can be expressed in other, more refined ways. It has given us culture, art and social life. It gives us zest and drive, which gets us out of bed in the morning.

Sometimes we don´t grow beyond that “instinctive” phase in parts and have problems like being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, being obsessed with computer games. We want it, when we want it, without delay. That gets us in trouble, our health suffers, as do our relationships, and job performance. Delay of gratification can be acquired very successfully with a conscious examination of these dynamics. For example, I have had clients come to me for help to quit smoking, but are not ready to give up the behavior. They merely want to be free of the negative health effects. This wishful thinking and denial keeps us from reaching our goals, keeps us from taking responsibility for our own well-being and health. Once ready to take responsibility, the goal can be achieved. Teaching children how to delay gratification and reaping the bigger reward on the long run (like getting a solid education, being healthy) is one of the most important things we can do for them. It is even more valuable when paired with the measure of joy that can be found by living healthfully in the present.

This Freudian tripartite model of the mind makes us function ideally like a dance, where the three parts are in balance, alternatively leading and being led by each other. It is also important that they stay dynamic, ever evolving and developing, as opposed to being rigid. A rigid personality – even if appearing to be balanced – can´t function and respond to the continuously changing environment and oncoming challenges.

Author Sabine Starr is a psychologist licensed in Vienna, Austria, currently living and working in Mission Hills. She has written numerous articles for professional psychology journals. For further information on Starr visit and follow her blog at

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