The Super-Ego – an Ego on Steroids?

| April 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

Sabine Starr

by Mrs. Freud

Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, coined the term “Super-Ego.” It is a concept we all carry inside ourselves that helps us with ethical conduct and moral decisions. It is responsible for self-imposed standards of behavior. We “acquire” the Super-Ego while growing up and getting feedback from our parents on our behavior, when we get punished or rewarded for various actions. Eventually we get an idea about the moral code of the community, about what is desired, acceptable or rejected.

Another effect of our super-ego is our inner critic; it is the constant voice inside us judging decisions and actions. We have an opinion about good or bad for anything we come across in our daily lives. The super-ego aims for perfection and is the driving force for many goals. Perfectionists can thank their super-ego for their accomplishments. But the price of that can be high. Often, a critical parent is the origin of this. The constant demands for better and more have been internalized. Eventually that parent does not have to be present to give his/her opinion. We can almost “hear” what they have to say and act accordingly; and if we don´t, we feel guilty.

With an “overactive” super-ego we might also start to look for what´s right or wrong in other people. That leaves little room for interacting and showing who we are or getting to know the other person. I am referring to little things, as opposed to the common agreement not to hurt other people. If our thoughts are busy with judgments, not much new can unfold or happen. We keep having the same feelings and experiences.

In adulthood we can take a good look at our own and unique super-ego. Are we overly critical of ourselves and others? Do we quickly feel guilty when our own plans clash with what other people want from us? Chances are that if you read this column, your tendency is more towards being conscientious. After all, my readers tend to be interested in personal growth and a good life and co-existence with others. Therefore, I would like to gear the questions towards what sentences are still ringing in your ears from your childhood. Some common examples are “Work is hard,” “money is hard earned and does not grow on trees,”, “the early bird gets the worm.” If your sentences are working positively for your goals and for your well being, great! Keep them and continue to use them. If the sentences feel heavy, confining and counterproductive toward your goals, come up with a new sentence to replace the old one. “Work is hard” can turn into “I love my work. I do it with ease and much success”.

Our super-ego can be on steroids, meaning that it is shooting beyond its purpose. The main purpose is to make living together with others comfortable, to create a safe environment and to be able to pursue human values like companionship, team spirit and personal fulfillment, or even ethical business success. It is what sets us apart from animals that are mainly instinct driven. An overactive super-ego can also make us anxious, foster low self-esteem or hinder us in the pursuit of our goals and dreams. It is the balance of Freud´s three conceptual parts of the psyche: id, ego and super-ego, that makes a balanced and fulfilled person. At the end of the day an overactive super-ego is more helpful to society than a missing one, since if it was not for its development, we would not have a moral compass to guide us through life and be able to have and enjoy culture.

We are introducing Mrs. Freud, who is written by Sabine Starr. She is a psychologist licensed in Vienna, Austria, currently living and working in Mission Hills. She has written numerous articles for professional psychology journals. We present this column with the idea that spirituality and science can be married in order to make the world a better place to live.

Licensed clinical psychologist (Vienna, Austria)
10 000 calls on a government-funded psychology helpline
Life Coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation
Co-editor of the association of Austrian psychologists´ psychology journal “PiOe”
Publishing 2 monthly psychology related columns
Co-host of the radio show Marvels and Stars
Co-facilitator of Workshops for better work relationships
Author of the upcoming book “A Better Childhood at 40”

For further information on Sabine Starr´s activities see
Follow her blog (since 2009) at

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